"No More Color on My Fingers"
The illustration and animation professions have gone from an expressive process, involving pens, brushes, and color tubes, to a clean experience, without a trace of color spots on one's hands at the end of the work day. The time frame of this profound change might seem short and overwhelming, when comparing pens and paper and computerized drawing programs. It was, however, a long and extended process of innovations and ideas.
The desire to go beyond what seemed to be, at the time, cutting edge technology, has led to the numerous tools we use in today's society. Ola Lindahl has been in the illustration business for over fortrty years, and has witnessed the transformation from an analog work world to a digitally dictated environment. In a recent interview, conducted via the Internet, Ola describes what it was like to change working methods in his profession.
Ola's background in graphics and animation traces back to his childhood, growing up in an artistic home at the end of the 1940's. His father, Edward, was a classical, political cartoonist and an illustrator for the Culture Pages of the Stockholm evening paper, Expressen, and a passionate bird-watcher who painted and sculpted birds. Throughout his career there was also time for book illustrations, film and TV puppet theater, and radio shows. Through the family's social life, surrounded by journalists, artists, and politicians, Ola observed and absorbed the ideas and the craftsmanship of an artist.

Ola was able to gain experience working in a variety of media. This was due, in a large part, to the fact that he went to school with people who would later make up the closely knit arts community in Sweden. It came natural to Ola to work with pens and brushes. During his High School years, he completed his first animated films. Some of these was shown on TV before he started his formal education as a graphic designer at Konstfack in Stockholm. After graduation, Ola set out through Europe. Using his skills as a film photographer and animator, he found work and made contacts, coming across films in production, such as The Yellow Submarine.
In the mid 1960's, he, another Ola, and their friend Conny, started COOLA Film AB. The Olas and Conny experimented with Conny's computer controlled special effects cameras, impressing the Star Wars' film team with their techniques. Star Wars' technical crew bought several pieces of their equipment.
Ola actively participated in the two Swedish Television (SVT) channels' transition from black and white to color television. SVT provided another opportunity in the early 1970's. At the "Experiment Workshop," a kind of multi-media laboratory, he and other graphic designers experimented with a new technology for drawing directly on a screen, using electronic pens.
At COOLA Film AB, they experimented with television text generators, trying to modify them for illustration. However, it was not until 1984, at a graphics convention, that a machine was presented which could draw for TV. It was called the Quantell Paintbox. Ola became one of the firts in Sweden to use such a tool, preceding SVT by one year. "The Quantell Paintbox was very close to the relatively cheap drawing equipment I use in my profession today," says Ola. It wasn't until the late 1980's, that Apple launched their first computers with drawing programs.
"There was much talk about pens, papers, and colors," Ola recalls, when asked to characterize the years preceding the digital work world. In the middle of the 1960's, when Ola finished his years at art school, tools like photocopiers and Letraset had recently been introduced to the market, and people thought of them as revolutionary. Starting out in the illustration and animation business, Ola worked with the traditional pen and paper, as well as these new tools. In school, Ola had learned to set up lead types for print, but as the technology developed by leaps and bounds, new Phototype and Offset printing techniques took over. When the Xerox photocopier came out in the middle of the 1970's, the sketching techniques became more advanced than before. When working on an animated film, Ola used the new copiers to transfer pencil sketches to animation cells, which he then colored.
Ola, and the rest of his friends in the illustration business, kept working with ink, crayons, and paint, until somewhere between 1990 and 1999, when the more sophisticated electronic pens like WACOM, and computer programs like Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, and Painter were launched to the market. Since his start in the profession, Ola has been an active member of several Swedish associations for artists and illustrators. Together with his fellow illustrators and artists, he learned to work with the new equipment, and is still, today, helping others or being helped with upgrades and digital news, as the techniques change quickly. When being asked whether others shared their knowledge or simply hid it competitively in the transformation period, Ola responds that the protective ones probably lost more in the long run than did the open and sharing ones.
Today, when working on a project for a client, he first draws the images with pens on paper, scans them, and then reworks them on the computer. Coloring images digitally is a tremendous advantage from the earlier, color and brush technique. Ola can appreciate the new, cleaner, and "no mistake" process, even though he recognizes that "a part of the sensuality of applying colors is hard to compensate. There is no color on my fingers." Ola works with a Macintosh which is frequently upgraded. "You don't even have time to read the whole manual until it's time for a new one, but the programs are constructed similarly," Ola comments. He has a hard drive with x Gigabytes, and a separate one for motion pictures with some more Gigaegabytes. In addition, he uses, a scanner, and Sony and Videolab digital cameras. For his digital drawing he uses the WACOM system and its electronic pen. And the internet has been more than a communication tool and a part of the job.
Ola thinks this new, digital age has many positive advantages over the former, analog world. Time, for example, has changed in both directions. On one hand, Ola is increasingly responsible for most of his printing and reproduction, which adds time to a job. This does, however, mean better control and a bigger responsibility for the end result of the job. Internet with e-mail, ftp etc has, on the other hand, increased the efficiency of his work. The images are sent back and forth for corrections and approvals, and sometimes in the end for final delivery. The PDF, Portable Document Format, is a great help in sending large numbers of images at a time, since it shrinks them to a size easier to handle. When delivering the product, he e-mails the finished products as compressed files, since many images can be fairly large. Ola uses a CD rom and DVD to store his films and illustrations frome where they could be easily copyed and sent in the mail.
Ola has had his own web site since 1995 < http://coolafilm.se> <ola@coolafilm.se>. In addition to that, his name and a sample of his images and services can be seen on several collective artists' sites, like, http://www.illustratorcentrum.se, and http://www.svenskatecknare.se. It is mostly through the Internet that Ola finds his new clients. He says that many of his colleges in the business are a bit shy of the new, digital techniques. Confusion over the images and formats is still a factor for people who don't use these techniques daily, yet Ola thinks it is hard for people with knowledge of digital techniques to charge customers extra for this additional service. Even though the illustration and drawing professions have this technique accessible to them, Ola says that many of his friends choose not to use it. A cartoonist, for example, really only needs the computer as a mean of communicating. Ola adds that when the computer programs came, no one disappeared from the market due to computer illiteracy. People may have lost one or two jobs, but that's it.
Ola welcomes the change in his work because, as he says, illustration and animation fit right into the digital world. Computer programs and other technical gadgets are only going to become easier to use, even though it is hard to keep up with the progress. As a conclusion, Ola states that "I have always tried new pens and papers, drawn with matches and Monblanc pens. What's most important, is to create your own form of expression, to establish its character, shape, and form, regardless of what tool you are using."

this was writen by Maj Reilly in Boston, 2001 © reilly33@rcn.com

And you have to realise that time goes by and that his is written some years back// Ola

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Ola Lindahl har tecknat
jättemycket jättelänge i alla möjliga och omöjliga media. Film, Tv, Magasin Tidningar, Böcker.

Den digitala smarta världen gör att han inte behöver tvätta händerna och penslarna så ofta som förut.