From character design and conceptualization to sculpting, molding and make-up application, the artists on Syfy’s hit series Face Off are challenged to push their creative limits every week. On Feb. 15, Make-up Designory hosted a panel with artists from the 11th season—a group of “all stars” who competed in previous seasons. We were on the scene to find out about their experiences, takeaways and advice for fellow artists.


Bob Mitsch for Make-Up Artist magazine: How has Face Off affected your skills and process?

Cat Paschen
Cat Paschen

Cat Paschen (Season 6): Face Off really helped me improve as an artist because it forced me to practice so much before going on the show. All I did for two months straight during the first and second time was practice sculpting, molding, application and painting. So I definitely think it helped me be a better artist all around.

Ben Ploughman
Ben Ploughman

Ben Ploughman (Season 9): I think Face Off has trained me to be a little more efficient in the way I accomplish a task. Also, I learned how to develop a system of prioritizing my methods and my tasks.

Niko Gonzalez
Niko Gonzalez

Niko Gonzalez (Season 6): I think Face Off has helped me to value my time. It also taught me what is important versus not important on a design and how far you can take it. Face Off showed me that there are a lot of great awesome artists out there and I learned from them.

Keaghlan Ashley
Keaghlan Ashley

Keaghlan Ashley (Season 7): Face Off has helped me become a broader conceptual artist. I think it has helped me to create fuller, more developed characters. I used to have trouble finishing a make-up piece. I would always find reasons not to continue because it wasn’t good enough and so on. Face Off has helped me learn to let go in some aspects, complete the piece and then move on to the next.

Rachael Wagner
Rachael Wagner

Rachael Wagner (Season 7): I think Face Off has not only taught me how to manage my time better and know what I can get done in a minimal amount of time. I also think that it has taught me some different techniques that I may not have seen in the regular make-up world, like using vacu-form machines. I’d never used one before the first season [Season 7]. George [Troester] and Cig [Neutron] showed me how to use a certain type of silicone on the first season [Season 7] as well.

George Troester
George Troester

George Troester (Season 7): I think it helped my self-confidence a lot. Before I could do things but I wasn’t really confident I’d be able to do so under pressure when the crap hits the fan. Now on Face Off I’ve had the experience where the crap is just raining from the fan all day long! Now I’m more confident that if things go bad in a regular job situation that I can handle it since I’ve already had the worst of the worst.

Gage Hubbard
Gage Hubbard

Gage Hubbard (Season 1): Face Off really helped me fine-tune all of my skill sets in terms of characterization, sculptural form and painting. The thing is you have to move so quickly that you have to make a decision and just go with it. Don’t second guess yourself and just go for it. I did learn a lot from Rachael, my partner on this season. She taught me a lot more about subtlety because I’m always really loud with my concepts. So that was a refreshing thing.

Mitsch: What has been your biggest challenge on the show?

Cat Paschen: The hardest part about Face Off for me is design and concept. It takes a lot of skill to be able to come up with a thought-out design and it’s challenging when you don’t have time to hash it out fully. You just kind of have to take your idea and run with it.

Cat Paschen works on her character for the Abstract Aliens challenge in Episode 1 | Photo by Jordin Althaus/Syfy, 2016 Syfy Media, LLC

Ben Ploughman: The biggest challenge on the show is staying mentally grounded while being sequestered and not spiraling into a pit of conspiracy. It really is the most difficult part because being in that environment, you are shut off from the entire world and every little weird thing that happens in production is something your brain will latch on to. This is especially true the second time around! Second to that mindset is maintaining stamina. It takes endurance to get towards the end, churning out ideas, designs and stuff like that.

Niko Gonzalez: I follow a lot of what Ben says. Just stay focused because you’re going to get tired. There’s a point where you’re going to get wasted so just try to keep your mind always on point on designs. Remember to try to keep having fun and to keep doing what you want to do.

Keaghlan Ashley: For me, a huge part of it was regardless of where you fare in each challenge, I would always pinpoint every negative critique the judges gave me regardless whether I was a winner or not. It was hard to try and stay confident as an artist with all of those buzzwords in my ear and not feel beaten down by each challenge. At the end of the day, you are your own worst critic.

Melissa Ebbe and Keaghlan Ashley’s finished character for the Puppet Masters challenge in Episode 7 | Photo by Jordin Althaus/Syfy, 2016 Syfy Media, LLC

Rachael Wagner: For me, it’s two things. Definitely letting things roll off your back. You have to be like a duck with this because you can’t let what the judges say get you down or you’re not going to be inspired. You’re not going to be energized to make anything good. Also, more important than avoiding fatigue is keeping it fresh. Just shutting it all off and saying, “Okay I’m going to make something new and crazy” each time and trying to get excited about things that you’re not excited about sometimes. Because we always get challenges that maybe we’re not super into. You got to clear your mind. Dive in.

George Troester: Creativity is like a muscle. Just like how at a marathon, runners get those wobbly legs and they look really silly. That happens here too. We’re functioning at a 10 all day every day.

Cig Neutron (far right) and George Troester (center) present their Wasteland Warrior creation to the judges in Episode 6 | Photo by Jordin Althaus/Syfy, 2016 Syfy Media, LLC

Gage Hubbard: Exactly. It’s not like a physically demanding thing but creatively by the end of that time your mind is so fatigued.

Mitsch: Besides winning, what do you most hope to get out of the experience?

Cat Paschen: Lifelong friendships!

Ben Ploughman: Just a really great experience. Just developing this family is probably my favorite part. Being a part of this awesome community because everybody is so supportive and we all want to see each other succeed.

Ben Ploughman (left) and Evan Hedges brainstorm | Photo by Jordin Althaus/Syfy, 2016 Syfy Media, LLC

Niko Gonzalez: I want to just keep growing as an artist and like Ben was saying I liked that we were able to continue working alongside each other. I want to be able to work with them in the future and collaborate more as well as keep growing my skill level and my artistry.

Keaghlan Ashley: I would say I never went into either experience expecting to win or to make this huge sum of money. It’s so rare as an artist that we get to put our stamp on a character fully 100% since it’s usually at the discretion of the director etcetera. So to me, it was being able to create my characters the way I want to or in this instance, create the characters that my partner and I want to.

Rachael Wagner: I don’t think everyone goes in with the absolute drive to win because it’s just so unlikely since there are so many good people here. I know for me in the first season [Season 7] I was moving out here so I just wanted to make friends. That was kind of the goal of my first season and for the second season [Season 11] I wanted to make new friends. I wanted to figure out what I missed the first time. You know it’s always a treat to work in that lab because you have everything at your fingertips and you can destroy a $1,000 wig on a whim! That’s just a really nice freedom to feel you don’t have to worry about the waste that you just incurred.

Niko Gonzalez: I always say that it’s research and development. Even if you destroy it, you still learn something.

George Troester: Two words: Twitter followers.

Gage Hubbard and Rachael Wagner work on their Snow Queen creation in Episode 4 | Photo by Jordin Althaus/Syfy, 2016 Syfy Media, LLC

Gage Hubbard: So the first season I went on we didn’t know what we were doing. We were just trying something new and it was a big experiment. It was fun to be a part of coming back for all-stars but I just really wanted the opportunity to make some really cool art. I just wanted to be able to create some pieces where I could look back and say, “Yeah, I did that,” that’s all. I’m happy with knowing I just put some art out there in the world.


Face Off All-Stars airs on Syfy Tuesdays at 9 p.m./8 p.m. CST.