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In Bold: Vic Lee

When we look through news stories about climate change, inspiration isn’t always the first word that comes to mind. But maybe artists can help to change that?

Because it’s one thing to see those facts and figures as headlines. It’s another to see them brought to life as an awe-inspiring mural. Life-size art that encourages us to consider the power of change in a new way.


And Vic Lee is the man behind the mural.

Vic is an artist and illustrator known for creating inspiring murals and art installations for some of the world’s biggest brands. But Vic went on a journey to get here – and learned a lot about himself and the important role art can play in our lives along the way.

In our new series, In Bold, we talk to changemakers whose actions highlight hope and make what’s possible stand out – both for individuals and big brands.

We caught up with Vic to chat about the bold steps he’s taken to get to where he is today, his experience of turning waste into art, and where he finds the inspiration to create work that inspires others.

Here’s Vic’s story.

Growing bold

Can shy seeds grow into bold oaks? Vic Lee thinks so. “I was exceptionally shy as a child and used art as a form of escape,” he recalls. “My mum passed away when I was three, so my sister and I were raised by my dad. We lived on a council estate and didn’t have a lot of money. I’d lock myself away to draw and copy things from magazinesI think that everything that happened in my childhood led to me eventually becoming an artist.

Although always interested in art, at school Vic was encouraged to follow more traditional career paths. After working as a decorator, a postman, a barman and on a cruise ship, he decided to go to university to study graphic design; “I was 27 at the time, but it taught me a lot about how putting yourself into unusual situations can help you to grow. You know, what’s the worst that could happen?”

Vic went on to enjoy a successful career at various design agencies. “I was overseeing a lot of big projects but started to think ‘Do I want to be doing this at 50?’ I got my answer when I was suddenly let go one Christmas. It was a bitter pill to swallow. But it forced me to really consider what I wanted to do. I asked myself ‘Do I want to be a designer or an illustrator?’ I chose the latter.”

“Everything that happened in my childhood led to me becoming an artist. It allowed me to escape.”

A bold step

After taking some time out, Vic was offered an opportunity that would test his ‘What’s the worst that could happen’ approach. “One day someone asked if I could do murals. I said ‘Of course!’, even though I’d never done one before,” he says. “I managed to get a spot at a huge design show in London. I was there painting for five days, but over the course of those few days I won eight projects. Things really took off from there.”

Vic has since worked with huge international businesses and organisations such as Nike, McClaren and Marks & Spencer, producing artwork and murals for their offices and events. It’s taken him to some unexpected places and led to some unexpected outcomes – never more so than in 2020, during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“I’ve always drawn illustrated diaries and it’s something that I did during Covid, as a way of processing what was happening,” Vic shares. “I shared my own diary on LinkedIn and put together a short video - and it sort of blew up. People asked me to put it into print, so I did. We received over 2000 pre-orders in the first three days and the book sold out within eight weeks. It was amazing.”

The experience highlighted just how important art is as a way of sharing our stories; “The book was used in school curriculums in the UK and featured in universities in the USA. I received artworks sent by teachers that their students had illustrated showing what was happening in their lives. It was amazing and totally unexpected!”


Bold, but bigger

More recently, Vic designed and painted a mural on the site of the BBC Earth Experience using Air Ink, a first-of-its-kind ink made from pollution. “Working with the BBC and the Daikin Centre, who sponsored the experience, was an amazing project to be a part of,” says Vic. “They asked me if I’d like to paint a mural using Air Ink and explained that it would be a part of the opening for the event. The final piece contained a balance of factual messages, as well as some more thought-provoking concepts about our planet and what we can do to save it.”

And how did using a new medium add to the project? “Using Air Ink for the project was a great experience. As an artist, I think it’s really important to have very little impact on the environment. Using Air Ink is almost like taking waste and turning it into pieces of art. You’re converting something bad into something good.”

When it comes to communicating important messages about the future of the planet, Vic believes that art plays an important role; “Art should have a conscience, and I definitely try to bring that my work. Art should make a difference, ultimately. Of course, art is personal and artists use it to project an aspect of themselves, but it’s important to share something that people can be inspired by too.

“It’s easy to follow the same route as everyone else. But it’s good to question that and find your own way.”

Fueling bold

In order to create work that inspires others, Vic has to find his own sources of inspiration. Luckily, he’s gotten pretty good at that.

I’m inspired by everything around me. I recently went on a trip to Devon and stayed in a beautiful cottage there. We went for a walk through a forest that had been planted during the Victorian era and came across the tallest monkey puzzle tree I’ve ever seen,” Vic shares.

I found it so inspiring – that there were trees that shouldn’t grow here, but here they were, doing their thing. And that's the whole point, isn't it? We should be doing things that aren’t expected of us. Because that's what makes us challenge who we are as people, the same as the trees.”


A bold future

Vic’s got some exciting projects lined up for the future, but it’s his approach to the uncertainty of freelance life that is refreshing; “Every day I wake up and I think, ‘what's going to happen today?’ I’m one of those rare people who looks forward to Mondays, as it’s when everyone goes back to work and I might get an exciting prospect. Sounds strange but that’s one of the biggest highlights for me – never knowing who I’ll work with next.”

And Vic’s advice to those looking to do something bold themselves? “Picasso said that we’re all born as artists, the trouble is we grow up. Think about what made you happy as a child and go out and do it – you won’t have lost that feeling.”

Thanks for reading

Vic’s work is a powerful reminder that finding new and inspiring ways to communicate familiar messages is an important way to create the changes we want to see in the world – both as individuals and as big brands.

“Think about what made you happy as a child and go out and do it – you won’t have lost that feeling.”

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