Vic Lee has been shortlisted for the project Corona Diary 2020 in the WIA2021 Professional Alternative Publishing Category. Find out more about Vic and his shortlisted project:

What’s your favourite thing about your shortlisted project?

The project came about out of the blue. Originally a personal diary, I shared it on social media and thousands of people asked me to publish it, because they were going through similar experiences and feelings. There are so many aspects to this project that make me smile. From not only self publishing and funding, but being able to donate £5,000 of my own money to Fareshare, the food charity. Even though I lost all my work and had no other money coming in, I was proud to give back a little. That £5,000 bought 20,000 meals for those in need. Also, the book featured as part of school curriculums in the UK and also the USA – that’s just bonkers!

What materials did you use?

The book is all illustrated by pen throughout, and I use Daler Rowney sketchbooks, which have a slight creaminess to them. When I organised the printing of the books, I wanted the printing to match the sketchbooks. It was a bit more expensive but the Munken 150gsm cream paper matched the sketchbooks well.

What processes did you use?

This book took one whole year to do, as later, I illustrated a second volume. This covered the whole of 2020. I had to research news stories on a daily basis. That led to more news stories, and having to balance the sad stories with some upbeat ones. The entire book is freehand illustrated, unplanned, just spontaneously illustrated, as a real diary would have been.

How long did it take?

All in all, 8 months. That’s illustrating every single day for 6 months, then organising printing, postage, the logistics and responding to people from around the world, as well as marketing, promotion, it never really stopped!

Why did you choose to enter this work?

Because I am immensely proud of it. Many hundreds of people who purchased the artist’s edition sent me their stories, and told me how much the book helped them deal with such a traumatic time. Many had lost family or friends and the book filled gaps in their lives that they blanked out due to the grief. For me this is so much more than just another book.

What are your plans for the future?

Well, I have released a second follow-up book. The first volume spanned January to June 2020. This is when things were supposedly calming down. I realised it wasn’t, and ,as much as I was shattered and suffering from PTSD due to all the stories I was reading, I knew I had to continue and do the complete year. The second volume spans June 2020 to January 2021. One complete year. All my work came to a standstill in 2020, and it’s taken the best part of 14 months to start working on murals again. I have a truly exciting launch coming in October 2021, so watch this space!

What is your dream commission?

All the commissions I do are dreamy. I am so appreciative of anyone who commissions me to do a mural, a collaboration or commercial work.

If you could work for/with anyone who would it be?

I don’t do specifics. I have worked on murals and bespoke artworks for Nike, Mercedes, M&S, and Bromptons. Alongside law firms, engineering companies and design agencies. Each one is different and each one has a fantastic personality. If people appreciate my skills, they are all good times.                                                                                     

What is your best tip for other illustrators?

Slow down! Don’t rush to be the next big thing, I started late in life after travelling the world and having a crazy time being young. There’s plenty of time. Enjoy life. Stay happy. Be nice to EVERYONE!

What’s your favourite thing to draw?

Everything! I do murals, intricate pen work, paintings, pencil and digital. It’s in the blood. I think I was born an artist, it just took a few years to realise!

What are the downsides to being an artist and how do you overcome them?

I don’t have an agent. I used to, but it didn’t work out. That’s another day. As someone who gets their own clients, you have to deal with rejection… a lot! Non responses to email queries, quoting too much (apparently), the quiet times. You can take things personally if you get rejected or no response. But the way I look at things is, if I can do 6 projects a year, I am happy. I only want to work with people that respect what I do, pay what I ask and are nice people. Don’t be afraid to walk away from a job if it doesn’t suit. I have gotten thick skinned over the years. Not 100% but getting there. And now I am focusing on doing more projects that have a positive effect on me, society and life.