07/01/2016

MEET THE ARTISTS - MIKE MEKASH

What I love the most about these interviews is hearing how successful artists started in this industry and what's fascinating to me is that everyone's story is different. Mike Mekash started out as an artist and graphic artist who found his way on to sets doing tattoo work. Before he knew it he was working in some capacity as a fully fledged makeup or special effects artist on some of the biggest films and TV shows in recent history. From Prison Break, Valkyrie, Iron Man 2, Eat Pray Love, Glee, John Carter, The Amazing Spider-Man, Star Trek Into Darkness, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Mad Max: Fury Road, it's an impressive list. He is mostly (and widely) know for his incredible work as makeup artist, prosthetics artist and as assistant makeup department head (with his lovely wife Eryn Krueger-Mekash) on American Horror Story, one of my favourite shows and widely recognised for having the best of the best makeup and makeup effects. Having just finished American Horror Story: Hotel, Mike took some time to tell me about his career, his work and share some of his best tips.


Snapshot of Mike's career

MANW: How did you start your career and what was the progression it took?
MM: I started my art career back when I lived in the Seattle area. I worked a day job and was a freelance graphic artist in my free time, doing whatever I could for whomever was interested. Some people love what you do and others don't care for it at all, it taught me a lot about rejection. The next company loved what the last did not, which made me realise there is no bad art, you just need the right audience. I then took a job in LA drawing tattoos for film and TV, which parlayed into being on set and seeing what goes on and deciding this would be something I would love to do.


MANW: You mainly do regular and special effects makeup for film or huge TV dramas, did you ever want to work in fashion or beauty?
MM: It never crossed my mind that I would end up doing beauty makeups. I remember when I first started drawing women how hard it was to get that eye makeup just right, I don't mean to toot my own horn but my lady drawings were not pretty. With time I did get it down though, and I do enjoy making pretty faces even prettier.

MANW: Do you have a preference for the type of jobs and makeups you like to do, and do you prefer straight or effects makeup?
MM: I like jobs that make you feel like you might be way over your head. When I first started going to sets I would almost hyperventilate, it would really get my heart pumping, the excitement and the chance of failure was real. Every other art job I did you had time to change it if you didn't like the results, but not in this industry. You have to get it right and people are counting on you to have it at a certain time on set and looking flawless. It's exciting!!!

MANW: I know you work very closely with your brilliant wife Eryn (Krueger-Mekash), how much say do you have in her insanely great designs and what is your process of creating character looks?
MM: We do work well together, she has a great eye for designing. Like any couple we bounce ideas off each other all the time, I help her, she helps me, most of the time we have the same ideas. When it comes to any character you can get most of what you need from the script. For American Horror Story a meeting is held where we go over the script with all departments and questions are offered up. Ryan Murphy (AHS creator) usually has a specific look he has expressed and it is up to the makeup department to realise his vision. We work closely with AFX Studios (sfx creations) about what we are thinking and visa versa. It's all brains on deck when it comes to episodic television, time is short and turnarounds are quick so if you have an idea speak up because in an hour it may be to late.

MANW: How much do logisitcal issues come into play with character designs and how do you keep continuity on characters with heavy/intricate effects?
MM: Continuity is always a major issue when shooting any character. As the show progresses there may be changes in period looks, or punches that eventually bruise. You just have to take and catalog a lot of pictures. Organization skills are more than half of a makeup artist's job.

MANW: You have worked on some legendary shows like American Horror Story, Glee, Prison Break..can you tell us about some of the stand out moments of your career?
MM: I can tell you every day I am surprised I get to work in this industry. One moment in particular was getting to go to Namibia on "Mad Max Fury Road" through Tinsley Studios for a makeup test. Meeting the makeup department head Lucy Ryan and director George Miller was a thrill, plus having a chance to see all the costumes and cars in action that first day of shooting. I mean Mad Effin Max!!!!!! I still sometimes can't believe it.

MANW: You've been in the industry a long time, how do you think it has differed and what advice would you give to new artists starting out?
MM: I've been in the industry for a few years, let's not get carried away. Lol. I would say one of the biggest things I've seen become a major part of any artists job these days is managing the pitfalls of social media and the Internet; IMDb will say you're known for something you are not really "known" for, people tear down other people for a makeup that may have been posted out of context in a magazine or forum, everything is out there for everyone to see. Give credit where credit is due and try to be a decent human is all you can try to be, everything else is not important. And try and remember it's ONLY MAKEUP! We are not curing cancer.

MANW: All artists have a 'wish list'; a face, a show or film they would have loved to have worked on. My current one (other than AHS, which has ridiculous makeup and effects and AHS Hotel has somehow managed to knock every other series out of the park) is the show Nashville, I'm obsessed with the country glamour and Connie Britton's amazing hair, but also an old British show 'The Mighty Boosh' which has excellent makeups by Christine Cant that I think you'd really dig. Also, there's a British series 'This Is England' which has the greatest 80s hair & makeup design by Catherine Scoble (that for sure Eryn would love) which is always at the top of my wish list. Who or what are yours?
MM: I'm a big sci-fi movie fan, it can be a horrible sci-fi movie and I will love it!!!! So there is the obvious Star Wars but if it was a past movie "The Fifth Element" is amazing, and any Aliens movie past present or future would be stellar!!!

MANW: On to the good stuff, what are your tricks for flawless looking skin?
MM: Why thank you, I try and not over wash my face and moisturise on a daily basissss............. oh you meant for other people.

MANW: What are your top 5 holy grail kit products?
For Fx they are:
1. MAC Cream Brilliance is great to add a little shine to any issues of flatness due to painting, or to put in a fake cut to lessen how much fake blood will be needed.
2. PPI Skin Illustrator palettes
3. Camera to look at your makeups through, sometimes seeing how they look though a lens will help you decide what color they may need
4. Paasche H airbrush with a pressure valve connection, the workhorse of any FX makeup artist.
5. Opsite flexifix madcap tape..101 uses!


and for beauty:
1. Julie Hewitt's cream blushes
2. Stila liquid liner pens
3. A good Viseart eye shadow palette
4. I like the Tarte BB Creams
5. Color Science powder (pressed or loose) are always in the set bag.

MANW: What's your best makeup artist tip to give women?
MM: Have more than one foundation for when you get some color from the sun. And in my opinion make it look natural, I want to recognize the person when they are not in makeup.

MANW: Finally, false eyelashes - the longer the better or enough already they look ridiculous?
MM: Less is more. 


For more info on Mike you can see his IMDB page here, follow him on Twitter here and Instagram here.

If you liked this interview and would like to read other leading industry makeup artists stories have a look at the rest of the series here.

You can follow me on Twitter here and Instagram here (@anniemakeup).

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