Michael Krehl: An Artist at Work
Imagine being a vital ingredient in an enormous Hollywood production! John Caruso meets a Kiwi-born makeup artist who these days is helping locals with their self-esteem and confidence with skills he learnt on some of the world’s biggest sets.
Michael Krehl was aways great at art, especially drawing.
“At school kids use to get me to cut shapes out to make balsa wood model aeroplanes,” he said. “My dad was a real estate agent and my mum worked in retail, and they were both arty in their own ways however dad didn’t believe there was a future pursuing artistic endeavours.”
Michael enjoys the feel of a brush in his hands and a signwriting apprenticeship followed once high school was over and in 1989 he was awarded the Top Signwriter of Year, New Zealand.
“This was long before computers, all the work was done by hand,” he said. “There was a lot of brushwork, and I did alright, winning a couple of awards along the way. Then, more and more signwriting work was happening with computers and for me, that wasn’t the same. I felt a lot of the artistic skill was vanishing.”
Travelling to London saw Michael’s knowledge and experience start to flourish behind the curtain.
“My girlfriend’s mum at the time worked in a theatre and while my partner looked after the production’s hairdressing, I started working as a makeup artist,” he said.
“There was a lot of creative license with what I was doing and only occasionally a director would give me specific instructions for what they wanted.”
The thought of a career and earning a living as a makeup artist still wasn’t on Michael’s mind, however it planted the seed of an opportunity worth exploring.
“I returned to New Zealand, and I saw an ad in the local paper advertising a film and television makeup course which I ended up doing and I met a woman that was working on the television show, Hercules, which starred Kevin Sorbo.
“An offshoot of that was Xena, Warrior Princess and they wanted these Amazon warriors with full body paint and that was my start in the industry, designing on the set for Xena. It started with a day or two a week and then it increased to three, four, sometimes five days a week.”
Vertical Limit which starred Bill Paxton, Chris O’Donnell and Aussie Ben Mendelsohn was the first major film that Michael worked on.
“That was eight months of work in Queenstown, and I loved the experience,” he said. “We were helicoptered up the mountain each day, working amongst the snow, enjoying the views from the cliffs. It was just spectacular. In fact, I remember thinking that I’d only started in this career however I was wondering if I’d already peaked.”
Plenty more big productions followed, including Harry Potter, and Charlie and The Chocolate Factory, with some of the biggest names in Hollywood, Tim Burton, Peter Jackson, Johnny Depp and even Tom Cruise.
“The Last Samurai was shot in New Plymouth, Taranaki with thousands of extras from Japan playing the soldiers alongside Tom. He was a nice guy with a terrific work ethic. He’d have coffees for everyone, shout ice creams and hand out baseball caps,” recalls Michael.
The Kiwi who’s now settled with his family in Doonan, is keeping his options open if a new production requires his services, however these days Michael’s focus is on his business, Scalp Micropigmentation Noosa (SMP).
“SMP is a progression from the work I’ve done on film where I was creating tattoos for the screen,” he said. “For example, I worked with Jason Statham on The Meg, and I had to recreate Jason’s facial stubble on his stunt double who had no stubble at all, and he couldn’t grow his beard to match Jason’s, so I created it as a temporary tattoo.”
A trip to Perth for intensive training into the scalp micropigmentation process led to Michael setting himself up with his business at home which also meant he was closer to his young family.
“It’s like a traditional tattoo however we don’t go as deep. Men experiencing baldness can have this process done as can women who may have hair that thins out as they get older,” he said. “There are clients with alopecia or scarring, and scalp micropigmentation can be a great solution. I know from clients I’ve worked with that their self-confidence improves once they’ve had the procedure done. It’s definitely worth a chat.”
In addition to SMP, Michael has reconnected with his love of art recently pairing up with Madge Bright to present Living the Dream, an exhibition to reflect the deeper parts of themselves through their profound observations of the world around them.
His abstract and impressionist acrylic-on-canvas works are fierce and dynamic, conveying physicality in their texture and process of creation.
I’m continually amazed at the diverse lives and careers of people that call Noosa home. The full, long-form interview with Michael is available now on our podcast, Everyone Has a Story. – and Michael’s is a cracker!