Jack-o'-lanterns are based on the old Irish custom of a hollowed-out turnip (or, in our case, pumpkin) used as a a lantern, so the candle is inside and there are holes to let the light out. DG writer Mitch Fitzgerald discusses one theory of the origin of the jack-o'-lantern here. With the traditional jack-o'-lantern, you start by hollowing out the pumpkin, turnip or squash, discard the seeds and pulp and then carve holes in the hollow shell.

Nowadays, people carve pumpkins to look like silhouettes of black cats, witch's hats, vampires or haunted castles. They carve initials, short words, or famous images, usually using stencils like these, these or these. Or try any of these.

Well, my friend Deane Arnold (Deane Arnold), a graphic designer and artist, goes way beyond, way, way, wa-a-a-ay beyond that tradition. If you're ready for the next step in pumpkin imagery, take a look at what he can do with a pumpkin or winter squash, some clay-type carving tools and a sharp knife. For these and all of the rest of Deane's pumpkin photos in the article, double-click for a detailed enlargement.

The props Deane used in this first batch of orange pumpkins are a baseball, candles, a ball-peen hammer, a latch and pushpins to represent bolts.

pumpkin with baseball in mouth c. DeaneArnold.compumpkin with ball-peen hammerloud-mouth Frankenstein's pumpkin

He must use plastic eyes, though, right? No. "The trick is to carve deeper for dark areas. The angle of the knife is straight in for hard lines (this is one of the few parts where I use an actual knife). The glint is hard to describe without showing one from the side, but it's all carved pumpkin meat," except, of course, for these specific props.

mini-pumpkin grey pumpkin cross-eyed hatchet head were-wolf

Deane uses different types of pumpkins, as you can see. Miniature pumpkins are faster (most full-size pumpkins take 4-6 hours) but unripe, green pumpkins are too moist and mushy, as are apples and bananas. While the majority of his carvings are not precisely scary, most have adult human faces which are disarmingly realistic. I thought for sure he used plastic teeth and eyes, but no, it's all done with pumpkin meat.

Comparing his carving to lanterns, Deane says "if you carve the insides, it all rots much faster. If I leave it intact, I can display it for about a week (people seem to like the increasing decayed corpse look by the end of the week). But if I hollow it out, the thing collapses in just a few days, especially when the weather's warm (it's been 90 here this week). I think the hollowing thing is because everyone assumes it's going to be a lantern with a candle."

There are all kinds of instructions about how to carve a jack-o'-lantern off- and online; basically, cut a lid out, scoop or scrape out the insides, and cut triangle eyes and nose and some kind of grin or scowl. What you won't find are instructions on how to do this high-end pumpkin carving, so I asked my buddy for the skinny on the low-down.

"I start with a heavy pumpkin; they're thicker inside, and allow me to carve deeper without breaking through," Deane told me. "I stare at the shape for a little bit, and then decide on an expression. As I start to carve, the pumpkins tend to do whatever they want, so I let whatever happens happen," he added.


green squash with keyhole into brain

"This little dude was carved out of a small Gray Ghost squash. It's supposed to be solid all the way through to the seeds. All I know is that I never felt like I was about to punch through. The texture is hard, dry and tight, so it's easy to carve sharp details. Almost too sharp, because it's hard to smooth out the cut marks."

He uses tools that clay sculptors use, and a utility knife and finger protectors. One or two of Deane's ephemeral pumpkins look precisely like my college faculty advisor.

So if this year, you're ready to join Deane in his high-end esoteric temporary pumpkin sculpting, set aside about five hours for concentrated work and clear some space in your fridge! Deane was carving in person at the Children's Hospital Fundraiser Pumpkinpalooza in Pataskala, OH on September 28, 2013. Enjoy pumpkin season!

all photos c. DeaneArnold.com

c. DeaneArnold.com

More about types of winter squash from Melody Rose

Miniature Pumpkins by Jeanette Adams