Submitted by: Ken Rohrer, University of Phoenix faculty
Title: Perky Pumpkins
Grade level: Advanced high school
Time Period: About 5 - 6 hours for large pumpkins, 2 - 3 for small pumpkins
Many people carve Jack-O-Lanterns during the Halloween season. Why not take it a step further and carve your Jack-O-Lanterns as you would a sculpture? Have your entire classroom create them and line them up near the entrance to your school. There are several well-known artists who create works of art from pumpkins. You can find them by visiting the links below.
The biggest disadvantage of carving sculptures from pumpkins is that they only last for a short while before they begin to dry out and shrivel up. This is why you need to take plenty of pictures of the sculptures so at least you can view the images when the sculptures are thrown away. You can choose whether you want to gut your pumpkins and put candles inside.
Before you begin your carving you must have an appropriate pumpkin. The larger pumpkins can be found anywhere from $12.00 to $60.00 US dollars. Sams Club was selling large ones for $10. Of course if you live in an area where pumpkins have to be shipped to your city, they will be more expensive. The most important thing you should consider is the depth of the surface because you want plenty of depth to do your carving. This may be a guessing game, but the heavier the pumpkin, the more likely it is thicker.
What should you carve? You will probably want your students to sketch their ideas prior to carving. Some artists, as in the photo examples, begin carving without any design in mind and carve whatever the pumpkin or their creativity suggests.
Below is the step-by-step process on creating your pumpkin carving sculpture. Click on the images for larger views:
Above you can see the carving tools you will need for your pumpkin. The finer wire tools will be used when you put on the finishing touches.
Cutting off the top and gutting the pumpkin is optional. If you want to place a candle in your pumpkin, you will need to do this first.
Once the top is off, you will want to cut off all the pumpkin guts and seeds from the lid.
Use a large spoon or scraper to clean out the inside of the pumpkin. Don't scrape too much or you'll narrow the thickness of your pumpkin.
The first thing you do is "skin" your pumpkin. You should use the larger wire tool and use quick, short strokes. This is the more physical part of the project.
You will want to scrape the area you want your carving to appear. Think of it as your canvas. You may need to take a break or two between stokes.
You will now begin to carve into the rind, the flesh of the pumpkin. A good place to start would be the eyes. Don't worry too much about depth at this point. The depth will come later.
After you have finished mapping out the general shapes of your pumpkin, you will now begin to add depth to your sculpture. Don't carve too deep because you can't put it back. You can always carve deeper later.
You will now begin to use the finer sculpture tools in addition to the pottery tools. You can see the smaller tools for detail above.
After most of the depth is achieved, you are now ready to add your detail and making it more anatomically correct.
Oops! You carved too deep and now have a hole in your pumpkin. No worrys! You can work around it by creating holes for both eyes.
As you can see above, holes have been created to cover up the mistake and make it look intentional. Your students will no doubt have mistakes of their own that they can creatively cover up.
Steel wool is used to smooth down the surfaces. You should do this prior to adding your detail. You can also use it when adding the finishing touches.
After smoothing out all areas, use the finer tools to begin adding details. Above you can see the artist adding eye brows with the straight needle tool.
Now your Jack-O-Lantern is really beginning to take shape!
You will find that your sculpture looks different in different light and shadows. In this light it looks more like the face of a gorilla.
Because you can't carve far into the pumpkin, the side view won't look as good because it will look like a relief sculpture.
This is what it looks like with a candle. The areas that are carved deeper will light up and create a reverse effect. Now you can display your pumpkin!
Preserving your Pumpkin Sculpture
Put regular bleach in a spray bottle (One tablespoon of bleach per quart of water) and spray the inside and out of the finished pumpkin to kill any bacteria on the surface. After the bleach is dry, rub regular petroleum jelly into all the carved areas. Wipe off the excess with a paper towel. Keep your pumpkin out of direct sunlight and the cooler the temperature, the longer the sculpture will last.
Pumpkin Gutter - This site has videos and many more images on how to create a pumpkin carving.