Referrals and Past Students


Jake Panian



Referral Letter by Glenn Vilppu




Dave Master



Knowing Sheldon Borenstein can be a life-changing gift. I've been extremely fortunate to learn this personally, from our long friendship, and professionally, from the first time we met as colleagues at Warner Bros. Animation. I was director of artist development and Sheldon was head of the cleanup department. I am a lifelong teacher and a lifelong aficionado of quality art and animation, and have known thousands of colleagues in both fields. I can say without qualification that Sheldon is 24-karat priceless as an artist, an educator and friend. 

At Warners, Sheldon was always the go-to person, the most qualified and most eager to help young artists develop their craft. He joyfully pushed their understanding (and mine, too!) of Renaissance art as the marrow of great animation. Each time he would teach a seminar, I would observe his apprentice and professional protégés, who clearly caught Sheldon's infectious passion for the legacy and mystery of great drawing and the real meaning of being an artist.

Ever since our days at Warner Bros., I've counted my blessings for the opportunity to continue working with Sheldon in education. Sheldon supervises the development of student drawing in our interactive gallery on the ACME website. Sheldon has been working with us on the ACME Animation website since its inception, more than twelve years. He has been sharing his deep knowledge and enthusiasm with students of all ages, via ACME Animation Online, our non-profit resource, bringing expertise to hundreds of high school and college classrooms. For the students and teachers on ACME Online, Sheldon generously gives his time designing high-quality curriculum and giving professional critique and advice on students' life drawings. He applies his wisdom at every level for beginners, working on portfolios to enter college; for apprentice-level learners polishing their skills to become professionals; and even for pros continuing their learning as they work in the industry.

Sheldon is a rare educator who knows the foundation of good teaching as deeply as he understands the underpinnings of great art. While Sheldon is one of the most enthusiastic and truly joyful educators I've ever worked with, he is also one of the most serious and knowledgeable. Don't let his buoyant personality fool you; Sheldon is an expert. No gimmicks for Sheldon on canvas or in the classroom. Sheldon's students become grounded in the fundamentals of art, design and anatomy. Their developing skills and understanding frees them, to express themselves with ever-growing confidence. Many students that have the fortune to work with Sheldon over time achieve professional level skills and achieve what is referred to as "flexible performance capability." This is fancy Ivy League terminology that describes the ability for an artist that can effectively tackle any novel visual problem thrown at them with confidence.

In the arts world an "Academy" is a revered designation. It represents the pursuit of skill and expressive abilities by a community of artists. The fortunate students at Sheldon's Art Academy benefit from Sheldon's teaching skills in just such an emerging community of artists. He teaches students to observe the world and "see," and reflect as artists. Just as important, Sheldon helps each of his students to know themselves. Each of his students, as unique as individual snowflakes, are is helped to develop his or her own unique qualities, aspirations, skills, and with Sheldon's guidance each one grows personally and artistically as they learn to apply the fundamentals of fine art in a myriad of ways.

Sheldon uses a continuously growing palette of teaching talents to make such a rare learning culture happen. For the students at Sheldon's Art Academy, the first day of class is usually an unfamiliar and refreshing school experience: walking into a learning community where one learns that relaxing and comfort with one's self is the best approach to a discipline. Sheldon's students like his friends learn self-confidence and self-appreciation along with fine art.

I have been honored over the years to be awarded with international and national education honors. I consider Sheldon to be "an educator's educator." For my entire career as an educator, I've held my own teaching to the highest standard I could: Would I want this class, this lesson, this activity for my own child? Is that not the highest standard? Sheldon's Art Academy meets this standard. I would love nothing more than to have Sheldon teach my own grandchildren! 

David Chai


The College for Creative Studies, Detroit, MI
Instructor of Traditional Animation

Thunderbean Animation, Ann Arbor, MI
Animation Director


Sheldon Borenstein is the man!

I make this statement, not because of the fact he was single handedly responsible for raising the level of drawing within an entire university animation department in less than a year's time. I make this statement, not based upon the incredible level of success his students are having finding work in an extremely demanding and competitive industry. I make this statement, not because of the fact that Sheldon cares and lives for his students as if they were of his own flesh and blood.

I make this statement because Sheldon was able to show a man like myself how to draw better. Before studying with Sheldon, I couldn't draw the figure to save my life. Although I already had a BS degree in Illustration, I had no sensitivity to recognizing gesture, construction, anatomy, and technique: The core fundamentals that are the basis of Sheldon's teaching.

I had studied unsuccessfully with a variety of other figure drawing instructors, all trying to teach basically the same information. It wasn't until I met Sheldon however, that it all began to become clear. Sheldon has the unique gift to provide complicated and technical information in a manner that is simple, organized, and easy to understand.

While I still have very far to go in my quest to attain greater levels of power and excellence in my work, I can state without a doubt that Sheldon and his teaching of the core fundamentals has placed me well along the way!


Jeffrey Biancalana


Mondo Media
Animator/ Storyboard-Concept Artist

San Jose State University
Graduate Student/ Instructor

Wild Brain
Assistant Animator


Sheldon Borenstein has been a great influence on me as an artist, and as a person. Throughout our time together he constantly challenged me intellectually, creatively, and emotionally. He found many ways to make me think about what it was I expected to achieve as an artist, and as a human being.

Sheldon's experience in the animation industry was crucial in his ability to train me for the jobs I would encounter once I graduated from school. The first Job I received, as an assistant animator at Curious pictures in San Francisco, was given to me based upon the strength of drawings I had done under Sheldon's supervision. I was not required to take a test, and when the executive producer looked through my portfolio, she asked me which studio I had done the drawings in, confirming in my mind that the work I had done in Sheldon's class was of industry quality. Getting your first job in the animation industry is a crucial step for any new graduate, and it will open many new doors. Because of Sheldon's teaching I was more than qualified for the position I had received, and I quickly moved on to do storyboards, design work, and even directing.

Beyond the industry, I use the fundamental drawing skills that Sheldon taught me in my own personal work. It is the core fundamentals that make you a strong artist, and capable of doing many things. I still refer to Sheldon's books. I consult him when I see him, and I will spend my life trying to master the skills he has shown to me.

Jennifer Corker


SJSU student


Upon first meeting Sheldon a year ago, I discovered he had previously worked in the animation industry, a fact that came as no surprise. Stout, comedic, and highly energetic, Sheldon struck me as the living form of a spunky cartoon sidekick. Moreover, he remains a passionate artist and dedicated teacher. Sheldon's enthusiasm for and experience in art creates a unique classroom environment that is both informative and entertaining.

Sheldon stresses the importance of drawing, painting, and design: if an artist is skillful in these three areas, he or she will be versatile enough to work almost anywhere. In order to prepare students for these fields of work, Sheldon teaches the fundamentals essential for success. Unlike some instructors, Sheldon does not teach "short cuts" or half-baked methods of drawing. Instead, he provides his students with information acquired throughout his years in the industry, and relates it in a way that is easy for students to understand and apply. One of the main principles Sheldon focuses on is rhythm. Without shapes, lines, colors, or forms arranged in an expressive, "musical" manner, a work will appear lifeless and boring. Never before has a teacher so clearly and adamantly expressed the importance rhythm; Sheldon helped my drawings become more gestural and narrative, and thus much more sophisticated.

Sheldon also understands that, just like anything else, artistic principles take time to learn. He provides constant assistance throughout the learning process, and is not satisfied until he is sure his students fully grasp each concept. Many students, such as myself, seek guidance outside of class. To our benefit, Sheldon has an open invitation to help anyone who desires to learn. While most teachers do not offer their assistance outside of school hours, Sheldon allows his students to call him at home, on his own personal time, for help with class work. That is perhaps what impresses me most about Sheldon, and conveys his extraordinary love of teaching. Within the past year, I have worked closely with Sheldon. During summer and winter holidays, I emailed Sheldon my drawings, then called him for over-the-phone critiques. This instant feedback helped me improve quickly with fewer struggles. Furthermore, Sheldon asked of me no extra fee other than maintaining a conscientious work ethic.

A great artist, mentor, and friend, Sheldon is unlike any teacher I have ever had. He lives to provide his students with the knowledge and support they will need to succeed in art. Like many of his students, I return to Sheldon's class each semester because of his efficient, positive method of teaching. Even after graduating, I will continue to seek his insight and encouragement. I feel fortunate to work with Sheldon; he is an important factor in my artistic development, a tool that I could not succeed without.

Ruben Perez


Take a moment and imagine yourself inside a dark cave. the area around you gets darker and darker until you can't see anything at all. You can move but you can't see your body. What do you do, what could possibly get you out of this situation? If you are absent of light will you just sit there for eternity or will you use your other senses to help you? Yu can still hear and smell. In order to better your situation you might begin crawling on the floor. After many hours of crawling you see some streaks of light in the distance, and with great efforts you crawl towards them. Eventually, if you work hard enough, you will crawl your way to the light. when you reach the light you will see a brighter light in the distance. At this point you will run towards the net light an your journey will continue until you reach the sun. This is the life of an artist. Although we must all start by crawling there are tools that enhance our sense and help us out of the dark. Sheldon's classes give you the tools to help you in the life long journey as an artist. When you get tired of crawling towards improvement Sheldon will teach you the basic tools for drawing and painting.

Firstly, he teaches you about gesture (the ever existing rhythm of life). Gesture is the non uniform rhythm that navigates through every human/animal form. By exposing the students to something that consistently exists in everything he gives students a weapon to approach their drawings. Furthermore, when you see gesture in the figures you then start noticing gesture all around. There is gesture in the way cats move, leafs fly, and in music. Along with gesture there is also form.

Form as Sheldon teaches it is what gives solidity to the world. Like the world around us everything can be broken down into simple forms (cube, sphere, and cylinder). Sheldon teaches his students how to construct the figure with these simple forms and in the same motion teaches them to understand what they are drawing.

Thirdly, students learn to understand and analyze what they are drawing. By teaching students anatomy, Sheldon gives them a peak into what happens inside the body. By understanding the inside of the body students are also able to analyze exterior forms.

Lastly, Sheldon teaches technique. He teaches the techniques used by the masters and also the techniques necessary to acquire employment in the film industry.

In conclusion, Sheldon Borenstinein gave me and many art students the tools necessary to stop crawling and start running towards our dreams.

Noah Klocek


I can honestly say that Sheldon Knows people and art better then anyone I have ever met. Sheldon's gift is that he has the ability to share his knowledge of art with everyone he teaches in the most profound and individualistic manner. Whether you learn from him in a class of sixty or study with him one on one, he speaks to your every question, yet leaves you with the inspired desire for further knowledge. Sheldon is a great artist in his own right, but it is his ability to teach and share his skill that makes him a master.

Pernilla Persson


October 2, 2003
Stockholm, Sweden

I'm writing this letter of recommendation to whom ever, I hope, has already had the pleasure of meeting Sheldon Borenstein.

My name is Pernilla Persson and I am one of many who have Sheldon to thank for their success as artists and for the drive to keep learning. I have known Sheldon since I was a student at Cal. State University, Northridge in 1997 and he taught a figure drawing class with an energy and passion that I had never seen. Suddenly everything made sense. Drawing was no more a mystery as I got all the "tools" I needed, and the motivation to put in all those hours it takes came from Sheldon who lives and breathes art every second of every day.

Shortly thereafter Sheldon took in a small group of students to his home for weekly private lessons in animation and guided us from that moment to reach our goals. Every single one of us is making a living as artists today. In 1999 Sheldon, together with myself and a few other started the DPD institute in Westlake were I also tought together with Sheldon and Glenn Vilppu. It was a school for the serious student and it came to be very successful. It's a place I miss today.

During my time in Los Angeles I worked as a senior animator at Mike Young Productions. I kept teaching and the last year I ran an Art school for kids. I am now back in Sweden after 10 years in the US and I am now working at HappyLife Animaton while at the same time teaching at two different Universities.

I am just one example of what can happen if you get in contact with Sheldon. He is a person with many fine qualities but two that stand out is his passion for his craft and his drive to follow through with everything that he takes on and turn it into something exceptional - weather it may be a new class, a painting or spending time with his girls. Sheldon is my mentor and friend for life and I will always turn to him for advice. His philosophy is deeply rooted in me and I can never thank him enough.

It is my pleasure to highly recommend Sheldon to you. He is an exceptional artist, a savvy businessman and very funny! You should be so lucky do have him on your team.

Peter Overstreet


To Whom It May Concern,

I had the honor of being one of Sheldon's students during my academic tenure at San Jose State University. During that time, he aided me in my skills in animation, concept art, and life drawing. He also encouraged me in learning how to draw "on model". He took my "good drawings", and then passed on his skills to me in order to make them "great drawings".

His teaching method was simple, and effective. He was always honest when he saw me produce work that was, shall we say, not my best. However, Sheldon was always encouraging, engaging, and instrumental in helping students find their best drawings within. He was also wise enough to always be open to learn from students, as well.

While still a student, I landed an internship where I worked for Stan Lee (creator of Spider-Man). When I graduated from San Jose State University, I immediately gained employment as an Assistant Art Director in Hollywood at HKM Productions. From there, I was given the position of Concept Artist (and eventually Senior Concept Artist) at Backbone Entertainment (formerly Digital Eclipse Software Inc.). It was here that Sheldon's lessons came back to aid me in difficult times of hard work and deadlines. While at Backbone I was responsible for working on games based off of licensed characters, including: Disney's Lilo & Stitch, and Tarzan.

Sheldon once told us, as class, that someday he hoped to be interviewed by some of us. This literally came true when I interviewed Sheldon for a freelance position at Backbone Entertainment.

If I had never met Sheldon, or had become his student, I would not have had the career opportunities that I have had in my life.

Thanks Sheldon! Keep up the "Cal-State Cool"!

Sach Steffel


Namco Hometek

The 3DO Company


Before I met Sheldon, drawing the human figure was a stilted, fuddled process for me. Sheldon taught me to use gesture, construction, anatomy and technique to help bring the human form to life. He taught me to judge where a persons' weight was, where their center of gravity was, and which lines of their bodies emphasized their mood and attitude. I thrived on his anatomy lessons so much that once, after a hiking accident, I was able to tell the doctor which tendon was injured in my ankle.

Sheldon also taught me how to present my abilities and talents to future employers; to be confident, perceptive, and adaptable. His unstinting support helped me get my first job in the video game industry. As an artist with no industry experience, I was hired based on my drawing skills, which were represented largely by my work in Sheldons' classes.

Sheldons' principles of figure drawing are essential for creating believable, compelling characters designs. His anatomy lessons have helped me build better 3D models, that have correct, believable musculature, and move and animate well. Sheldons' advice on looking for the right lines of movement and essence of gesture helps me set up dynamic key poses for my 3D animation.

Sheldons' life drawing lessons have been invaluable in my development both as a student and as a professional. I recommend his classes to anyone who wishes to be a professional artist, or simply wants an extra edge in understanding drawing.



Industrial Light + Magic
Conceptual Illustrator


For those mystified by the art of figure/life drawing and eager to find out how it's done, Sheldon's method of instruction takes students behind the curtain to see just that. Sheldon, effectively entertainingly, communicates the fundamentals of drawing, enabling and inspiring students to take wing and develop on their own. As a former student and now an illustrator and an instructor myself, i find myself inspired bu his clarity as an instructor and continually reach back to knowledge gained through Sheldon's classes when I was at San José State University.

Lior Taylor


I am a fifth year art student at San Jose State University, majoring in Animation and Illustration. Last year I was a finalist at the Society of Illustrators student competition in New York, and recently my portfolio was accepted for the "pro-prep" intermediate level of the ACME animation program, which I am currently attending.

I met Sheldon two and half years ago, when I attended his figure drawing class for the first time. When he started by introducing the class as a "17th century, Italian Renaissance school of drawing" I was instantly hooked - this is what I've always wanted to learn, and here finally was someone who could teach me! Using humor as well as song and dance routines, Sheldon stands out from all other teachers I've known by keeping students interested and engaged during his classes.

In the following semesters and years, Sheldon had become much more than a teacher - a mentor, and a close friend. From the get go he spent extra time with me outside of class, teaching me as much as he could, even over the phone! His knowledge and expertise helped me not only with his drawing classes, but also in painting, design, and animation, all mediums that Sheldon commands with unsurpassed authority. But Sheldon's mentoring goes beyond art; he is a thoughtful, considerate, and caring person who has also served as a role model for me since I've known him. As the proud father of three wonderful girls all you need to do is spend five minutes with one of them to realize what a wonderful father he is, and those parental skills carry on into his teaching.

After studying with Sheldon for over five semesters now, I still can't get enough. I defiantly recommend him as a teacher to people of all ages.

Tammy Manis


Comedy Central
Back ground designer/ layout/ color

Film Roman
Character layout artist/ animator

Fox Studios
Animator/ storyboard artist

Animator/ clean-up artist

Nokia phone text messaging short animations


The skills and discipline I learned from Sheldon Borenstein are invaluable. They are with me everyday I step foot into the studio. Those skills have given me the confidence to take on even the most daunting of jobs and the persistence to always see it through. I truly owe my ability to sustain a career in the art/animation world to Sheldon Borenstein.

Over the years, he has been a great teacher, and mentor, but most importantly a good friend. Always honest and always true. He gave me solid fundamentals that which to stand on to grow as an artist. He helped me find my own rhythm and style of drawing and then showed me the way to expand on those fundamentals. I am the artist I am today because of his vast knowledge and his shear joy in passing that knowledge on.

Thank you Sheldon. You are the best.

Lori Cottrell-Bennett


A teacher who is able to teach the fundamentals well is one of the most important necessities for an aspiring artist. Learning to give your pictures structure, form, and life is an invaluable foundation for an artist.

In all my time as an art student, I never had a teacher who taught the fundamentals as clearly and concisely as Sheldon Borenstein. His teaching has helped me to improve my skills exponentially. And his mentoring and support has helped me to realize many of my goals as an artist.

Christopher Ocampo


Sheldon has consistently and effectively taught western thought on drawing for many years. He teaches old master techniques for figure drawing and has an in depth knowledge of the movements and flow of anatomy. Through figure drawing, you learn the essentials of visual communication that applies to pictures and imagery. On top of his succesful track record as a professor, his sheer dedication to the craft is truly inspiring.

Keetsie J. Berbel


I consider myself very fortunate to have had the opportunity to study with Sheldon. His enthusiastic teaching has equipped me with fundamental drawing skillsthat are universal in the art world. These skills have followed me all the way into the start of my career, where they are still relevant to all the work I do.

Most importantly, Sheldon has taught me that any gap in talent can be overcome through tireless, focused practice. He does not teach secret techniques or tricks, but instead reinforces a solid understanding of crucial drawing concepts in all of his students. His own hunger for learning is contagious in every class he teaches.

Pam Ho


So come this January, I'll have been at Disney for 2 years, and in the industry for 3. Although in a lot of ways I still feel like an "industry baby," I can't say enough, or tell enough people how I would not be where I am if it wasn't for your class and especially your business lectures. I don't even want to call it a class, because it's really more of a life/career lesson. Who better to pass on the knowledge than you? You really have "been there and done that."

I first heard your business lecture when you let me sit in on one of your classes because I was finishing up a painting in the back of the room. I don't think I finished the painting because I was so astonished by what you were teaching. Mostly because I had just bombed an interview days before. I did everything opposite of what you were saying, and I knew that I did not get the job. After your lecture and attending your classes, I applied everything you taught me in my interview with DreamWorks. Looking back, I think they were really impressed with the way I handled myself in the interview, especially since there were 3 people interviewing me at once. I remember telling myself, "Relax. Just be yourself, and they'll love you! Just talk to them; they're people too. Oh, and don't forget to ask your questions."

Every time I meet with a potential employer, I say the same thing to myself. And most importantly, I ask relevant, intelligent questions - just like you taught us. Although it's only been 3 years, I feel like I've met most of the people that I'll be working with for the next few years. The industry is truly small; and even if I haven't met everyone yet, everyone knows EVERYONE. (Including you Sheldon! )

You've taught me invaluable lessons that I will continue to use in my career. And I can't help but continue to share with the people I meet!

Thanks Sheldon