Like many people, writers or otherwise, I sometimes escape from mental work by turning on the television. One of my shows of choice is FaceOff.
FaceOff is a makeup special effects competition on Syfy (just typing that channel name makes me cringe), now in its thirteenth season. The majority of the challenges are science fiction, fantasy or horror, with the occasional mainstream entry, such as the spy challenge that required the artists to alter the model's gender/age/race. Many competitions of this type spend a lot of time on interpersonal drama, but FaceOff rarely does, in good part because that kind of headbutting is rare. There's exceptional camaraderie between the artists, who often pitch in to get molds cleaned out in time and consult each other for opinions. It makes sense in their industry: the makeup artist works in a team, answering to director, producer and potentially others. It doesn't seem like a diva would last long.
What's in it for a speculative fiction author? Most obviously, the opportunity to see a brief description of character / creature come to beautiful and visual life. Then there's the creative process of the makeup artists: how they go from a general concept ("haunted hotel maid") to a specific backstory and attributes, to the realization of that concept, from the overall structure and profile to the tiniest details. Frequently, the artists that fail are those who fall down in the conception stages; the idea is muddy, contradictory, too ambitious, or not specific enough to guide the makeup. The ones that are the most successful often have a strong storyline to back it up.
Also a treat for me is the problem solving. I love listening to how the artists use the tools of their trade to create particular effects. Many of these are stock in trade, but sometimes, the effect at hand requires a bit more thought. The off-beat, out of the box solutions the artists come up with are great fun to watch. It may be a different kind of creativity, but I find it both enjoyable and instructive.
But of course, FaceOff is for everyone. Recommended.