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Real World article
(written from a Production point of view)

Paul Olsen is an artist who has worked as a freelance artist in the roles of photographer, musician, writer, painter, and airbrush artist. His renown as the latter eventually secured him a commission as the lead painter of the refit-Enterprise studio model for its appearance in Star Trek: The Motion Picture.

In 1978, Paul Olsen was working in Los Angeles as an airbrush artist, having acquired the skills through his friends, Peter Lloyd, Bob Hickson, and Ed Scarisbrick, working for among others magazines. Through a mutual acquaintance of Scarisbrick, Olsen was introduced to Jim Dow of Magicam, who had devised a paint scheme for the The Motion Picture Enterprise, but who did not have the staff capable enough to apply it. Olsen readily accepted and for the next six or seven months was deeply immersed in applying the paint scheme onto the model. In the process, Olsen got to know the modelers at Magicam quite well, not few of them he befriended, especially Mark Stetson, and among others his close co-worker, responsible for the secondary hull paint application, Ron Gress. Upon completion of his work on the model, Olsen was asked by Douglas Trumbull to stay on to help out with visualizing some of the V'Ger effects. Olsen did so, joining Entertainment Effects Group as a graphics artist (the function for which he received his credit), working alongside Production Illustrator Tom Cranham and Animation and Graphics Artist Alison Yerxa, causing his total involvement to last for sixteen months.

Though having received an official credit as "Animation and Graphics" in the end-title credits of the The Motion Picture feature, Olsen's contribution as the Enterprise painter went largely unnoticed for several decades, the only known other period acknowledgment of his name in a period page-long advertisement of Magicam in the February 1980 issue of the magazine American Cinematographer (p. 167). Nevertheless, through the advent of the Internet, his work has become known in the 2000s, as the model kit community became aware of his contributions, with him graciously answering questions on modeling blogs like Eventually however, his growing repute led to his attendance at, firstly, a small 2004 Hollywood convention at the Renaissance Hollywood Hotel on Highland Avenue, that did not make much of an impression on him, and subsequently to his attendance at the October 19-21 2012 "Destination Star Trek London Convention", which very much made an impression on Olsen. Though Olsen was aware of the Star Trek cultural phenomena, he, by his own admission, had up until then not realized in full the scope of it, and his experiences in London proved to be an overwhelming one for him. So much so in fact, that it inspired him to write the reference book, Star Trek: Creating the Enterprise.

Career outside Star Trek

Olsen was born and raised by a variety of family members in San Francisco (his father teaching him the art of photography, while his stint at the Foothill Community College, Los Altos, taught him everything he had to know about printing). Olsen fully immersed himself in the free-spirited art scene of San Francisco of the late 1960s. During that time, Olsen honed his skills as musician and as painter, being founder and part of the poster company "Funky Features". Olsen later made a name for himself as the artist who designed and made the album covers of the solo projects of Robin Trower, former member of the rock band Procol Harum.

Star Trek: The Motion Picture proved to be Olsen's very first involvement with the motion picture industry, as he has since then been involved with several other productions, mostly as main title designer, such as Brainstorm (1983), The Protector (1985), Explorers (1985), Die Hard (1988), The Abyss (1989), Back to the Future II & III (1989), Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991), and many others. As author, Olsen wrote books on a varying range of topics such as relationships and the craft of airbrushing.

Olsen has changed habitats between the United States and Great Britain on at least three separate occasions, and is currently living in Forest Green, Surrey, UK.


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