Creative Lives — Translator, detective or producer? Meet Lauren Doughty, producer to artist Ryan Gander
When Lauren Doughty graduated with a BA in illustration from Camberwell in 2013, she admitted to feeling lost and confused. But after trying her hand at everything from drawing workshops to set painting, a three-month internship with conceptual artist Ryan Gander later turned into a full-time role that she absolutely loves. She’s now one of three producers helping to translate and physicalise the artist’s thoughts. From building cartoon-like sculptures to programming video animations for glossy, black business directories, she relishes the variety the role offers. When she’s not at the studio, Lauren maintains her illustration practice: drawing, painting and designing posters for events. Here she tells us why it’s important to remain open to change, and shares some top tips for recent graduates.
Producer, Ryan Gander’s Studio (2015–present)
London and Suffolk
Various freelance projects; exhibiting and running workshops, Pick Me Up (2014); Ikebana drawing class, Somerset House (2015): Garden_lab drawing workshop, Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden, Deptford (2016)
BA Illustration, Camberwell College of Arts (2010–2013)
Lauren Doughty, image by John Henry Newton.
Studio interior, Ryan Gander’s Studio, London 2015 Image credit: © Ryan Gander. Courtesy the artist and Collateral Drawing. Image John Henry Newton
Inside Ryan Gander's studio
Inside Ryan Gander's studio
How would you describe your job?
Assisting Ryan can feel like being both a translator and a detective. I work with him to make the thoughts and concepts he’s visualising physical, and the artwork that carries his idea something that people can look at and understand. I’m there to help make Ryan’s artworks and projects happen, and keep momentum going. This physical outcome can use whichever media best communicates his concept, so every project feels new and different.
As a team we’re made up of a creative director, Ryan’s personal assistant, studio administrator, two senior producers, myself, a studio assistant in Suffolk, and wonderful interns! Between the three producers, Ryan will split the projects according to our individual skills. I generally work with Ryan on his drawn, design, print, animation, programming and digitally-oriented projects – only a part of his very wide ranging art practice. As a studio we work closely together to achieve this in various ways, and between us we all take on a range of jobs that sometimes fall outside of what our job ‘titles’ might suggest.
“Assisting Ryan can feel like being both a translator and a detective.”
What does a typical working day look like?
Our day starts at 10am and finishes at 6pm. I hop on the overground from South London and hop off in East London. Sometimes that 30 or 40 minutes ends up being used as an extra morning nap, although I try to use that time to read whichever book I have going. At the moment it is The Green Imperative, Ecology and Ethics in Design and Architecture by Victor Papanek which was recommended to me by Ryan. It’s very good, and Papanek is a very smart designer and educator, look him up!
My time is always split between several projects and tasks. I normally start with what is most pressing, or who I might need to get in touch with first to get something going. Although, there’s only so much you can plan for – there’s always the unexpected to account for!
“Yo-yo Criticism” (2014) A pair of white Adidas ZX750 trainers that have been hand painted on and around the soles with a brown textured rubber solution to appear as if the owner has walked through mud. A collaborative project between the artist and Adidas, commissioned by Adidas Originals, Tokyo. Image credit: © Ryan Gander. Courtesy the artist. Image Jack Hems.
“A motion of no confidence, Or on talent and ideas alone” (2014) A bronze figurine of a young female ballerina resembling Degas’ dancer sits huddled on the floor, her arms around her knees as if trying to keep warm. An ultramarine blue acrylic cube is also positioned within the gallery space. Image credit: © Ryan Gander. Courtesy the artist and Lisson Gallery. Image Dave Morgan.
“Banner for Europe” (1999) A large banner displaying the word OPTIMISM in the colours of the European Union. The sign is produced with the intention of being displayed in economically deprived areas. Image credit: © Ryan Gander. Courtesy the artist.
How did you land your current job?
I heard about a three month internship at Ryan’s studio through my friend Grace, who I met when helping out at Limoncello Gallery. I went along to the interview, and came away feeling like I’d had a really nice, natural chat about all that I’d been up to since graduating. I interned for three months alongside working at a café; it felt very new, I loved it. I felt nervous and not very confident at times, but I stuck at it and tried my best. I worked hard, made embarrassing mistakes, and I’m still learning a lot. I really wasn’t expecting to be offered a job – that was a very nice surprise!
Where does the majority of your work take place?
The majority of my working day takes place in the studio and in front of the computer, either in London or Suffolk. Occasionally I travel with Ryan and other studio members to assist with exhibition installs or one off performances and projects.
I work with a bunch of very funny, inspiring, intelligent, curious people. I love it. There’s always lots of jokes and laughter flying around, which is really important for studio culture – especially during those periods of time where there’s a rush for deadlines and everyone’s preparing for big museum exhibitions or other projects.
“Illustrated double page spread from Fieldwork, an Incomplete Reader” (2016) Image credit: © Ryan Gander. Courtesy the artist and Lisson Gallery. Illustrations Lauren Doughty.
“Fieldwork 2015” (2015) The gallery space is walled off and a 1m square viewing window is installed into it. A Breuer Wassily chair and side table are placed in front of the window through which 32 objects are visible as they individually pass by on a conveyor belt in a continuous cycle. The objects are from the artist's collection and everyday objects selected by the artist. On the table is a book entitled 'Fieldwork, An incomplete reader' written by the artist and containing material relating to the objects on the conveyor. Image credit: © Ryan Gander. Courtesy the artist and Lisson Gallery. Image Jack Hems.
How collaborative is your role?
My role is very, very collaborative. I’m always meeting and working with new people: talking to fabricators; commissioning freelancers; talking to gallery and museum staff, curators, designers and artists. The projects that I work on are my own personal responsibility, but there is a supportive ethos in the studio, and we help each other if and when we can.
What are the most and least enjoyable aspects of your job?
The most enjoyable is the ever-changing variety of interesting projects that I get to work on. The least enjoyable aspect of my job is some of the admin – I am the studio’s IT Department. But hey, we all have to do it!
What has been the most exciting project of the last twelve months?
I have been working on a few animation and programming projects within the last twelve months, which have all been very exciting. Ryan’s artwork, Staccato Moments (2016) which was shown at Okayama Art Summit, is a freestanding glossy black business directory containing a video screen displaying text written by Ryan. The animated text leads the viewer and leaves them with an associative but ambiguous stream of consciousness. We worked together on this; Ryan directed and I animated. It was a great project and I really enjoyed figuring out how to make things move.
“Staccato Moments” (2016) A large freestanding backlit glossy black business directory, as one would expect to see in a foyer of a large office building. Constructed using an upright LED video screen displaying animated white text in which all business names have been substituted with notes, ideas, themes and subjects from the artists notebook, as a ‘Word Composition’ associated with the research and development of new artistic ventures, leaving the viewer with an associative but ambiguous stream of consciousness. The digital lobby sign is surrounded by a collection of domestic corporate looking Monstera deliciosa plants (Swiss Cheese Plants) that encircle above, around and behind the sign. Image credit: © Ryan Gander. Courtesy the artist and TARO NASU. Image Yasushi Ichikawa.
What skills are essential to your job?
Curiosity, clear communication, confidence talking to people, organisational skills, a head for logistics, being able to manage several projects at a time, remember specific details and being able learn from mistakes.
Do you run any side projects alongside your job?
Whenever I can, or whenever something comes up. I do illustration jobs, paint and draw regularly, design posters for events, run workshops and events with friends. I think it’s important to use your spare time to do things you enjoy and that give you energy.
I recently took part in a Spring Design School that I was accepted onto at the Van Eyck Academie in Maastricht. I took a week away from the studio and joined 19 artists and designers to create work for an online TV channel which they have launched called VANEYCK.TV, working under the guidance of designer Roosje Klap and artist and illustrator Jordy van den Nieuwendijk. We all created design work, drawings and animations independently and collectively in response to current day politics and affairs, things that we’re concerned about and interested in. It was a great experience, I met lovely people, and it was fun to challenge myself.
What tools do you use most for your work?
Sketchbook; favourite pen; Photoshop; Illustrator and InDesign.
“In the Company of Flowers,” Ikebana Drawing Class with Camberwell Press (2015)
“On slow Obliteration, or Ryan is tired” (2017) An animated yellow flip-dot sign loaded with an algorithm that continuously generates randomly forming drips across its surface. The flip-dot sign is accompanied by a rub down transfer of a single paragraph from a text written by the artist entitled An Incomplete Encyclopaedia of Deterioration. Image credit: © Ryan Gander. Courtesy the artist and Esther Schipper. Image courtesy Hyundai Gallery.
How I Got Here
What did you want to be growing up?
After being taken to see Jurassic Park at the cinema I became obsessed with dinosaurs. I wanted to be a dinosaur, then an archaeologist, and then an architect. I found an illustrated journal I kept when I was kid; one page said ‘When I grow up, I want to explore the Jungle!’ next to a drawing of a giraffe. Drawing is something I’ve always loved and will continue to do.
What influence has your upbringing had on your work?
I was born and lived in Singapore, and then in Malaysia and Myanmar before moving to the UK with my mum and dad aged nine. So I moved around a lot up until the time I started secondary school in Kent. My dad is from Liverpool and my mum is from FYRO Macedonia (which used to be part of Yugoslavia before independence), so my upbringing is quite mixed. I’ve had to move schools and houses many times, and adapt to new people and situations quickly. I think that I’m very open to change, and have learnt to adapt with relative ease. My parents both believe that if you are going to do something, you have to see it through to the end, and to the best of your ability. They always allowed me to make decisions for myself and be independent, and have always had trust in my choices whatever they might be.
“Despite our current working culture of being constantly on, not everything has to happen instantly. It’s good to understand how to use the media available to us, rather than letting it direct us.”
How (if at all) is the subject you studied useful to your current role? Camberwell taught me how to think laterally. We were taught to think around problems, and how to communicate visually, which is the most important thing I learnt whilst studying. Rather than just following the linear path of doing an Illustration degree and then becoming an illustrator, it was a skill that I found I could apply directly to other jobs.
I was also active in organising our final show by raising funds, running events, putting on club nights, finding a venue, and designing and building a website. This experience taught me so much in terms of how to work with a group of people, how events and projects are organised and simply how much things cost.
Breakfast choices for Spring Design School at the Van Eyck Academie (2017) Lauren Doughty
Free movement for Spring Design School at the Van Eyck Academie (2017) Lauren Doughty
Unity for Spring Design School at the Van Eyck Academie (2017) Lauren Doughty
What were your first jobs?
To be honest, I felt pretty lost after graduating. There are so many options and possibilities and it felt confusing. I decided that I would be up for trying anything and everything that took my interest, so I spent the first couple of years after graduation working in cafés, running drawing workshops for kids, and doing some set paintings for fashion shoots. Before I started working with Ryan, I had just finished an internship at a fashion production agency, and whilst the experience was definitely useful in parts, it was just the wrong thing for me. It really helps to know what you definitely don’t want to do, and what you don’t enjoy.
“The days of only doing one job in your life are long gone. There are so many variables that can affect whatever it is you’re doing.”
Who in particular helped you the most at the start of your career?
I can’t say just one person. My parents and friends are amazing. Anyone that told me about any opportunity and told me to give it a go.
Was there a particular project you worked on that helped your development?
I think every project that you work on helps with your development, you improve each time you do something, even if it doesn’t always feel like it.
What skills have you learnt along the way?
Emotional intelligence is very important when working in a team. Ask questions, communicate clearly, listen carefully, focus and be present.
Theresa may not for Spring Design School at the Van Eyck Academie (2017) Lauren Doughty
What’s been your biggest challenge?
Self-doubt. Worrying about not doing things ‘right’, ‘properly’ and saying the ‘wrong’ thing. Questioning my judgement and ability to make decisions. No one is an expert in everything, and you are not expected to be. Listen before talking. Think through a problem you’re trying to solve, and trust your judgement. I’ve learnt that it's important not to be afraid of making mistakes. Some things are out of your control, but there is usually a compromise that can be made.
Take your time, be patient and try to do one task at a time. Trying to do lots of things at once, rushing and being impatient can hinder your progress. It’s handy to notice when you are doing this. Know that despite our current working culture of being constantly on and available, not everything has to happen instantly. It’s good to understand how to use the media available to us, rather than letting it direct us. The internet was invented as a tool after all, so remember that it can be used in that way. It’s not an alternate reality.
Is your job what you thought it would be?
It is so much more than what I thought it would be. I feel very lucky to have a job that allows me to work on such varied projects and with such a close team of people.
На врв брда врба мрда (2017) Lauren Doughty
What would you like to do next?
I have ideas for a project space somewhere someday; art directing, curating and running events, workshops and talks. I’d like to carry on painting, drawing and being involved in all sorts of creative projects.
Could you do this job forever?
Can you do any job forever? I think we know the days of only doing one job in your life are long gone; job roles, people, dynamics, society and politics all change. There are so many variables that can affect whatever it is you’re doing. Just carry on with what you’re enjoying and see how the role changes and adapts with you.
Words of Wisdom
What advice would you give to a young creative wanting to become a producer in fine art?
Work hard. Take opportunities, learn from them, be yourself and explore new things. Why not be multi-faceted in your skills and experience? Choose things which you enjoy, and try things which you might hate (at least you’ll learn what you don’t like). You never know where something will lead when you take a chance. Meet people. It’s easy to forget, but most importantly – have fun!
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Cover Image – “Magnus Opus”(2013): Two cartoon-like, animatronic eyes with eyelids and eyebrows are installed in the gallery wall. Sensors, activated by the viewer, trigger the eyes to go through a series of pre-programmed movements that create an endless loop of randomly choreographed expressions. Image credit: © Ryan Gander. Courtesy the artist and Lisson Gallery. Image: Martin Argyroglo.