Exhibitionists

This artist can draw any animal with 13 circles — and these amazing GIFs will show you how

Dorota "Dori" Pankowska loves making art that people will share online, but she never imagined this project would be a hit.

She loves making art that people will share online, but she never imagined this project would be a hit

Walrus? Toucan? No problem. Dorota Pankowska's GIF series, 13 Animals made from 13 Circles, appears on this week's episode of Exhibitionists. (www.dorotapankowska.com)

Dorota "Dori" Pankowska knows what it's like to see her work explode online.

The first time, in 2013, it was a story about street art. Pankowska had been pasting brand names all over Brampton, Ont. — a "Cheez Whiz" logo oozing with Cheez Whiz, "Nutella" spread with Nutella, etc. The local squirrels ate it up, and so did the international media.

More recently, she's been getting buzz for her business cards. She designed something she describes as the "simplest business card in the world." (It appears completely blank, unless you're "bright" enough to hold it up to a lamp.) And back in 2015, her business cards were equally big — although at the time, she was making headlines for making them with crayons. (She even showed the folks at CBC Radio's Sparkhow to bake their own.)

[I wanted] to keep doing things that are new and that people might want to share.- Dorota Pankowska, artist

When Pankowska reflects on her earliest instances of internet fame, she says they came with a lesson.

"It inspired me," the 27-year-old tells CBC Arts. "[I wanted] to keep doing things that are new and that people might want to share."

From Spark, Dorota Pankowska colours with one of her crayon business cards. (Michelle Parise)

Now an art director for a Toronto ad agency, Pankowska explains that most of her career opportunities — including a recent gig at Ogilvy Paris — materialized because of the reputation she's built online. And when she realized the real-world "power of the internet," she decided to seize it.

But when a project called 13 Animals from 13 Circles "snowballed" into another blog hit last summer, she was shocked. Says the artist: "I didn't think it was going to be shared by anybody, actually."

It's a GIF series, and it's entirely summed up by the title. Every GIF is a picture of an animal — a minimalist owl or elephant or walrus or bunny rabbit. And every animal was drawn using exactly 13 circles, a design technique that Pankowska illustrates for the viewer with animated dotted lines. This week on Exhibitionists, we're featuring the collection.

Constructing an image based on a grid of circles is a common enough technique. Pankowska even started the project as a sort of educational challenge. At Humber she studied photography, not graphic design. The series was going to be something pretty she could build for her portfolio while punching up her design skills in the process.  

The Twitter logo was her inspiration, and in a way, you could count that streamlined bluebird as the project's unofficial 14th member.

Digital nerds might remember how the social network revealed the logo back in 2012. Like Pankowska, Twitter also made an animated video — one that exposed the design's geometric skeleton.

"I don't think I would have guessed in my life that you could use perfect circles to make a beautiful Twitter logo," she says, remembering the first time she saw it. As a result, she threw herself into researching design, and then spent a few months producing the series in her free time.

That sense of surprise is how she accounts for the popularity of 13 Animals from 13 Circles — which even inspired a custom tattoo."For a lot of people the concept happened to be new," she says.  

As for what's new with her, Pankowska says she's developing her own line of designer products, which will launch with a small range of office goods. She expects to open shop by the end of the year. Follow her on Facebook for updates.

"I get a lot of joy from seeing my ideas actually happen," she says. "Whether it's a design project or a cool commercial idea that I get to see on TV later, I think that's the driving force for me — just getting new or original ideas, and actually seeing them brought to life."

Check out 13 Animals made from Circles.

Watch CBC Arts: Exhibitionists online or on CBC Television. Tune in Friday nights at 12:30am (1am NT) and Sundays at 3:30pm (4pm NT).

About the Author

Leah Collins

Leah Collins is the Senior Writer at CBC Arts.

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