how to become an art director by lotte andersen
Photography Lotte Andersen
Ever since she was little, Lotte Andersen has been tearing up the rule book and carving out her own path in life. Mentored by the legendary John Pearse, the 60s sartorialist who pioneered the London youthquake, Lotte discovered she had an affinity with art, fashion, music and culture early on. By bringing these facets together got her where she is today — founder of cult west London club night, Maxilla, and its corresponding DIY zine. Her skills of cutting, pasting, and curating have seen her host poster-making workshops for House of Vans, art direct music videos for Mount Kimbie with i-D fave Tyrone Lebon, collaborate with Adidas to create a zine for the Stella Sport range, and art direct the project's official blog. Currently working on a book called Problem Child — which features the work of Jesse Jenkins and Phoebe Collings-James — she's the poster girl for making and creating. Here she shares her journey.
What I do and why I do it:
I'm an Art Director and I throw parties because I LOVE IT. I work with directors and photographers to make the image, vibe, aesthetic, feeling they're going for. I listen really hard and try and give them the words and then the references to go. We do the location, the casting, and the styling. Then it's the editing process. I'm working to get the images, the vibe, the look strong and clear."
In a way, I think I always knew what I wanted to do, but took lots of twists and turns along the way. I took my time to really check this was what I wanted to do; the process of trying out styling, casting, set design helped firm out my output as an art director. I dropped out of studying fashion after doing a year. My friend Tyrone was like, "cool ok, I'll give you your first art directing job." We did a video for Mount Kimbie called "Carbonated."
Starting my party MAXILLA has been my biggest influence. If you do a night, you're basically art directing; you're picking the space (location scouting), inviting people (that's casting), sorting the light (that's mood), decorating (set design), making posters (layout and graphics). Everything I did with MAXILLA is transferable to what I do now. I always say that events/installations/parties are live art directing. A party is, for a night, working with a director or a photographer immortalizes what you've pulled together.
A day in my life:
If I'm shooting it's usually a super early start and off to the location. If it's a day of pitching with photographers and directors, it's a long phone call where I listen to their ideas and then ask loads of questions to get a sense of the feelings and emotions they're trying to get out. Then I start pulling references out; it's us verbally cutting and pasting references, locations, films, casting options, sensations until we've nailed the idea. If it's a layout day, I figure out if the client wants collage or a digital layout. Pictures take on a different meaning once printed, so this is the first part of the process; I start to build the story from there. I like to work physically over digitally if I have the choice.
I really do love it all; being an art director requires so many skills that you never get bored. I am very lucky to do what I love. I love telling stories; I'm obsessed with what moves or arrests people, with their motivations. I love detail; I'm obsessed with a look, and I want it to look good. I want to nail it. I guess with the right project, I'm just hooked. The most rewarding aspect of the job is when the viewer feels the emotion I wanted them to feel.
To degree or not to degree, that is the question:
I'm not sure. I personally disagree with the art school system here. The London ones feel like expensive finishing schools. Although I do believe in the learning process, and good tutors at art school teach you that.
I studied fashion, but before that I interned at McQueen on the final collection he completed, the one that broke Showstudio. I also learned how to weld at Tom Dixon's studio, designed a LotteBag at Bill Amberg, shoes with Georgina Goodman, and learned how to do textile print with Ross Menuez in New York. The internships did it. From my experience, working beneath or with someone whose aesthetic you respect is everything. I hated college I felt like a massive loser; I had no mates, I hated the student bar, I liked the library. I left after doing a trend-forecasting project on communication, where I basically told my tutors and all the students in the class that all their information was online so I didn't understand why they all pretended not to know each other. I went on to work for an incredible tailor who taught me how to understand what a client wanted; that process of going through references to find the suit the client wanted has been totally transferable.
What I wish I knew then that I know now:
Both in and out of the classroom, the biggest lesson I've learned is to look for your references in unexpected places. Try and make your own research. Anyone can pull images off the internet; try and go straight to the source of what you like. The best piece of advice anyone has ever shared with me is: "Do it, don't wait to be asked. Have confidence in your ideas. Don't be scared to say no."
I'm excited by tomorrow because:
I've been pulling together a book called Problem Child for the last year, which has been a real turning point. I felt a huge shift after finishing up with Adidas, I wanted to unpick what the term "problem child" meant, how uncomfortable it is to always feel slightly too extra or simply not fit in. It's got photography by Jesse Jenkins, Tyrone Lebon, Genevieve Garner, and Phoebe Collings-James. I'm looking for funding for that and really living and adding to the project, telling a story. Since MAXILLA ended, I started planning a new party called MISSWORLD with Naomi Shimada and Lynette Nylander. I don't think I could ever stop working on parties. My studio is filled with reams of sketchbooks full of party ideas that I want to bring to life with artists and collaborators who want to do more than stick a speaker in a dark room. Ultimately, I'm excited by refining my ideas, pushing things, working with people I respect.