Paul Swendsen

Photos and biographical information courtesy of Paul Swendsen.


A native San Franciscan, artist Paul Swendsen studied fine arts as well drama and a good dose of science. He began his film carrier at Colossal Pictures after directors saw his hyperrealist paintings. Later, he worked closely with Francis Ford Coppola to create the 1930’s style murals for his film Tucker. Matte artists from Lucas Film’s ILM watched him paint and he was asked to join the matte department for Willow (Ron Howard).
Between films at ILM he painting book covers and so began his friendship with Arthur C. Clarke (2001 A Space Odessy, Rendezvous With Rama…). After meeting Clarke in Sri Lanka he continued traveling around the world eventually illustrating the covers for all of Clarke’s works as well as other Sci Fi authors.
The first American in 50 years to work at the Babelsberg Studio (DEFA) in former East Germany teaching visual effects, he is a director, visual effects supervisor, and matte artist, combining traditional film knowledge with cutting edge visual effects techniques. Recently after 10 years in Europe he was back in the theater directing The Day Tim Stood Still which he co-wrote and co-produced with Welsh actor Carlton Bunce. The Sci-Fi pre-Big Bang spoof opened in Munich.

To see more, visit his site:

Paul Swendsen painting a castle for the film “Willow” .

A mountain landscape painted for the film “Georgino” (1994)


Films include:
In Europe:
Babel, Le Bossu, La Femme du Cosmonaute, Assassin(s), Washington Square, Witch Way Love, Le Huitieme Jour, Total Eclipse (Rimbaud-Verlaine), Une Femme Française, Marie De Nazareth, Antartida, L’Emigre, Mina Tanenbaum, Giorgino, Die Freischutz, Die Tigerin,

In America:
Final Analysis, Tucker A Man And His Dream, The Doors, Jacob’s Ladder, Ghost, Kurosawa’s Dreams, The Abyss, The Burbs, Roger Rabbit, Willow.
He probably holds the record for being the most uncredited matte artist in the business.


Member, I.A.T.S.E. local 16/ Member, Visual Effects Society (VES)
Member, Commission Supérieure Technique De L’Image Et Du Son (CST)

2005 Indiens d’Amazonie – Les premières explorations 1820-1930 (Editions La Découverte)
Restoration of over 170 photographs
2004 Explorateurs Photographs-Territoires Inconnus 1850-1930 (Editions La Découverte)
Restoration of over 160 photographs

2003 The Day Tim Stood Still : Play (director, co-writer and co-producer) Das Schloss Theater, Munich
1999 Porsche Fantasy : clip for art exposition (writer, director and producer)
1993 Shortcuts to Enlightenment, clip for musical group Yes No Maybe

Supervision of visual effects, Matte painting, development and or preproduction visual conception for the following films :

L’EST, Paris, France
1999 Vercingetorix, directed by Jacques Dorfman (visual effects supervisor)
1998 Babel, directed by Gerard Pullicino (visual effects supervisor / matte painter)

EX MACHINA, Paris, France
1998 Le Bossu, directed by Philippe De Broca (plate supervisor / matte painter)
1997 La Femme du Cosmonaute, directed by Jacques Monnet (matte painter)
1997 Assassin(s), directed by Mathieu Kassovitz (visual effects supervisor / matte painter)
1997 Washington Square, directed by Agnieszka Holland (matte painter)
1997 Witch Way Love, directed by René Manzor (matte painter)
1996 Le Huitième Jour, directed by Jacko Van Dormael (matte painter)
1996 Tout Doit Disparaître, directed by Philippe Muyl (matte painter)
1996 Rimbaud-Verlaine, (Total Eclipse), directed by Agnieszka Holland (matte painter)
1994 Une Femme Française, directed by Regis Vargnier (matte painter)
1994 Marie De Nazareth, directed by Jean Delannoy (matte painter)

EXCALIBUR, Paris, France
1995 Antartida, directed by Manuel Huerga (matte painter)
1994 L’Emigre, directed by Youseff Chahine (matte painter)
1994 Mina Tanenbaum, directed by Martine Dugowson (matte painter)
1994 Giorgino, directed by Laurent Boutonnat (matte painter)
1994 Die Freischutz, directed by Ildiko Enyedi (visual effects supervisor / matte painter)

CINEMAGIC, Defa Studios, Potsdam (Berlin), Germany
1992 Die Tigerin, directed by Karen Howard (matte supervisor and instructor)

COLOSSAL PICTURES, San Francisco, California
Various commercials

1992 Final Analysis, directed by Phil Joanou (muralist)
1988 Tucker, A Man And His Dreams, directed by Francis Ford Coppola (muralist)

INDUSTRIAL LIGHT AND MAGIC (I.L.M.),Lucas Films LTD. San Raphael, California
1991 The Doors, directed by Oliver Stone (concept paintings)
1990 Jacob’s Ladder, directed by Adrian Lyne (preproduction conceptual design)
1990 Ghost, directed by Jerry Zucker (matte painter)
1990 Kurosawa’s Dreams, directed by Akira Kurosawa (concept paintings)
1989 The Abyss, directed by James Cameron (concept paintings)
1989 The ‘Burbs, directed by Joe Dante (matte painter)
1988 Roger Rabbit, directed by Bob Zemeckis (model painting)
1988 Willow, directed by Ron Howard, (matte painter)

Book covers for Bantam Spectra :
A Fall of Moondust (Arthur C. Clarke)
Burster (Micheal Capobianco)
Ghost From The Grand Banks (Arthur C. Clarke)
Glide Path (Arthur C. Clarke)
Imperial Earth (Arthur C. Clarke)
Iris (William Barton & Micheal Capobianco)
More Than One Universe (Arthur C. Clarke)
Rendez Vous With Rama (Arthur C. Clarke)
The City And The Stars (Arthur C. Clarke)
The Deep Range (Arthur C. Clarke)
The Foutains of Paradise (Arthur C. Clarke)
The Garden of Rama, Rama II, (Arthur C. Clarke & Gentry Lee)
The sands of Mars (Arthur C. Clarke)
Tides of Light (Gregory Benford)
What Might Have Been – vol 1 Alternate Empires (edited by Gregory Benford & Martin H. Greenberg)
What Might Have Been – vol 2 Alternate Heroes (edited by Gregory Benford & Martin H. Greenberg)
What Might Have Been – vol 3 Alternate Wars (edited by Gregory Benford & Martin H. Greenberg)

• Rencontre Art & Porsche – Group show – Galerie Art Saint-Gilles, Paris
• Grass Series 1, Grass Series 2 – New Masters Gallerie, Carmel California
• Eye Candy – Folsom St. Gallery, SanFrancisco

• Publicity for : Revlon, Chanel, Thierry Mugler, Rochas,…
• Film poster : The Proprietor for Merchant Ivory Productions

• Institut Nationale de l’Audiovisuel (INA), Paris, 2003
• Ecole Nationale Supérieure Louis Lumière (ENSLL), Paris, 2002
• Ecole Européenne Supérieure d’Animation (EESA),Paris, 2002
• Cannes 2000, CST, Conférence « The future of visual effects in cinema »
• Imagina 1999, lecture « Matte painting and esthetics in cinema »
• Conference Les Rencontres Europeennes de la Jeune Creation Numerique 1999, lecture « Matte painting
and esthetics in cinema »
• FEMIS (school of cinema in Paris)1997, course : Decor by Computer
• 1985 M.A. equivalence & teaching credential, California Community Colleges.
• 1978 B.A., Art Plastics, San Francisco State University, Deans list.
Subjects : Art, Physics, Astronomy, Radio Theater, Stage Acting
• 1976 A.A.,City Colledge of San Francisco.
Subjects : Art, Architecture, Photography