Vic Lee

Freelance Illustrator.

Assassins Creed Image here
Assassins Creed – For the launch of the game at Eurogamer – Playing card and limited edition print for the winners

For the launch of the game at Eurogamer

A playing card and limited edition print for the winners.

What was your key motivation in becoming an illustrator?

I have illustrated since the age of around 8, so a lifetime really. As a professional illustrator I started partly through frustration, accident and self-motivation.

I was a freelance graphic designer for 16 years and worked with some great people in agencies across London. After a particularly stressful year working and heading major campaigns for Coca Cola and Colgate, I opted out for 6 months.

I picked up a pen again after years behind a screen and drew my local area, Lordship Lane in Dulwich, more as an outlet but also to go back to what I always loved doing; drawing. I got a friend to screenprint 100 and within 2 weeks, sold them all! That’s good motivation…

This was my moment of clarity!

What was your first break as an illustrator?

Illustrating London streets for my personal use. From the Lordship Lane first edition, I drew other streets around London, did local fairs, shows and exhibitions, sold and met so many people who loved my work. It’s a great way to encourage and build confidence.

I spent the next 2 years hard grafting, lugging prints and equipment across London for shows and fairs, learning and setting up a website on my own (financial reasons!) making contacts, and putting in the hours, as well as still working as a graphic designer. It was tough and tiring, I also screenprinted all my prints myself, and built a name, and a brand if you like.

Working in graphics and in my field of retail and branding, I had a clear take on how I needed to portray myself and how I was seen. I had banners made, business cards, postcards, did mail outs, mail drops, did as much as I could to get out there and be seen.

My prints have introduced me to some very important people in my career as an illustrator, and have been commissioned by them on the back of them buying a print!

My very first external commission was for The Zetter Townhouse.

Wood Street Inside Out Project Image here
Wood Street Inside Out Project – Initially a 3 month design to go on a hoarding at Wood Street E17 for Waltham Forest Council. The hoarding has become semi permanent (up for around 18 months to date) due to the locals ‘owning’ it as their own piece of artwork

Initially a 3 month design to go on a hoarding at Wood Street E17 for Waltham Forest Council.

The hoarding has become semi permanent due to the locals ‘owning’ it as their own piece of artwork!

Been up for around 18 months to date.

What are the first three steps you take when you are asked to complete a commission?

The very first stages are 1. Understanding the brief 2. Quoting 3. Visuals

I always try and get as much info from the client, or company prior to the quote. I will chat rather than email as it helps gauge the person I am dealing with and to glean any other information too.

Even though the client is commissioning me for my style, they will have their own point of view, so it’s important to know what they like of my work and to see how it will be used. I think I owe a lot of this to my graphics background, an understanding.

Normally I would do a rough sketch in pencil, very rough mind, and send over to the client for first approvals. Tweaking here and there before any work begins.

The Famous Grouse Bottle Collaboration Image here
The Famous Grouse Bottle Collaboration – Limited edition 16 year old whiskey with pack and bottle and bottle design by Vic Lee, the Famous Grouse’s first collaboration

A limited edition 16 year old whisky with VL designed pack and bottle. The first collaboration the TFG have done.

How do you maintain an ongoing stream of work?

One thing I realise about working for myself, especially as an illustrator, is that I am a businessman, accountant, PA, promoter and web developer as well!

I would say I do 40% illustrating in a week the rest is running my business. From VAT to post office runs, phone calls to quotes, printing to invoicing.

I self promote as much as possible, I do stylised newsletters for email once a month to potential clients, I sell prints daily through my website, so introducing potential clients. From social networking and posting is what I do regularly, whether it’s a sketch or a final piece; also through the AOI and their posts.

95% of my work comes from people or companies contacting me direct, through something they have seen on a blog, or my newsletters or through a print, whether its hanging in their house or they saw at a friends.

I always think that generally be nice to everyone, you never know who they might be or may become.

Brompton Bicycles Image here
Brompton Bicyles – A limited edition of 500 hand made bikes that sold out in 2 days of launch, each came with a limited edition print where the number of the frame corresponded with the print.

A limited edition bike with Vic Lee designs on, A VL Bag flap and each came with a limited ed print where the number of the frame corresponded with the print.

A limited edition of 500 hand made bikes that sold out in 2 days of launch!

You were commissioned by Tea Creative to create some pirate illustrations for the launch at Eurogamer of the new Assassins Creed game recently, with other recent commissions recognisable in the creative industry. What words of advice would you give on getting commissions?

That’s difficult as I don’t go out and find commissions. I have been lucky in that people see what I do and like it.

I guess be original, be different, and be honest. Work damn hard and don’t think you are owed anything. Don’t pester or plead, be proud of what you do. Make friends, talk to people.

If you get a commission, do 100%. I will take on projects and panic knowing I have other commitments, but I LOVE illustrating, so I know

I will do my very best to please the client and get the job done, in time (most important). Your reputation precedes you, so any commissioners now may end up working for someone else and remember you.

Who and what keeps you motivated?

I keep myself motivated, I am my boss and without me I am nothing!

I work in my studio, which I love, right in the heart of Clerkenwell. It’s my space, my place to work and play, I stick on some music, and I am content like a smitten kitten.

New challenges, I have worked on limited edition bikes for Brompton, limited edition boxes and bottles for The Famous Grouse, drawn pirates and kraken for Assassins Creed, typography for newly weds, made up stories and painted windows.

As an instance this particular week I am illustrating a Formula 1 piece for an editorial, printing limited edition prints for Assassins Creed, quoting on illustrating cider labels, sketching for a 40 metre mural, designing a logo for a restaurant and chatting to a surf film company.

Seriously what is there not to like!

7th March 2014

World Illustration Awards 2023 – Longlist Announced!
Be part of #WIA2023 - a global celebration of great illustration. The Longlist will now be announced by category from 16th - 25th May 2023.
Issue 42 and Back issues available!
Contacts (across 3 sectors) for 350+ UK Commissioners... BUY NOW!
Get seen by commissioners with a 20 image Folio.


Join our mailing list to get the latest news.