Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Teaching yourself

- by Jesper Ejsing

I am often asked where I studied? At which school or under who’s supervision. And the answer is the library and myself. When I boldly conjured the thought that I could earn my living painting dragons, there were no schools in Denmark that fit that kind of stupidty. There is no art schools or art collages here. So I studied literature instead and spent my sparetime at the library reading and taking home books on watercolour technique and oil painting. I quickly put away the oils since it was just too complicated and expensive and it smelled like hell, in my one room apartment . Instead I read all there was about technique in watercolour. I tried it all out, and something stocked with me. The trick where you use salt on a wet surface of watercolour is a technique I overused beyond annoying to the point where it seriously disturbed the reading of the painting.

I read books on drawing and perspective ( Didn’t really learn that part very well ) and about colour theory ( didn´t learn anything there too. The brothers Hildebrandt taught me that part). In the end, I cannot remember much from the readings, apart from the salt trick, but it got me to try a whole bunch of stuff and it got me through a large body of semi bad illustrations and landscape paintings.

So at one point when I started in the studio Pinligt Selskab, where I am still sitting to this day, one of the other guys gave me a pile of pages. They were copies from copies from lectures by Walt Stanchfield. The written down classes he gave at Disney Studios for the other animators. It wasn’t even a book. It was a compendium collected by people from Disney and these pages had been circled out through the animation society for years upon years. Walt talked about gestures in drawing and about telling stories no matter what you were doing. About feeling the gesture and knowing before drawing. Every word in these crumbled pages were like golden acorns of wisdom to me, and to this day, I still use and remembers everything. They are by far the most important thing I ever read about drawing, and they changed my way of thinking about sketching and composing an illustration.

Perhaps it was only because I was at the exact point in my development as an artist, that these words just force thrust me into the future. Or Stanchfield just got a good and solid grip on truth about drawing.

The best thing is, these crumbled pages are now collected into 2 books.
They are called: “Drawn to Life 1 and 2”.


  1. Hi Jesper, in teaching yourself to be an artist did you ever get to the point where there were so many points of view, resources and techniques that it just became overwhelming?

    If yes, did you just put the books down, and paint your art and let the chips fall where they lay for awhile?

    My time is very limited for doing art and its not always clear on how to make the most of time in trying to understand the basics vs. getting my visions painted, and completed.

    Thank you,


    "Time has been my enemy, time has been my friend"

  2. Wonderful and timely post Jesper. I am struggling with my IMC assignment and your art is on my "goto" list when I'm stuck. There is a freshness and honesty to your work that i really enjoy. I have a feeling my copies of Walt's books will be covered in "Post- its" by the end of this;)

  3. I just bought those two books, thanks to your reference. Thank you very much.

  4. Your post made my day. I've been at Disney for many years now and had the honor of taking Walt's classes when I was starting out. I even have one drawing in one of those books! He was the most compelling artist and teacher I have known. Glad to see his reach goes far beyond our walls here in Burbank.

  5. I bought those books a month ago and even when I'm only at the beginning (hardly time for reading here..) it is already very useful, so I think almost every illustrator/artist should own these :D!

  6. I got those books a few years ago. They are a great resource and helped me learn how to really add to my gesture and pose drawings.
    I need to reread them!

    I went to art school. My degree has helped me out some but I have learned far more outside with personal projects and study than I believe I ever did in school.

  7. Thanks for sharing those two books. I will definitly add them to my collection.

  8. There's a SECOND _Drawn to Life_?! Thank you for letting me know.

  9. Thanks for sharing, they look like great books and I've now got them on order. Even just the preview pages available on Amazon ("Click to LOOK INSIDE!") contain a wealth of information.

  10. Having worked at Disney for many years, I sat in on quite a few of Walts classes. Not only was what he was teaching pure gold, but he was a very sweet and energetic man. Everyone at the studio was very saddened when he passed away because he was such a inspiring force there. These books help keep him alive as well as pass on his vast knowledge to all artists wise enough to read them.

  11. you talk about feeling stupid pretending to earn your living "painting dragons". Sometimes when I'm drawing I have a similar sensation of being doing something silly and wasting time. ¿How did you get over that feelings? Thanks in advance for answering.

  12. I use those books whenever I get stuck. They are wonderful, you can open them up anywhere to get inspired and I do. As I'm self taught as well, these books are by far the best investment I have ever made in my artistic development.


Contact Form


Email *

Message *

Whatsapp Button works on Mobile Device only

Start typing and press Enter to search