#btconf Berlin, Germany 01 - 02 Sep 2022

Vic Lee

Vic Lee is an artist based in London. A storyteller, typographer, author, muralist and general ragamuffin, Vic’s unique style of art incorporates hand illustration with elaborate design and flamboyant wordsmithery.

A multi award winning artist, he has created murals and collaborated on products with some of the worlds biggest brands and agencies, including Virgin Atlantic, Mercedes, McLaren, Pokémon, The Famous Grouse and The Royal Shakespeare Company to name just a few.

He’s been labelled inspiring, controversial, honest, outspoken and light hearted. Vic will show his transition from a graphic designer of 17 years to becoming an acclaimed artist, his unique thought processes on attracting clients, dealing with rejection and staying positive as well as future thinking.

Want to watch this video on YouTube directly? This way, please.

If You’re Not Scared, You’re Not Living

As an artist and illustrator, I have had to deal with a huge amount of obstacles, from rejection to ghosting. Which can play a huge part in knocking the self confidence off the shelf, especially working as a one person operation.

This talk will share some insights into how first I have to understand who I am before trying to have any clue who my clients are, and what my practice does and basically deal with the potato gun of shit that is constantly being triggered. How during COVID, losing all my clients and being in a dark place, led to one of my most incredible years. Overcoming those obstacles that can make you feel coiled up like an over wound toy. Basically embracing who you are, believing in yourself and taking ownership without feeling like a victim of your own circumstance.

I will share some projects that made me scared, anxious and left a few sleepless nights, but ultimately became the most exciting ones I have worked on. This talk might change your life, it might not, but there will definitely be some laughs along the way, because scared and laughing is the new therapy.



[Audience applause]

Vic Lee: Thank you. Can you do me a favor? Can you put the lights up? I just need to take a picture of this because I have to remind myself how shit scared I am right now.

Thank you!

Um... So, yeah. My subject is -- there’s going to be a lot of subjects, so it’s probably going to be a bit like a Facebook page, actually - to be honest.

If you’re not scared, you’re not living. And the reason why I chose this was because -- I’m going to flip ahead -- for about 18 years, I was a graphic designer and I loved being a graphic designer but it got to the stage where I was kind of sitting at my desk with a mouse. Account handler here, account handler there just telling me to make things a little bit bluer, a little bit bluer, not that blue.

And I thought, “Oh, man! I can’t do this for the rest of my life.” But I didn’t really know what to do, so I took some time off.

So, I took about two, three months off of being a designer, and I picked up these things. Does anyone know what these are called?

Who said that?

All right. You got the first question right.

[Audience laughs]

Vic: [Laughter] Can you give that to this guy?

Thank you. [Laughter]

So, yeah, these are called pens. Thank you.

[Audience laughs]

Vic: They’re not actually this size. This would just be odd if they were. So, I found these things called pens, which I hadn’t used for so long because everything--

I swapped digital for digits, and it was kind of the best thing that I ever did. And I started drawing where I lived in London, in a place called East Dulwich, and I drew this illustrated, I guess, map of my local area. And I put it on a local forum, and I started selling them thinking, “Oh, I might get some sales out of it.”

The reason why -- I should go back to “If you’re not scared, you’re not living.” I decided to move away from graphic design. I had a mortgage. I had bills. But I just didn’t like it, so I thought I’m either going to be something else or I’m just going to be stuck in this rut doing the same thing.

Has anyone here surfed before? Has anyone jumped out of a plane with a parachute on? Has anyone jumped out of a plane without a parachute on?

[Audience laughs]

No, those guys couldn’t make it today.

So, yeah, it’s that thing, like when you pass your driving test or you take your first driving lesson. You get that adrenaline buzz. For me, it felt like why should I just have those adrenaline buzzes when I go on holiday or when I do things that make me a bit more anxious, I suppose. So, I decided to quit my job and become an illustrator, which is no mean feat.

So, I started doing these prints. I taught myself how to screen print, and it sort of grew and grew and grew. And I kind of took over the whole of London (to a degree), which was amazing. And these prints were selling worldwide, which was awesome.

Now, this was 12 years ago. And I’m proud to say that next month there’s a book. My publishers are bringing out a book of all of my streets with stories in and everything. It’s just under 200 pages.

I have a copy here, which is a publisher’s copy, which I’m going to give to Marc because Marc is such a generous sausage. So, as to say thank you to Marc, there’s a little message in it as well and a kiss and stuff like that. You know? Just so he invites me back next time, basically.

Yeah, so I took a step. I got away from graphic design and I started drawing. Now I’ve got a book out, which I’m really excited about. It’s actually my second book. I’ll come to the first one in a minute.

But there are different elements of fear in what I do. One of them was done a few months ago. This was for UK TV and BBC Studios in London.

They said, “We’ve got this staircase.” They just sent me a message, “We’ve got a staircase. Would you like to draw on it?”

So, I’m just thinking, “A little staircase. Yeah, it’s going to be fine.” So, I rock up to their offices in Hammersmith, and it turns out that it’s like this sweeping staircase that goes all the way around. It’s about 40 meters long. And I just stood there just thinking, “Yeah, what the fuck.”

I was like, “Yeah,” but you know I thought, “Yeah, this is -- I need this.” The adrenaline started pumping again.”

Now, a lot of people ask me, “Do I spray?” I’m not Banksy, by the way. I don’t think I’d be here if I was Banksy, to be honest. But no disrespect, Marc. One day when, you know--

So, this is what I use. These are pens.

Thank you. Before you shout it out again. This is another pen. It’s not the same as the other pens. This is a different pen - just to be sure.

And to give you some context, this is the pen that I use to cover this entire space. It’s easy for me to say, “Yeah, this is what I use, and this is the final piece,” but I think it’s probably easier -- if this works -- to show you.


Vic: That kind of puts it into context.

[Audience applause]

Vic: Thank you. That was done over a two-week period, which was great. Now I’m going to show you another project which was another one of a sort of pant filler - I like to call them.

This was for McLaren. McLaren gave me a call, and they said, “Hey, Vic. It’s McLaren.” I immediately said, “Yes!”
“You don’t know what we want.”
I’m like, “Yes, I know. But I’ll still do it. I’m cool with it.”

So, I thought it was going to be a sports car, and then they said, “No, no, no. It’s going to be our launch into extreme e-racing.”

So, they sent me these plans, and I thought, “Yeah, that’s fine. Okay. What do you want me to do?”
They said, “Well, we want you to sort of work on trying to include the four biomes, which is desert, artic, sea, and another place--jungle, I think it was--where the cars race.”

We kind of did things in reverse. They said, “First of all, we need a t-shirt,” so I designed this t-shirt, which I did quite quickly. It was over sort of two, three days, and we kind of agreed to it, but it was to go on the t-shirt. It never actually got printed in the end, but it’s still a really nice design.

Then they said, “Can you kind of put that on the car because we’re going to launch it at COP26 in Glasgow, because we want to talk about the fact it’s extreme-e, which is electric racing?”

I was like, “Yeah, fine,” so I took this, and then I thought, “Well, I’ll just drop it on the car and it will be fine.”

Now, this is the car, and I’m probably -- I was probably up to about there on it, so it was a beast. It was so big. Now, we’re talking about McLaren where they bring F1 cars into the building, and there are hundreds of them.

This car was so big, they said there was a four-centimeter gap on each side to get it into the building. And again, I thought, “Well, I’ve got two weeks to do this. This is going to be fun.”

Then started on the Monday. This is the first thing I saw on the Monday, which was like, “Bah!”

And then they said, “Oh, by the way, we need to photograph it for press on Thursday afternoon.”

So, I was like, “Well, there are two weeks. That’s three and a half days.”
They’re like, “Yeah, can you do it?”
I was like, “Yeah. Yeah, of course, I can.”

So, this is the final piece. So, it’s basically this is the bonnet, the roof, the back, everything. And in between, they would then sort of photograph and the drivers with it as well. So, then I was shuffled off to the side, and then I’d jump back on again.

But it was a really beautiful car to do. But again, this took me way out of my comfort zone because I’d never done anything like this before. And I loved it.

And that’s the thing that I’m trying to say is that when you have no idea what you’re doing or if somebody comes up to you and says, “Can you do this?” just say yes and then just ask people you know how you can do it because that’s what I do.

[Audience laughs]

Vic: I seem to have got away with it, which is amazing. But don’t tell my clients that.

The other thing is, don’t be too serious. During lockdown, I was in my studio. Luckily, I had my own studio, so I could go to it. And I didn’t see anyone, so when I get up on stage, I tend to talk quite a lot. So, apologies for that. But I suppose that’s why I’m here, so I shouldn’t apologize.

So, yeah, I’m a big Northern Soul fan. If you don’t know what Northern Soul is, it’s a lesser well-known soul music during the ‘50s and ‘60s that was brought out, and then Northern England DJs would fly to America and buy these obscure records and then they’d bring them back to like Stoke, Wigan, Manchester, and they’d set up Northern Soul nights. That’s where the name Northern Soul came from.

So, because I was locked in my studio and I hadn’t seen anyone for a while, I set up a little camera on the floor. I put some Northern Soul on, and I started dancing in my studio. And then I posted it on Instagram and LinkedIn for fun.

It was quite amazing because that was two years ago and loads of people still contact me now or write to me, and they always end on, “Keep on keeping on,” or “Keep the faith,” or “Keep dancing.” So, it’s quite nice because when you’re into Northern Soul, there’s this kind of unwritten love of each other in the music and the dance.

Unfortunately, I don’t have any Northern Soul for you today. Otherwise, I would bust out some moves. But I’m not going to.

Yeah, don’t be too serious. And I’m going to kind of take the piss out of myself a little bit now, before anyone else does, because that’s called control.

Being a muralist, being a mural artist and a typographer, I have to be very, very conscious of when I write things on walls that they’re not misread. A good example. This obviously says, “My pen is my sword.”

[Audience laughs]

Vic: Now, somebody pointed out that it said something else to them. I couldn’t actually quite work out what they meant because--

And this is the problem. When you’re standing there, and you’re drawing it, you sometimes can’t see the gaps.

Another example. This was obviously for snooker championships, which says, “Big flicks the tightest of finals.”

[Audience laughs]

Vic: I don’t know what you people are seeing. It’s just some words on a wall. But no, that’s kind of -- this all just made up.

What isn’t made up is what I presented to a client once. This was for Havas in London at their headquarters, Havas, the big, you know, advertising and design agency. And they said to me, “We want you to paint a mural on the wall, and it’s a football analogy,” so it was from a football manager’s book, Testa, coure e gambe, which they said was head, heart, and feet.

And because when I do my sketch work I tend to really quickly sketch it out and then I send it to my clients, and the clients will not really get much more detail than this, so I’ve kind of gone from being a controlled designer to a bit of a lazy bastard artist, really. But again, I get away with it. It’s amazing what you can get away with nowadays.

So, I presented this, and they said, “Yeah. We love it. It’s great. It’s just -- this is what it means in Italian.” This is what I’ve been told. So, they said, “Can you just change the E before you actually do the final mural?”

This is the final one. It’s “Testa, coure e gambe.” One tiny letter could ruin your life (or mine).

I’m going to show you another video because I’m going to take some water. And this goes back to the original title, which is -- I can’t even remember now -- “Stay Scared, Stay Living,” something like that. You can tell I didn’t write this. [Laughter]

The University of Kent in England got in contact with me, and they have different iconic campuses and buildings, which are named after prominent figures. One of them was the Turing College, which was in the science department. They asked me to paint this enormous wall in the refectory all about Alan Turing.

Now, everyone knows Alan Turing and what he did. But I needed to include his background, his history, the fact that he was homosexual and he was demonized by the UK government. It’s so much more deeper than that. I mean such a brilliant man and his life was kind of sadly ruined by the British government.

Unusual, that, isn’t it?

So, I had to include the fact that he was married. His first love was a guy called Christopher that he went to school with. His eventual suicide, which I needed to include as well, and how he did it.

But because this was for a university, I had to also be aware of the fact that I couldn’t upset students. I needed to talk in a way that was accessible to them, that wasn’t confrontational or they didn’t get upset about. So, that in itself is a really scary prospect because of the amount of people that were going to see this final piece that I did.

The university loved it. They made literally no changes to the sketch that I presented, so I’m going to show you this.

The soundtrack I’ve borrowed from the late, great Phife Dawg, and it’s called “Nutshell.” I think it kind of blends nicely with the subject matter of Alan Turing, but it also blends quite nicely with kind of how I look at my own life as well and, hopefully, you look at yours. It’s a fricken’ awesome track as well.

[“Nutshell,” by Phife Dawg plays]

[Audience applause]

Vic: Thank you. I think one of the lovely things about that was some of his phrases. “Those who can imagine the impossible can--”

Yeah, you know the one. It’s in there. I can’t remember it. Sorry. I’m drying up here.

Know your worth. This is really super important to me. I hope it is--

I have a lot of conversations with different creatives, but also people from all walks of life, really. You have to know what you’re worth, and I think a lot of people tend at times to accept things that they don’t want to do because they feel like they have to, and I’ll give you some examples.

In 2019, I had approximately 145 inquiries. And I kind of sat down, and I kind of typed out all these messages. And as I responded, sent some stuff over to them, and then I kind of waited. And I kind of waited. And I kind of waited.

And there’s this thing called ghosting that people do, which I hate with a passion. So, those 145 inquires, I got 9 projects. And I pretty much got ignored by about 80% of the people that contacted me, which is a bit weird because you think, “Oh, I’m popular. Oh, I’m not popular.”

So, there’s definitely this thing about that’s not a lot of projects, which kind of amounts to 6%. That’s my success rate for 2019.

Now, a lot of people would be like, “Wow, that’s shit. That’s really bad. That’s terrible.” But for me, it’s not about the 6%. It’s about the clients that I work with.

If I’d have got all of those 145 jobs, I would have been doing it really cheap, and I would have been working my fingers to the bones just so that I can make them look great. But at the same time, I’ll burn myself out. So, those nine projects were for:
Credit Karma in San Francisco.
I was Pokemon’s first collaboration.
A West End show, which is actually opening on Broadway. This was in London. This is now opening in Broadway in November and Australia next year.
And again, another one for the University of Kent, which again was a privilege to do because, again, with Virginia Woolf. If you know her background, it’s not dissimilar to Alan Turing’s.

For me, it’s picking out the really beautiful projects to work on and then just getting rid of the guff, basically. All of my clients -- and I’m not just saying this because I’m up on stage and they might see it -- but all of my clients are incredible. They are polite, kind, open to suggestion.

They always pay. Sometimes I have to give them a little kick, but most of the time they’re okay. So, I think, for me, over time, I’ve realized what my worth is, and it’s not worth less than what someone else wants to give me.

In a world of social media -- is anyone filming? Good. That’s good you’re listening. Just checking. Yeah.

In a world of social media, we have become (a lot of us) somebody that we’re not because we want likes or we want to be something else that is outside our social circle or of a life that we used to have, which is completely understandable. But for me, I always go back to who I am as a child because it’s really important.

There are three people I need to thank for allowing me on stage. Marc is one of them, my mom, and my dad. And the reason why I’m showing you these pictures is we all go through trauma in our life, and we can either go through trauma and accept that you’re going to be a victim or you look at things in a completely different way and change it to your advantage. You need to turn a negative into a positive.

My mom (on the left) Jorgie, she died of cancer when I was three years old. And my dad, Manny, Emanuel, he never married again, so he raised me and my sister. So, my dad was also an immigrant as well. He came from Malta, and he kind of lived in the UK until he was 65 (before he went back home to retire), and he never took a day off sick. So, my dad raised me and my sister.

Now, the reason why I’m showing you this is because I guess for the first 40 years of my life -- I know... don’t -- for the first 40 years of my life, I missed having a mother figure, which is understandable. And I think, when I became an artist, which was about 12, 13 years ago, I realized that my life would have been completely different if my mom hadn’t died of cancer. Now, that’s not to say that I don’t wish she was here. I do wish she was here. But at the same time, I have to--

I can’t control the past, but I can look at the future and think if she hadn’t died, would I be up on stage talking about my art in front of a crowd of 20,000 people.

[Audience laughs]

Vic: This is on camera, isn’t it? Yeah. This is being filmed.

Yeah, I’m appreciative of my mom, and I’m appreciative of the fact that she’s not around because, to me, I still want to -- I still feel like I need to share my experiences and my successes with her, and my dad as well.

I think if you go through life thinking you’re a victim, you’ll always be a victim. If you go through life thinking, “Fuck no. That’s not going to rule me. This is going to rule me,” you’ll make life a lot easier for yourself.

There’s nothing you can do about the past anyway.

I also have this thing. This is a penny. Not to scale, obviously, like my pens. I have--

Thank you. Someone laughed. I like that.

[Laughter] So, I have this belief mechanism. Because I work on my own, because at times it’s quite difficult, I used to--

If I found a five on the floor or a ten, that was like Christmas. I don’t care about fives and tens anymore.

We have this saying in the UK, which is, “Find a penny, pick it up, then all day you’ll have good luck.” So, I’m walking down the street. We live in Peckham. It’s not the nicest place when you’re walking down the high street and there’s weave on the floor and kebabs and dog shit and all that. But if there’s a penny on the floor, I’ll be fucked if I’m going to walk past it.

So, I pick it up, and I put it in my pocket. And sure enough, and I’m not going to lie, sure enough within a week, I’ll get a job. And I have a piggy bank full of pennies that I’ve collected over the years. And it’s kind of weird when I pick one up. I know within a week I’ll get a call from someone.

That’s my belief mechanism, so I need it. Don’t ruin it. All right? It’s true. You know, I mean if someone threw a five on the floor now, I would pick it up. It wouldn’t make me as happy, though.

Believe in what you do. Again, this is really super important. I think if I didn’t believe in what I do, if I questioned what I do, I don’t think I’ll be doing the work or the projects that I’ve been doing over the past sort of 12, 14 years.

And I love the fact that I can just mess around, so I can draw. I can doodle. I can do things off my own back without any purpose. And then I’ll post them up and someone will see them, a company or an agency will see them, and they’ll go, “Ooh, that looks nice. Can you do that for us?”

So, I’m always drawing. Last year, I took two months off, and I went to an art retreat. My first one. I never done it before.

I basically just spent the two months walking around the grounds and painting whatever I wanted. I was in absolute heaven, and I loved it.

The reason why I do this is because it’s what I do for a living. I think Confucius said, “Choose a job you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.” I don’t really work. It’s just someone comes to me and says, “Can you draw something?” It’s like asking a kid to eat a bag of sweets, basically. It’s like, “Yes, please.”

Yeah, and I’ll give you a couple of examples. A few years ago, I got this bike from (I think it was) eBay or Loot. It was probably stolen. I can’t remember. It was about 30 quid. You know you don’t question stuff sometimes.

[Audience laughs]

Vic: And I turned it into a fixie and I rode it around. And then I drew all over it because that’s what I do. I draw over everything.

And I went to see my partner, Helen, who is a ceramic artist, and I was in the studio. I left my bike outside, and the lady who was next door, Katie, her husband was in, Will. Will was the creative director for Brompton Bicycles.

He came round. He saw the bike, tapped on the door, and he said, “Are you Vic?”
I was like, “Ah, yeah. That’s me.”
He said, “Saw your bike. Would you like to do something for Brompton?”
I was like, “Yeah, sure. What do you want?”
He said, “Can you draw, hand draw onto two white Brompton Bicycles that we can then give away to the Brompton World Championships, in the Brompton World Championships to the male and female winners?”

So, I did. It was great fun to do. I got a free bike out of it.

I should actually say that when I work for a client, I always ask for stuff. And I have this thing. If you don’t ask, you don’t get.

Two weeks ago, I asked. I was doing some work for a company, a cruise company. And I said to them, “Ooh, you haven’t got any free tickets?” He said yes, so we went on a free cruise. So, don’t ask, don’t get. Okay?

Don’t ask me for a free mural. You’re not going to get one.

[Audience laughs]

Vic: [Laughter] So, I did these two bikes, and he said, “It was such a success, would you like to do a special limited edition of 500 bikes, which we’ll sell worldwide?” So, I did. So, all the Brompton stickers were replaced with my artwork. It came with a bag and a screen print, which matched the serial number of the bike. So, if it was 1 of 500 bikes, this would be 1 of 500 prints.

And this launched in Taiwan at a huge bike event, and Will called me two days later and said, “Oh, just to let you know we’ve sold out. All the bikes have gone. They’ve all been acquired all around the world,” and they were overjoyed, which was amazing.

Another good example sitting in front of my telly, drawing these two bad boys, the koi and the hummingbird, for no particular reason - just because I wanted to try new stuff. Edrington, the brewers, saw my post, and I ended up doing a limited edition Famous Grouse Vic Lee collaboration, which was a wraparound on the box and the bottle.

Just mucking around, basically, just drawing and then posting stuff, you’re almost giving people an idea that they can’t think of themselves. I think, from an imagination point of view, you give them the ammo to then own it themselves when it’s not really their idea. But you can work really nicely together with them as well.

I ended up working with Edrington for about two years afterwards. I traveled all over Europe for brand openings and launches and rebrands and also worked on all their personal gifts for their managers, which was amazing. They are such a beautiful client to work with.

Listen with your eyes. It’s a tricky one, isn’t it, to listen with your eyes?

The reason why I say listen with your eyes is I wear contact lenses. If I didn’t wear contact lenses, I could see here, basically. I’m not sure what the system is in Germany, but my eyes are about minus 14, which technically makes me almost blind.

I mean it’s great for my girlfriend. I wake up in the morning. She always looks stunning.

[Audience laughs]

Vic: [Laughter] Can you cut that bit out?

[Audience laughs]

Vic: [Laughter] Yeah, listen with your eyes, so when I’m out and about, I kind of mentally remember a lot of stuff about where I am.

When I take my glasses off at home, I have to remember where my glasses are. Otherwise, I’m literally like this, so everything is to do with listening with my eyes.

What I do when I travel, these things, these are called travel diaries. I’ve done them for about ten years now. Every time me and my parent go on holiday, I illustrate everything to do with the holiday: where we’ve been, who we met, how much things cost... crikey, everything and anything. And it’s amazing because there’s so much stuff that you’ll forget. I still use my phone for bits and pieces, but I’ll try and remember things that I’m -- where I am so that I can illustrate them inside the book.

I think a lot of people rely on cell phones, mobiles, whatever you want to call them, to take pictures. But the pictures just end up just staying on your phone, and they have no relevance to anything apart from a vague memory. And they don’t always capture a moment in time like you think they should do.

We, me and my partner, Helen, we were in our garden a few weeks ago, and we’d gone to Vietnam about seven years ago. And we were talking about something to do with Vietnam and where we were.

It was one of those holidays where the weather was terrible, everything went wrong, but it was the most memorable holiday and we still talk about it. I think what you don’t realize is that when things do go wrong, those are the best moments that you’ll ever have because they’ll be something that you talk about for years to come.

You’ve got to look at the positive. You’ve got to look at the positive. Come one. Come on, people.

Yeah, we were talking about Vietnam, and I got the travel diary out from then. We flicked through it, and there were loads of things that we forgot that related to the conversation we were having, but also surrounded that conversation as well.

These are really important. You should do it. You should definitely just scribble things down. Even if you think you’re not an artist, you are. When you’re a child, you used to paint. You used to make, sculpt, do anything, paint on walls. I recommend it. I make a living out of it.

Until your parents gave you, you know, “Don’t do that.”

Yeah, just try it and see what happens.

I did a little experiment to do with taking pictures with your eyes. I asked four people to draw a horse without looking at pictures of a horse. These are the ones that came out of it.

This is my partner, Helen. This beast, yes, it looks like a horse, which is good.

You have her niece, who is 19. This is -- I’m not sure what’s happening with that back leg.

[Audience laughs]

Vic: Hmm... You know. But it’s a kind of horse-goat-type scenario thing. Kind of devil worship-y type horse, really.

I asked Marc to draw a horse, and he’s done it before, so this is actually a very, very good horse. Round of applause for Marc. Well done.

[Audience applause]

Vic: [Laughter] Then my personal favorite--

[Audience laughs]

Vic: This was not done by a child. This was done by a 20-year-old man. This is what he thinks a horse looks like.

Now, if you see a horse like this, if you go to a stable and they say, “Here’s your horse,” do not get fooled. This is not a horse. I mean I don’t know where that mohican is going on the back as well, but it’s not going on the tail. I’m assuming that’s a tail.

This bad boy happened, 2020. Do you know in Chinese philosophy anything that adds up to four is a bad sign? Two plus two is four. It was bound to happen.

Yeah, 2020 happened. I lost all of my work. I had some really juicy projects, but I lost everything. And I didn’t know what to do.

I remember going out with some friends right at the beginning when this all kicked off, and we were talking about their children and how their children were more affected by this. All the adults were like, “Oh, it’s just a flu. It’ll be fine.” But the children were coming back from school and saying, “I think I’ve got COVID. I can’t go to school.”

And it kind of affected me a little bit, so I did this little YouTube video, which I think is still up on my YouTube channel. It’s to try and get kids to do their own visual diaries when they’re in lockdown so that it actually helps them.

It’s kind of like therapy. When you slow down and draw, you tend to think about things more gently. And it also calms you down a bit as well.

I put this little video up, and then I thought, “Well, I better start one then,” so I kind of did. I started looking at all the news stories from around the world as well as personal stuff as well, like my friends, how we were doing, what we were up to.

Politics, obviously, I couldn’t get away from. But things like, in the UK, we had Captain Tom Moore. How much money was being raised, how much money was being siphoned off.

It was huge. Every day, I was reading and reading. And I put a little post up on social media because I just thought, well, in between my dancing, obviously, of me drawing these books. And I thought I’ll just share some stuff because I need to keep people up to date with what I’m doing, basically.

There’s one post of me flicking pages in the first sort of ten pages of the book just saying, “Oh, I’m doing a visual diary of COVID Corona just to calm my mind down.” It sort of blew up, and I started -- I think it was like a quarter of a million views.

Thousands of people were writing to me from all over the world saying, “You have to print this because it’s really relevant to what’s happening with us,” and I was kind of like, “Yeah, that’s kind of like asking a 15-year-old child to publish their personal diary. It’s not as easy as that.

But I thought about it, and I thought, “I’ve got no work,” so I kind of thought, “Well, I should just do it, really,” and I did. And I self-published. I self-funded the book, so I did 2,500 copies of this book.

I did a presale about a month before they arrived on my doorstep, and I sold -- they were like 50 pounds a copy because they were signed, one-of editions. I sold 80% of the 2,500 within 6 weeks of me putting the website up, and that went all around the world, which was crazy.

These are a few pages.

Whether you’re a political person or not, I had to include a lot of the stuff that was happening at the time because it was quite relevant, but I didn’t want to make it too political. Obviously, I threw Trump in, you know, as a comedic figure. Apologies if there are any Trump supporters out there. I don’t care.

And just to give you an idea, when you self-publish, be prepared. Be prepared. Have someone you live with who likes you a lot--

[Audience laughs]

Vic: --like a lot. So, yeah. The left side is our normal house with a garden, and then the boxes arrived. There was about another 60 boxes in our hallway as well. We couldn’t actually fit them in. I was actually worried about the weight of the boxes, whether the house would actually collapse as well.

The other thing about self-publishing and offering a signed book is I have to then sign them. So, I had to open every book up, sign them, and because I’m a bit of an idiot, I’m going to say, I decided to sort all the post out myself.

So, I would sign them, wrap them, box them, organize an account with the post office, put them in bags. Every day, I was dropping off probably 10 to 12 bags of mail to go all around the world.

And I thought, “I’m never going to do that again,” and then I brought out the second edition - like an absolute idiot.

The one thing about this book is I’ve never won any awards for what I do. I kind of rarely enter awards because, for me, it’s not about that. It’s about working with clients that love what you do, and that’s really super important. But I thought, with this book, it was such an amazing book, I entered it into loads of awards and it got the ultimate awards like the World Brand Design Society. It got black and gold awards. The black is the highest award that they offer out. New York Festivals has got their grand winner, grand cru winner, which was amazing.

So, this self-published book came from nothing, and I guess that sort of goes back to the original statement, which is staying scared and staying living is do something that’s out of your comfort zone and see what happens because you really don’t know what’s going to happen at the end of the day.

The other thing about this book, these two books that I released, was they were then featured in school curriculums in the UK and the U.S. at university level, and they still are. I didn’t want to just make a lot of money out of it because I thought that was not the right thing to do, and I wanted to say thank you to the people that supported the book over time.

I ended up donating 7,500 pounds of my own money to FareShare, the food charity, which was an amazing feeling, and then, earlier this year, I did a thing where anyone who bought the second book, I would donate all the profits to Ukraine Appeal, and that raised another 4,500 pounds.

I think, for me, I’ve got to a point where I just think, “Well, I can’t -- it’s not always about the money. Sometimes you’ve just got to think about how what you do can help other people.” This was an incredible thing.

I’m not talking to you all directly, so don’t worry. At times, it’s--

It should have said, “At times, you can be an asshole.” I’m an honest person. Sometimes I can be an asshole, and that’s fine. I embrace that. God knows my girlfriend calls me it on a regular basis.

Here’s the thing. How many people out there think they’re an asshole?

Ooh... Look at you perfect people.

[Audience laughs]

Vic: How many people out there think at times their family and friends can be assholes? None of you. Well, well, well.

One thing I’d say about being an asshole, assholes are useful because if you don’t have one, you’re full of... [Laughter]

[Audience laughs]

Vic: --which, yeah.

Another little thing I did for Marc just to kind of finish on is a couple of mugs, and it was a real honor to be here today to talk to you guys in wonderful Berlin. Thank you for having me. My name is Vic Lee.

[Audience applause and cheers]