It's become a wicked tradition here... The annual Halloween Horse jack o lantern! I love Halloween and pumpkins, so each year I incorporate Breyer's Halloween model design into a jack o lantern for our store.
This year's Apparition model was a very "busy" design with lots going on, so I opted for a simple background that wouldn't take away from him. Since he is a collage of scary faces, I put a big scary face behind him, flanked by some ghosts and bats.
Other than painting the horse, it's a pretty simple design. If you'd like to give it a try, here are some step-by-step pictures:
First, though, holy heavy pumpkin, Batman! It was only about 14 inches tall, but this sucker was like a concrete block! It weighed almost 18 pounds (8.16kg)! Roy sure does grow some good carving pumpkins. (Yes, I saved its seeds so he can try to grow more like it next year.)
Once I lugged that heavy critter over to my carving space, the first thing to do is plan the design and make sure it fits on the pumpkin.
I found a photo of Apparition online and another of a scary pumpkin face to put behind it. A bit of resizing and trial and error, and eventually I had a design that would fit without going too low or high on the pumpkin:
The design has to be as flat against the round pumpkin as possible to avoid distorting the image, so I make lots of cuts all around it. That lets me fold and adjust the edges, while leaving "tabs" outside the image that I can tape onto the pumpkin.
Once it's taped on, I use a paring knife (but a pumpkin carving poker would work just as well) to make a connect-the-dots outline of all the important parts:
When the paper is removed, here's the outline I have made:
Notice I didn't try to poke the outline of his markings - They are too tiny and close together, particularly on this small pumpkin. Instead, I opted to paint them, which allows a lot more control to make them accurate.
I usually carve first and paint later, but this year, I decided to reverse that and paint the horse before I started carving. First I blocked the whole horse out in flat white, which made a good gripping surface for the intricate markings. The marking color was a mixture of navy blue and metallic royal blue, with a hint of purple and black.
... And that's where I got excited about the process and completely forgot to keep taking pictures! Heck, it's fun to make these!
Once his markings were painted, I went over the entire horse with a thin wash of pearly white to give him that sheen that the model has. I sprayed just the horse with a matte clearcoat to help protect it while I carved the face - Sticky pumpkin bits would have pulled the paint right off, and still did in places, so I had to touch him up afterward.
The carving on this guy was pretty straightforward.. Not so much detail as they usually get, because I didn't want too many lines in the background detracting from the horse. The only depth I gave this one was to carve the teeth a bit inside of th skin so they appeared to be in its mouth, and the horse seemed to have a couple of feet precariously inside the face's mouth.
Then it got a few ghosts and bats added on each side to brighten it up a bit, and there you have it... Our annual Breyer Halloween Horse jack o lantern to hang out with Raia at our store!
I do have a few learnings from this one: Painting the model before carving provided a more solid surface for carving, but it was still susceptible to getting damaged, even when clearcoated. It also gave me fewer places to brace my hand while carving, resulting in lots of acrobatic positions. I'd recommend painting after the carving is finished.
I also realized that "making do" with a paring knife and an old set of Xacto wood-carving tools really isn't allowing me to do all things I want to do on a pumpkin, so I've ordered a set of pumpkin carving tools... The wire loop tools will make 3D carvings possible with a lot less work. So that's something to look forward to next year!
A note on clear-coating: Many clearcoats can be poisonous to animals, so if you'll be putting the pumpkin out for animals after it deteriorates, don't use clearcoat. I had to use it this time because I had experimented with doing the painting first, but won't do it that way in the future. When this one is past its prime, I will cut out the clearcoated section and throw it in the garbage before giving the rest to the chickens.
However, there IS something you can do to help preserve your jack o lantern longer, which isn't harmful to animals. A mixture of 1 part white vinegar to 8 parts water can be sprayed over the whole thing after carving (before painting). That will slow down mold and rot, making it last a lot longer. If you're going to paint part of your piece, let it dry thoroughly and then it should paint up just fine. Since you'll be painting AFTER you carve, you shouldn't need a clearcoat. Just cut out the painted part (or use non-toxic paints) before feeding to animals. Chickens love pumpkins, and so do wildlife, so you can always take it a wooded area as an autumn offering to the wild things!
Have fun, everyone. Happy Halloween and Happy Samhain!