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Friday, October 29, 2010

Do-it-yourself portrait pumpkins

By Jennifer

Something about Halloween releases the creative juices, wouldn't you say? Characters, decorations, eerie foods, ways that parents can hide the candy ... 

Usually around here Halloween is a crazy rush. Out of necessity I am an absolute pro at making last-minute costumes, and I can carve a pumpkin in no time flat. 

But one year I let those creative juices steep and stew for a while with very satisfying results. Ah yes, Halloween 2000, I remember you well. It was a presidential election that year and I saw a newspaper photo of two jack-o-lanterns someone had done of Bush and Gore.

I could do that.

Only I had two significantly cuter subjects in mind, my 4-year-old son and 2-year-old daughter. 

The dreaming, ambitious side of me actually considering drawing my children's faces onto the pumpkins (!), but then the practical side reminded me that I'm not an artist. So I decided to use a photograph as my pattern.

Here's how to create your own using Adobe Photoshop:

1. Choose your pumpkin and get an idea of the size area you want to carve.

2. Size the image to match your carving area.

3. Convert to grayscale (black and white).

4. Go to Image, then Adjustments, then Posterize. Play around with the number settings until you like what you see. This step ends up looking something like this:

Hmm, is that an orange speck of pumpkin goo on her chin, and in my scrapbook all these years?

5. Print and get ready to carve! Or in other words, set aside your entire day and thank your lucky stars that PBS can help occupy the children while you sit in the room with them.

I wanted the white areas of my pattern to be the lit, open areas of the pumpkin. I drew on the pattern before carving to better outline the parts I would cut. Then I taped the pattern to the pumpkin and used the poker from an inexpensive carving kit to punch dots through the pumpkin. With a knife I then "connected the dots" in specific sections to make the cutaways.

This is what the pattern of holes looked like in reverse:

I carved Emma's pumpkin first and actually got better as I did Kyle's. It took me about five hours to do the scooping, outlining and carving of both pumpkins.

In the decade since I've added three more children ... who vocally wonder why they don't have a jack-o-lantern portrait too. (Hey -- fold the laundry and I'll do it!) Sadly, I've never done another; my time has been needed elsewhere. Someday, maybe when the thrill of this rare creative victory for me has worn off.

Ten years later and I'm still riding it!


If you've read all the way through this, let me reward you with a little tip. What do pumpkins and canning rings have to do with each other? Oh, I'm so glad you asked. I DARE you to find a better tool for scraping out a pumpkin's insides. So get carving!

Happy Halloween!


teekaroo said...

Love the canning ring idea! Too bad we already did pumpkins. Our new secret tool is the dremel.

Verde Farm said...

Hi Jennifer, just found your blog for the first time. It's wonderful. Beautiful family. I am IMPRESSED with your carving skill. Amazing in fact. How long did one take you to do start to finish? Just curious :) Looking forward to checking out more.