Halloween is my favorite holiday. It started as an amazing time when I was a kid. As a chubby youngster candy was good. More candy was better. A night all about candy was pure elation. Not to mention you could be anything. Do you want to be an undead pirate ninja princess? Go right ahead. Of course, there are the haunted houses, hay rides, and historical land marks. But my favorite was always the jack-o-lantern. As a kid they were simple shapes for eyes and a jagged opening for a mouth. Now that I’m an adult the experience of a Jack-o-Lantern is much more intense.
It all starts with the pumpkin. Bigger is not always better. Take in to account where your pumpkin is going, what you want to put on it and how much time you want to spend on the carving. What does matter is shape. Again, the ‘right’ shape is dependent on what you are making. You wouldn’t want to put Laurel on a round pumpkin and you wouldn’t want to put Hardy on a long skinny pumpkin. Either way you want a pumpkin with a flat side. Consider this side your canvas. The last detail you need to consider is the stem. While you can go with out one the ideal pumpkin has a small stem which you can open the top with.
Clearing out the guts. When cutting the top open you want to make sure you cut at an angle. If you cut perpendicular to the bottom the cover wont stay on and it will fall on top of your candle. Make sure to use a long sharp, preferably serrated knife. The knife should go all the way through and you should feel less resistance. Once you cut all the way around you can take the top off and pull out a large part of the pumpkin guts and seeds. If you have kids who like gross, messy things this should be their favorite step. If you like healthy, seasonal snacks you can find plenty of recipes for pumpkin seeds on-line. To gut the rest of the pumpkin reach in and pull out what you can. What ever is stuck on you can use a metal spoon to remove.
The Design. Because we are working with negative space many people find it hard to design a Jack-o-Lantern. The key to a successful jack-o-lantern is making sure all dark spots are contiguous, and looking at what isn’t there anymore. This may make some simple designs hard to make and other, more complicated ideas, more plausible. Let’s take Captain America’s shield for example while it is simple, three circles with a star in the middle, it needs some finagling before it can be made a glowing success.
Let’s take a look at how to make a successful design for a jack-o-lantern.
What you’ll need:
First find a picture you like. I am going to choose the ever lovable, Admiral Ackbar. It seems like a challenge but let’s take a look at what we can do.
Once you have the picture you want you can either print it out or import it into a vector graphic program (paint should work). I prefer the computer so I use a graphic program. First with a marker outline areas you are going to eliminate. These are the pieces that you are going to cut out of the pumpkin. On Ackbar the first step I took was eliminating the white background. This means his skin (or lobster shell) is going to be dark and his features illuminated. Working with in the outline of Ackbar’s bust I outline pieces I want to cut out. These lines should give definition to his facial features, and body. These shapes should not touch the side of the bust. By doing this I ensure that there will be no ‘floating’ dark pieces.
Here is what I came up with:
My next step, along with all of you who did this on the computer, is to print out the picture and cut out the white pieces. If you did this the old-fashioned way with paper and marker you want to cut out the areas you designated as illuminated.
Once you’re done cutting, pin the picture to a pumpkin and use a permanent marker to outline the areas you will be cutting out. All you have left to do now is cut out the pieces. Again I recommend a knife with a sharp tip which has a serrated edge. Remember! You can always cut off more but you can never glue a pumpkin back together!
Once my pumpkin is done I’ll post a picture in front of my Camden apartment! I hope you do too!
Here is my final product. I was pretty proud… IT’S A PUMPKIN!