Do you look at just an ordinary pumpkin and see a blank canvas where art should live? Then it sounds like you’ve got the makings to be a true gourd artiste. Pumpkin carving ideas are booming around the country, and in hipster playgrounds like Brooklyn, NY, artists like Chris Soria and Marc Evan of Maniac Pumpkins create fantastical monsters and cheeky replicas of famous art, all on pumpkins. These artists can take up to six to fifteen hours using linoleum cutters and sculpting tools to achieve museum-level etchings with detailed shading and depth. What makes their work special are the holographic effects that are achieved when light passes through the etchings once it’s lit in a dark room.
Feeling inspired to try an artsy carving of your own this Halloween? Before you grab that flimsy miniature saw from that drugstore pumpkin carving kit you bought (which Soria and Evans highly recommend for cutting slowly and deliberately) here are some basic tips for getting started. First choose a decent-sized, rounded pumpkin without blemishes and avoid those tiny ones for carving. They may be cute, but they are going to be a horror show to carve. When it comes to cutting a hole in the pumpkin to do the carving from there are two schools of thought: For your classic jack o’ lantern, cut off the top with a sharp knife or a serrated blade. Make sure that the crown is wide enough, so you can scrape out the insides easily. Then there’s the artiste suggestion. “You want to have a stem, and you want it to be a healthy stem because that stem is still providing nutrients for the pumpkin,” Soria told The New York Daily News. “Don’t cut into your pumpkin around that perfect stem. Instead, access the pumpkin from its backside to help preserve freshness.” Evidently, cutting off the stem cap weakens the Jack o’ lantern and hiding the opening in the back gives the pumpkin more visual punch.
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Next, grab a large spoon to get rid of all that pulpy, seedy mess, while scraping away some of the walls’ flesh as well. Aim to thin the walls so they’re just an inch or so thick, the thinner the better. This will makes carving your artisanal pumpkin a lot easier. Plus, more light will shine through the surface. Once you’ve selected what kind of face or etching you want, it’s best not to start carving your design free-style. If you want your lantern to look professional, draw a paper template first and then tape it onto the pumpkin.
When it comes to pumpkin caving ideas, there are also plenty of templates you can download online. Then use a sharp pointed tool, like an ice pick or nail, to poke holes around the design so the paper can be removed. We absolute love Martha Stewart’s “Undead Pumpkins,” which are relatively easy to make and are drop dead cute. You’ll need a zombie mouth template from the internet, a miniature saw and a pumpkin with a petrifying pale complexion. Pick up some eyeballs at your local costume store and locate some pins or thumbtacks for setting in the eyeballs back into their sockets. Have an artsy Halloween this year channeling your inner Michelangelo and be careful with that knife!