Combining Art & Math, Motion Designer-Animator Ankita Panda offers Unique Skillset
“I never got a pass mark in math…Just imagine, mathematicians now use my prints to illustrate their books.” — M.C. Escher, the Dutch graphic artist who made mathematically inspired art
An artist and a mathematician walk into a bar — and M.C. Escher might’ve asked why not, as the celebrated artist has inspired many to see a fascinating relationship between art and math.
One such Escher fan is in-demand and LA-based animator/motion designer Ankita Panda, whose animated short film, Pause, Play, Repeat, has appeared at Oscar qualifying animation film festivals worldwide. Ankita didn’t grow up in an artistic family in her native Pune, in fact, her entire family comes from a more scientific and IT background; however, her parents were totally supportive of her desire to do something creative.
So, now dipping deep into the well of these two influences, Ankita has found a unique way of expressing herself. This go-to animator sees herself as an “extremely versatile and a very quick learner” which allows her to learn new animation styles and new software and to adapt herself to whatever is required by clients/productions.
Of working with seemingly opposed disciplines, Ankita explains, “I am fascinated by the analogies made between different forms like art and math. I am always seeking to explore more on this subject and further deepen my understanding in the integration of a field that is so objective with one that is completely subjective. I think that the integration of elements of math such as geometry, symmetry, fractals etc with art forms is the basis of pattern language — something that all humans unconsciously seek.”
Ankita, who earned several awards and grants at USC’s School of Cinematic Arts where she earned an MFA, now also has extensive work credits with cutting edge industry leaders like Mediamonks LA (animator/motion designer), and with 21st Century Fox.
She expresses her love of Escher: “Escher was an artist who integrated elements of math like geometry with art, and did it inconspicuously well. I’m very inspired by his work. With my animated short, Nine, I wanted to create a film that forms a connection between visuals and mathematics. So I decided to create a series of impossible loops and connect them to the illusive number 9, which is an extremely unique number and is at the root of a lot of mathematical loops. I was also inspired by Douglas Hofstadter (Professor of Cognitive Science and Comparative Literature) and his ‘I am a strange loop.’ My film connects 9 impossible objects with the ‘self’ within. In that respect, Nine is all about making these connections.”
Ankita’s work features visually arresting, often very human-like and quirky characters in motion, and synched to aurally awesome sounds. But, one of her earliest creative inspirations growing up was the daily American comic strip, Calvin and Hobbes. I absolutely loved reading those comics when I was a kid. I always thought Bill Waterson’s illustrations were just so minimal yet impeccable, his characters were so relatable and the simplicity in his thought process and execution gave his work a universal appeal.”
Other more recent visual artists that have influenced her are Polish animator and director, Przemek Adamski, who works in a wide variety of media, and Boris Labbe: “He has a very distinct style of pattern and repetition in his work. I am also influenced heavily by Douglas Hofstadter’s written works like ‘An Eternal Golden Braid.’ I love anything and everything to do with learning more about pattern language.”
And, if she were to choose an inspirational animated movie that influenced her, it would be Perfect Blue by Japanese director/animator, Satoshi Kon. Legendary horror director Roger Corman said of this film: “A startling and powerful film. If Alfred Hitchcock partnered with Walt Disney, they’d make a picture like this.” To which, Ankita laughs, “I love weird psycho dramas and thrillers and this one really makes me queasy.”
And, she’s incorporated all these diverse influences into some of her other noted works, including: Journeys Through Space and Time — “Explores change in direction, perspective, and repeating patterns nature by placing the viewer in the center of a virtual 3D kaleidoscope”; and, her first animated short, Beyond Crimson Ties — “The film is intended to show that meaningful relationships lie beyond just words — it’s the thoughts and actions that count.”
As for the state of the art of animation today, she enthuses: “There is a constant growth and learning which is the reason why this industry is so exciting to work in. Everything is always changing for the better. My overall goal is to ultimately supervise projects as a motion director or a creative director, for short form animation content — commercials, music videos, marketing materials, projection shows and events, etc. This is such an exciting industry to be involved in.”
In addition, she has recently taken her visually stunning animation talent and allied it to fabrics, creating “vibrant designs on sustainable fabrics” by launching her online store — BLANK__IT to reflect her strong passion for geometric art and pattern making: “I wanted to focus on creating good designs on quality products — to bring something vibrant and unique to someone else’s home.”