Friday, 15 August 2014

Face Off

Fantasy Fashion through Creature Creation

Have you ever watched an episode of Face Off? My fiance and I recently rewatched every season. I only began watching this show two years ago but my fiance has been a die hard fan from the very beginning. I never thought I would enjoy watching a bunch of artists sitting around sculpting and painting special effects makeup but it's strangely enjoyable. Yes, it is a reality TV show and no, there isn't half as much drama as you would expect there to be.  It's a good thing too because I hate watching people argue, I just want to see people getting shit done lol.

You might be wondering why I'm bringing this show up at all, what connection can it have to fashion? First, let me explain a little about the show.

Face Off is not necessarily about creating gory effects or life sized props, instead there is a stronger emphasis placed on creating a character. The contestants are given a specific theme for every challenge, for example they might have to create a witch from the planet Mars. The artists will start by completing various rough sketches to flesh out their concepts. Then they will proceed to sculpt the character's face and body parts in whatever way they see fit. Sometimes they will fabricate a costume for their character but usually the costume design is interpreted and completed by a department off screen. Every episode they are judged by a panel of prestigious makeup artists and one person is awarded a win while another contestant is eliminated.

Fashionable FX

Now what does any of this have to do with fashion? You could argue nothing whatsoever but I postulate that the makeup designs on this show not only mimic but inspire current fashion trends. There have been many instances on this show where the term Steampunk is thrown around and if you're familiar with Face Off you may recall Nicole Chilelli's junkyard chickie (right) whose out of this world ensemble is reminiscent of the Steampunk aesthetic. Contrast that with one of Laura Tyler's highly ornate and graceful makeup designs (photo at beginning of post) and we have a makeup that borrows elements of Renaissance and Rococo but alters it into a style that's nothing short of groundbreaking. I want that weird corset with the messed up looking breastplate because it looks like nothing I've seen before. Granted the idea here is for contestants to create something other-worldly but because these makeups are mounted on human beings I cannot help but relate to them. We've seen some whacked out designs in high fashion shows before, plenty that earn the description of "other worldly", so what makes these makeup designs any different? I admit that much of what you will see on Face Off simply is not practical for day to day wear, they are costumes, however, many of the high fashion designs seen on runway shows aren't fit for daily wear either! How many runway horror stories have we heard of shoes that are too high, garments that weigh too much or are restrictive and uncomfortable? High fashion is just another art show but like high fashion, the designs from Face Off can be reinterpreted, simplified and converted into ready to wear clothing.

Now, I can't help but mention that not every makeup artist on this show is extremely talented with a strong artistic sensibility. There have been a lot of awful makeups! And a lot of horrible costumes provided by the wardrobe department. But I don't watch the show for the costumes, I watch the show to see the sculpting and the painting because it's the whole package that interests me. If the makeup at the top of this post was reduced to nothing but wardrobe and paint it would be a wimpy looking skirt with some pale makeup. It's the sculptural applications that really bring it to life.

When you're watching this show your imagination can't help but swing into overdrive. You begin fantasizing about what you would make if you were in the artist's shoes. These makeups will have you wondering about a character's backstory and what great tales lie in wait, or they might just inspire your next outfit. Fans of Fae and Steampunk will really enjoy some of these character designs. You might find yourself sketching outfits inspired by what you see on Face Off. I'm planning on designing an outfit based off of a Face Off makeup.

I strongly recommend watching an episode of this show, just once. You might find you like it! I recommend seasons two to five. Season six is worth skipping over, it's regarded as one of the worst. Seven - currently running - is proving to be a massive disappointment. It seems they've already "run the gamut" of great makeup artists. That's the biggest flaw for this kind of show and I admit I saw it coming because there aren't that many makeup artists out there. The special effects industry has been struggling to stay afloat for years because most production companies not only find it more cost effective but time efficient to employ the use of computer animation. It's sad that Face Off might be in its final days but it has certainly produced a few great seasons that are worth re-watching

Have you seen this show? What do you think?

Kind regards,

Images used are from Mission Control Media / SYFY


  1. Oh have to check out this show! I just love that wood/tree man! What an amazing piece of work! I wish I had a sculpture that looked just like him!

    1. I know, I like him too. :) Some of the work done on this show is phenomenal, I'd love figurines/statuettes of their makeups.

  2. I've seen the program...It is amazing with equal amazing talented people. Thank you for sharing.

    1. You're welcome! They've had some super talented people, some of my favorites were Laura, Anthony and Wayne. They are incredibly talented artists.

  3. I've seen a couple of episodes but it's on in the afternoons over here, so I'm rarely home.

    I have a similar situation with SYTYCD; I never watched it (or any reality tv) but my man liked it and showed one evening. Then suddenly last season we were both hooked, tuning in every week and frequently discussing music choices, costumes, choreography... :) Neither one of us dancers or even athletes...

    1. We don't have cable because it's too costly so we watch it online or download it (which makes us behind at least a week). I'm not one for reality shows usually because there's too much drama, but I really like Face Off, Ink Master and we enjoyed watching Jim Henson's Creature Shop even though they created it strictly for one season. I love anything with a creative aspect to it. :)


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