April 11 – Christine Panushka – Artist, Filmmaker, Animator

Christine Panushka is an internationally known award winning artist, filmmaker/animator and educator. Her work explores the female psyche and uses stillness and small gestures to describe internal emotional and spiritual states.

Named an Absolut Visionary in 1996, she conceptualized, directed and curated “Absolut Panushka,” the second issue in a series of content based Websites sponsored by Absolut Vodka, which was honored with an “Award of Excellence” from Communication Arts Magazine, as well as first prize for Animation on the Internet by both the World Animation Celebration in Los Angeles and the Holland International Animation Film Festival in Utrecht.

Panushka’s films have garnered numerous awards including the Grand Prize at the Aspen Filmfest and a Golden Gate Award at the San Francisco International Film Festival.


31 comments on “April 11 – Christine Panushka – Artist, Filmmaker, Animator

  1. The department seminar guest this week was our very own Christine Panushka. An independent filmmaker, veteran educator, and calarts graduate, she introduced herself with her very first film, The Night’s Last Child. As a student at of art at the University of Utah, her interests in printmaking transitioned into animation. Her first film was drawn on cells, shot on a coffee table, and mixed at a local television studio.
    Originally from the Mormon mothership, Salt Lake City, she moved to California. As a student of Experimental Animation at Calarts, she worked under the mentorship of Jules Engel. Her calarts thesis film translated one of her large scale illustrations into an animation of subtle gestures and juxtaposition of type.
    As an illustrator and painter, she worked in series. Her most recent project came from a box of letters, long forgotten and sold at an estate sale. The writer laments his experiences to his father; California is hot and desolate. Domesticated chairs move inappropriately -the film moves across a foreboding barren landscape of sharply angled houses and gnarled trees. Her unfinished work in progress was an exciting look into Christine’s production process.

  2. There is a unique quality to Christine’s work. Even though is very visually clean, it feels rich and loaded with information. She has been able to carry the cultural weight of all the classic elements she uses as reference and present it in a modern fashion.

    As Laura Cechanowicz® commented, Christine’s work strongly referred to graphic narration with the fragmentation of images in the same canvas by framing them. It makes a lot of sense, given that the bridge between baroque imagery, comic books and film it’s a direct one. They’re all broken aesthetics according to theorist Omar Calabrese.

    The brief appearance of Dante Alighieri made me happy because I’m using Dante’s Inferno as part of my Expanded animation project.

    My only regret is that I wish this seminar would’ve come sooner. I really had no idea about Christine’s work. I loved it and it resounded very much with my own interests. If I’d known, maybe I would’ve had the confidence and sufficient elements to approach her, and ask for the help to guide me through this maze of deciphering my production 1 project. IN THEATERS SOON.

  3. Brandon Lake says:

    It was great having Christine in this week. It’s always interesting to see the backgrounds of the faculty here and, as I was last week, I’m always surprised to see their work and interests. I loved the dark humor seen through a lot of her styles. In my work I feel that there is always a problem of people taking the world and art too seriously and so I’m always happy to see someone having fun with what they are creating. I must say that I also loved her ventures outside of conventional animation. For me, I enjoyed the stamp animation the most because of its great rhythm and playful nature. I also really loved her experiments with a theme, like the various paintings of the similar compositions. Be it the same 3 girls or variations on a ink, you are allowed to have a glimpse into her mind and her changing styles. Thank you again for showing your work to us all.

  4. I enjoyed seeing Christine’s work at this past seminar. Her drawing style and the handmade quality even in the digital work was a delight. It was interesting way to take still art and give it life, without removing it’s still-art quality. Also, the reduced palette in most of her projects was cool as well. I feel like her work really reflected her personality and the work made for a fascinating evening. Her humility about her work and her willingness to solicit her students for feedback was refreshing. I look forward to the final product and whatever else is next.

  5. megatoe says:

    Christine was my first professor at USC, and I realized I haven’t seen any of her work until this seminar! I really love her art style – it is simplistic and conveys strong emotions in a subtle way. The soundtrack in her animation was also a powerful component, and helps convey her story about life and death, and woman vulnerability.

    I am also impressed by her unique working process. She does not follow the traditional way of animating, like planning everything out with storyboards. Instead, when she makes a film, she loves to be spontaneous and put bits and pieces together as she animate. Through her work, I can see that energy and I believe as an artist, it is important to find out what’s the most suitable way for us to create art and animations.

    – Margaret

  6. Amy Lee Ketchum says:

    I was excited to see Christine’s work because I sometimes wonder what being an expert at animation history can do to your art. I found her films to be emotionally rich and graphically precise and playful. Although she went to school during a time when Conceptual Art was the norm in the fine arts, her work does not beat you over the head with its conceptualism. I like that they can be enjoyed on multiple levels from children to adults. This is something I would like to achieve in my own work as well.

  7. Ruthie Williams says:

    Christine’s films and drawings were really cool to see and gave me a fresh perspective on ways to approach animated filmmaking. Her style is simple and precise but so expressive. Her sensitivity to subtle gestures makes her characters seem familiar and alive, but still very much from her unique drawn world that she started exploring at school in Utah. Structured around the idea of cycles, her work conveys a story and a mystery intertwined. She has a very elegant way of touching on heavy themes like death and loss and adding her own sense of humor to it so it doesn’t become overly severe or sad. I am very intrigued with her use of ancient artifacts, mythology, and archetypal imagery to effectively convey something timeless and universal. I would like to learn how to use those resources gracefully in my own work, because incorporating visual history from different cultures and times is a powerful tool in visual communication.

  8. Yang Liu says:

    It’s actually the first time I see Christine’s work, even thought I’d been here for a long time. Her drawings are very charming and fun to look at, I especially enjoyed all the different characters she designed and created. I was also inspired by her saying that the only thing we have never changed is human’s body, and that’s where she started to explore in her art making. I totally agree that everything human do is about human ourselves. We never ever changed the world even thought we kept saying we do. Christine’s works all seem to have a very strong philosophical opinion on the human side, and I had a very long and fun thinking time after seeing them. I was also impressed by how Christine could convey all these complicated ideas into simple shapes and colors. I also want to point out that Christine’s prethesis class is really inspiring too!

  9. Dan Wilson says:

    As Yang pointed out, it’s great to finally see Christine’s work since we’ve been with her all semester in pre-thesis. I really like her idea of artist trading cards – there’s something about little handheld drawings you can collect and give away that’s appealing. It’s my favorite part of having business cards (and I can draw on the back before I give them away).

    The technique in Singing Sticks was probably my favorite part of her presentation. The premade aspect of the stamps is a lot like how games work, especially those from the 90s when media didn’t have a lot of storage space. For RPGs in particular, entire cutscenes had to be constructed out of a limited number of poses that would fit on the cartridge/ disk. Emotion and gravity had to be conveyed with just a few poses, sound effects, music, and text… actually that makes it sound like a lot, but it’s not! When the skeletons showed up and were dancing, it reminded me even more of a scene right out of a Super Nintendo game, music and all.

  10. Tristan Dyer says:

    When Christine taught HIstory of Animation last semester I tried to find her work online and only found a flickr account. True story. But she did present, also last semester, a collection of films from CalArts in the 70’s and 80’s. They all had a very defined style. Going into seminar I was expecting this kind of work, with constant shifting perspectives and morphing from wall to wall. I was pleasantly surprised to see work that had very defined intentions and varying mediums. Her filmmaking method is also quite different from many animators where she just starts creating and puts it together in the editing room, which is pretty risky if you ask me but she obviously has found a way to make this work well. I must chime in that Singing Sticks was my favorite as well. I also enjoyed The Content of Clouds, especially since it is still in production and I enjoy seeing things before they have reached their final version.

  11. Louis Morton says:

    Christine’s work was wonderful. It’s very inspiring to see how an artist can maintain a unique style over different mediums spanning a long career as Christine has. There was something eerily engaging about the first drawing she showed of all the women and I immediately wanted to see it animated. I think this says a lot about strong character design, especially in illustration and painting. Some paintings beg to be moved, but it’s not always successfully done. Christine work is a great example of how a drawing or painting can gain new life and meaning through movement.

    Unfortunately I wasn’t able to have Christine as an animation history professor, but I feel fortunate to be getting a mini animation history lesson throughout Pre-Thesis this semester. There seems to be one thing in common with all the films Christine has shown to us in class: uniqueness in character design and movement. To me this is the most exciting aspect of animation, the ability of the artist to select what they want to reveal about a character through it’s design. Christine explained the meaning of the naked women designs, but even before this I found them to be extremely engaging. I hope to one day also be able to reach this level of meaning and appeal in a character design as Christine has so successfully done.

  12. Andrew Malek says:

    Its always nice to see a retrospective of a filmmaker’s work and see how their work has evolved over time to see what has changed and what has not. In the case of Christine Panuska I was struck by lovely designs of her early drawings and enjoyed the idea of those characters following Christine throughout her career.

    When Christine mentioned working on a single film for close to five years I was dumbfounded, by her her dedication to a single project. I think that one thing we lose with the ultra fast digital production workflow is the monk-like devotion that earlier animators were forced to have. At the same time it was great to see how Christine’s work translated to the digital world and how she was able to use the added freedom in her later films. Ultimately Christine’s films are very earnest and aesthetically pure pieces and I enjoyed watching them develop.

  13. LaMar Ford says:

    It’s great to see Christine’s work. I enjoyed her History of Animation class, and her films show the love for animation and art. It’s inspiring for me to see a filmmaker with strong style be able to develop and expand upon it over time. I like editing and timing of Nighttime Fears and Fantasies: A Bedtime Tale for a Young Girl. It’s a treat to see The Content of Clouds. I enjoy the animation in the film, and I can’t wait to see the final cut.

  14. Javier B says:

    Christine Panushka’s work and style and lead me thought a journey . I’ve seen some of her work before but in the scale that it was in was amazing. And to see here progression as an artist with her signature character’s was grate. And all the references and symbolic and depth in work was inspiring. Can’t wait until see fished with here latest film.

  15. Meng Chia Chung says:

    It’s cool to see Christine Panushka’s art work. I had her for art history last semester. She is really kind and nice and I had good time in her class. It is hard to picture her with her art work together actually. I like her work very much. I find her work have really unique look, very strong style. It does inspired me a lot.

  16. Liffany Chen says:

    I was always interested in seeing what kind of work Christine Panushka had since I had her last semester for History of Animation. Her work has a unique feel to it (chairs coming out of clouds? What?). Although, from what I know of her personality, I never would have guessed that she produces this kind of work. It has a very traditional yet ethereal look to it. To add to that, she doesn’t particularly focus on a specific narrative, which both fascinates and frustrates me because I am a very narrative person and I always feel the need to dissect everything I see and watch.

    I’d like to be able to see some more of her work, and I look forward to possibly seeing her complete her current work-in-progress to see how far it’s come and how much has changed.

  17. Ryan Gillis says:

    I’m with Tristan. Before I came to USC I tried to research most of the faculty and Christine was one of the professor’s whose work wasn’t online. I was pretty excited to finally get to see her work. The animations were beautiful, but I didn’t know how much 2D work she made. Her illustrations were gorgeous and it was really nice to see her design sense.
    The seminar itself was also really pleasant. It was incredibly casual and the question rounds felt more like conversation than interviews. It was great to see her work, and I definitely want to talk to her about how her collage and printmaking transitioned into motion.

  18. Nesli Erten says:

    Christine’s work is simply beautiful. I found it extremely inspiring to see how her unique style has evolved throughout the course of her career. Her elegant character designs enable viewers to toggle with subject matters of death and gender without losing the whimsical charm of the animation itself. Most of all, I like the direction she is going in her current work in progress. It’s very befitting to see a History of Animation professor use archetypal imagery and text to recreate moments in history. This kind of authentic “history in motion” is a very influential concept that enhances animation as a visual tool for communication. Thanks for the wonderful seminar!

  19. Cecilia De Jesus says:

    It was so great to finally see Christine’s work. It’s always interesting to see the work created by our faculty and this was no exception. I love the simple, graphic style of her images on the screen. Her work really has a life of its own and a quirky personality that reflects her own, I think. My favorite film of the night was “Singing Sticks”. I thought the dance was absolutely wonderful and I was so impressed that it was created with rubber stamps. This film exemplified “play” to me and I loved the joy it expressed. It had a very obvious beat and rhythm because of the music, that I enjoyed. I think all of Christine’s work has this rhythm that keeps the film moving forward.

    Seeing the films all together also made me see the visual motifs that Christine uses over and over in her films. I like seeing how artists continue this variation on a theme in their work throughout their lives.

    I’m grateful that Christine also shared her film in progress and actually asked for feedback and critique. She is such an open artist and that’s something very admirable. The work in progress looked very ambitious and beautiful. I can’t wait to see the final film!

  20. Robert Calcagno says:

    Christine’s work has this great little playfulness and aloofness about it, yet you can tell that it has this sense of timelessness to it because of the simplicity of the animation. Having taken History of Animation with her, you can tell that she appreciates animation that retains a singular creative vision that isn’t trying to get too far ahead of itself, even if the plot or story is ultimately nonlinear.

    It’s the sense that an animator should just know who they are and what they want the animation to accomplish in an objective sense; let the audience bring their own subjective attitude towards the animation.

    With Christine, the clean and non-descriptive nature of her females means that the audience can apply their own feelings of feminism and womanhood with a variety of themes, be it historical, literary, feminist ideals, even the unintentional association of the figures with women going through chemo-therapy.

  21. I’ve had multiple classes taught by Christine Panushka, but I have never seen much of her work until now. It was really fascinating to see. It all felt like there were layers upon layers of deep meaning woven into these films, though almost all of it was lost on me. It’s always interesting to watch something that clearly has some meaning, but no not have any idea what the meaning
    actually is.

    I was surprised that she was such a fan of After Effects. For some reason I thought she was more into physical animation rather than digital. I’m not sure where I got that impression.

  22. Eric Tortora Pato says:

    Sorry for the delay! Christine’s presentation was a very illuminating and reassuring seminar for me, and for one outstanding reason: the measured and positive way she made and views the traditional to digital transition. While all of our media in film have gone through changes, some good and some not so good, through the roughly two and a half decades of the digital film revolution, I feel that animation, despite how we think of it (i.e. as a more direct manipulation of media) has truly flourished in the digital world. For instance, 15 years ago or so, Stop Motion was supposed to be receiving it’s death knell at the hands of the computer and the dreaded CGI, yet there is more work (and, in my humble opinion, more excellent work) in the form now then ever before, and largely because of the rise of the excellent Dragon Stop Motion. There are similar developments across all the other forms, and of course the birth and rise of the still comparably nascent CGI, but more so than any of those, digital gives us one thing in animation, one exceptional thing, that film simply never could: instant playback. To my eyes, digital is a boon to virtually every form of animation.

    …okay, not scratch on film, but that was torture, anyway. ;)

  23. Joseph Yeh says:

    I am very thankful to hear from Christine and see her process. I feel that her work makes very specific choices especially her choice of medium. Her variety of mediums from simple linework to printing blocks really define a large part of her films. Furthermore, Christine has a strong awareness of her work. She knows she is speaking to an audience and sharing a feeling; this to me is what makes her work so powerful. I also found it very interesting that she does very little storyboarding and that her ideation process is very loose giving her work a feeling of spontaneity.

  24. Miguel Jiron says:

    I had been curious about Christine’s work for so long that it was a real treat to see her films all together. It was remarkable to me how strong her voice remained over decades of work, and seeing how they adapted from paper and pencil to AfterEffects to even performance art. Her style has an intriguing, mysterious element that remains wonderfully undefined throughout her films. Part of this I think comes from the repeated emphasis on crowds (family? worlds?) and mythological symbols that give her clear sense of color and line a real weight behind them. Like she described as wanting her illustrations and paintings to move, the viewer also wants to know more about this world, and that’s a real testament to how strong Christine’s work is.

    I can’t wait to see how she’ll finish her latest film- it was really special to get a glimpse of it in progress. I think she very successfully translated her style into After Effects, and it looked beautiful and still maintained this mysterious, unknowable quality that I find in all her works. Her characters all seemed to be party of a big party and all seemed to be carrying this unknowable secret.

  25. Simo Liu says:

    I had already been very impressed by Christine’s work when she showed them in the beginning class of History of Animation class last semester. These works were with hand drawing style, bright color, interesting things and fantastic imagination. For me, I really love her works and style. When Christine’s works showed in this seminar, I found out there are some differences between what I had seen before. This time, I saw many things about human, body, female inside her works. Each person Christine draw has its own emotion and mood. I really like them and I love the way that Christine uses her exclusive hand-drawing style to express human’s heart. I really appreciate her and her works. It inspired me a lot. Thank you, Christine.

  26. Lanzhu Jian says:

    great artist, great art work, great professor. I m very glad we had Christine here and bring us her artistic working process. It is illuminating experience to me and to my work in the future. I especial love her style, very simplistic but it conveys strong emotions though all the simple element and color . I would like to talk more with her about the transition , the art flow and the advice she will give us along the way how she changed and gained in her life.

  27. Einar Baldvin Arnason says:

    It was a great privilage to finally see the work of Christine, I liked her simple yet masterful style and her general approach and understanding of animation. We are really privileged to have her as a teacher here and I think what she brings to this program is essential, a style and approach like hers as well as her comprehensive understanding of animation in general goes a long way to encourage students to pursue their own path.

  28. Di Gu says:

    Through last semester’s class with Christine, I have already impressed by her erudite. Her work has strong personal style. I like she use her unique way to observe this world, which make her works outstanding. And also I am so happy that Christine is an open artist that willing to share the progress of her works. In my opinion, sharing the experiences is a better way to learn more, also avoid the potential mistakes。

  29. Linda Jules says:

    It is always a great pleasure to have the chance to see work created by faculty members here in the department. I remember as an undergrad, I never thought much about my faculty outside the classroom. Grad school generally feels very different as the student teacher relationship transitions into more of a colleague one. With all of that said, I was surprised at myself when I realized that I had never seen any of Christine’s work! Thank you for presenting such a humble and diverse faculty member to seminar. Like everyone above has mentioned, her presentation was a treat for all.

  30. chaoqi zhang says:

    I like all the art works that Christine has done. The feeling is great, quiet but rich, with a female’s artist specific inner view to see the world. l can see the strong influence of calarts in her works.Freely and personal, especially those those naked woman figure. Each indivisual was disdinguished from each other by personalized small details who has unspeakable charming to see. Thanks.

  31. Laura Cechanowicz says:

    Having worked with Christine as her SA and having had the pleasure of being in her pre-thesis seminar, it was enlightening to hear her speak about her work and her process.

    One of the things that inspires me the most about Christine’s work is her ability to approach everything with both an intense rigor and an extreme sense of calm and ‘inevitability.’ I think that when you are working with Christine you can see how she expects you to really excel and push yourself, but she also believes in letting the process unfold in an organic way. Somehow I find that she is able to guide others and herself powerfully through exploration, and her high standards help you excel.

    It was also so interesting to see the development of Christine’s work over time. Her movement from still drawings to animated figures and back again is like a feedback loop of evolution. It’s also interesting to see how she has integrated a digital workflow into her process, fully embracing all the ways the digital can make incredibly difficult feats completely feasible. It was educational and inspirational to see Christine’s collected works presented in this manor, by her!

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