Meet the Omani special effects artist who specialises in horror makeup
September 20, 2017 | 7:24 PM
by Salim Afifi
Photo: Supplied

The motion picture industry would not be the same if makeup didn’t exist. It’s an art that puts the viewers a step closer to the character; it adds flavour to the story, and sets the mood for us. From the horrifying look of Lord Voldemort in the Harry Potter franchise, to the iconic Maleficent look that was played by Angelina Jolie, to the beautiful Marilyn Monroe with her signature blonde hair and red lipstick, makeup has changed the way we see and feel movies. It is, without a doubt, one of the most significant part of a film production, and in Oman we got our very own artist Issa Al Namani who dived deep into this creative field and became Oman’s most sought-after cinematic makeup artist.

Issa is a Muscat-born makeup artist who mastered the craft of cinematic makeup artistry in all its glory, from beauty and glamour, to characters, special effects and horror. He is also an art director and a graphic artist. What a complete package!

The 24-year-old had a unique vision that needed to be seen, but he couldn’t find ways to express it growing up. His life was fantastic but that sparkle was missing that was boiling deep inside his mind in hopes to see the light of day.

Issa finished high school and attended an engineering school to pursue for a degree in mechanical engineering.

In college, he was inspired by the artsy students of the campus who roamed around with their canvases and artworks. One day as he watched a bunch of theatre kids perform finally he decided to give art a try.

Photo: Supplied

At the age of 20, Issa began his journey of artistry by enrolling in an art class where he learnt how to use a brush and express a variety of things on a plain canvas. To him his drawings were a mess, but the atmosphere at that class made him feel comfortable and at home.

In the days ahead he watched several YouTube videos to learn and master a technique, and also joined his fellow classmates to draw on location. Later he went on to work with local and regional artists for his college assignments, which helped him to move a step closer to his goal of becoming a professional painter.

Drawing felt quite natural for the young man, but society wasn’t having it. His friends and those around him began to make a joke out of his passion, especially because he was an engineer. But Issa was determined to continue his journey and serve his community with art.

Issa realised that his art lacked his signature. He wanted people to view his work and his obsession to stand out from the rest was so immense that he had to search for something bigger and more unique.

One day during his hunt for craft, he stumbled upon a video that appeared to be of someone with a messed up limb. He got curious so he clicked on that link to see what it was all about. After a couple of minutes he realised that it was all fake. The blood, the skin, and everything else that seemed so gory was done with makeup. That was the deciding moment for Issa. He chose the art of horror.

Photo: Supplied

While researching on this Issa found out that the makeup which consists of special effects such as gory and bloody illusions is called cinematic makeup. It is character makeup that involves specific looks for targeted personalities and moods, and beauty makeup that hides imperfections. He didn’t even ponder over it and went ahead to learn all the three to be fully acquainted with the art of makeup.

He soon established himself as a professional cinematic makeup artist, something which was lacking in Oman. Issa approached several local filmmakers for a chance to be part of their projects, and as you would guess, they were elated to have found a talented makeup artist. So they began developing scripts and scenarios with characters with cinematic makeup in mind. And that’s how he broke into the Omani production industry.

“What really inspires you, Issa?” I asked. “Videos that show you do real surgeries,” he replied. I thought for a second that he was joking but he kept a straight face. Yes, for his special effect makeup, Issa indulges in videos that give insight into the human body, literally. He even created a prosthetic limb for doctors to demonstrate to their students, which can be torn and stitched. Sounds interesting, and eerie too, isn’t it?

Apart from gory videos, Issa gets his inspiration from horror films, as well as music. He enjoys listening to jazz records when he is drawing, and likes to pump up the volume and jam to pop music when he is working on the cool stuff of cinema.

Similar to any other craft, it comes with a bunch of challenges. In Oman, he faced the dilemma of having no schools to teach this kind of art, and society is yet to fully accept it and support the art, but that is not keeping Issa from developing himself through the world wide web.

In just four years he reached a level of success and confidence where he could teach on cinematic makeup. He already held nine workshops and hopes to do more in the future. Under his belt you’ll find a number of projects including Oman Tahki for Oman TV where he worked for 19 hours for 10 days, a competition in Saudi Arabia where he won first place. Another competition in Oman was where he was crowned winner, and a third contest in Dubai in which he came in third.

He also worked with Akkasa and Focus production house, and other projects between here and Dubai. He recently launched his own media production company called ‘Pixels’ where he does makeup, production, graphics, 3D, and a variety of media-related services.

The future looks promising for this young man. His ultimate goal is to open an academy for cinematic art and makeup where he can pass his knowledge and passion to other aspiring artists around the country.

With time and patience, Issa is sure to be one of the best special effects makeup artists in the region.

[email protected]

See more of Issa's latest creations on his Instagram page @issawy93.

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