Halloween may have originated in Europe, but no one loves it as much as Americans! Trick-or-treating, haunted hayrides and haunted house attractions, scary movies, and of course, pumpkin carving... We love it all!
I've always enjoyed pumpkin carving, and while I'm nowhere near the skill level of the amazing pumpkin artists we see on tv, I have a lot of fun with it. This year, I decided to carve the Breyer Halloween Horse Nevermore into a pumpkin scene. She was challenging but a lot of fun! If you need some inspiration for your own carving, here's a quick tutorial. All the usual warnings apply about not poking yourself with sharp objects, not dropping the pumpkin on your toes, and watching out for goblins.
Roy grew this beautiful pumpkin right here on the mountain. It had lots of flat surface, great for carving a large image into without much distortion, but it was a lazy pumpkin and didn't want to stand up. I decided, therefore, to make it a horizontal carve!
I found a couple of images online... I didn't care for the image of Nevermore herself, since she was pointing away from the camera, making her forequarters look small, so I used the nice side view of another release on the same mold to create my outline. Then I used Nevermore's image to draw her markings. My tools at this stage were simple: a little paring knife with a strong blade and a pokey object (it's a lobster pick since we're in Maine!). But before we get to the horse...
Normally we'd take the innards out by cutting around the stem and lifting off its lid, but since we're doing this one lying down, I was able to cut an access hole from the back side. I made it in the shape of a pumpkin for fun. The wild birds and critters of the mountain got a yummy pumpkin seed treat after I cleaned it out. A CollectA Appaloosa kept a close eye on me to make sure I didn't poke myself with either sharp object. Good job, Appy, good job.
After washing pumpkin guts off my hands, it's time to get to the star of the show. First I cut around the picture, leaving about an inch or so around the edges so I could tape it without taping on the lines I wanted to cut. I tape it down in several places, making sure that every bit of the image is tight to the pumpkin so it won't move while I'm cutting along it.
Since the picture is flat and the pumpkin is curved, in order to get the image taped tightly at every spot, you'll need to make some small creases. Try to position them where they'll show the least... You don't want a leg suddenly going off at an angle, or a face looking squished because a fold comes across it. Lots of small creases are better than a few large ones. (you can see one just below the knife on the right side; I positioned it right where her forearm meets her chest, since that angle can be slightly changed without harming the look of the horse.)
Once the image is secure, the tedious part begins: Carefully poking the tip of the knife into the outline and repeating over and over until the entire outline has been traced. Even though the blade only went in about 1/8" inch, it's enough to leave an easy-to-see outline on the pumpkin. Go slowly and try to capture all the tiny details, like her mane edge. If you lose them here, you won't be able to get them back.
At this point, I also added a scary raven perched on a spooky tree, cawing at Nevermore. The outline below is just from the knife. Expecting to just do a line carving of her, I decided to draw on her markings with a black Sharpie... There was no way I'd be carving around those intricate designs! I drew on her eye, nostril, mouth line and mane line as well, so I wouldn't lose track of where they are.
When the fun part began, I kind of got into the zone and forgot to take pictures. I brought down a wood carving set for this part... It's an ancient Xacto set with interchangeable blades, so I can scoop out large sections then quickly swap to a thin blade for tiny lines, like her mane lines. I carved out the background to an even depth, leaving a thin outline around the horse and taking just the skin off her body for a bit of interest, going as close to her markings as I dared. It made her look slightly behind the raven and branch, which was what I was going for. When I finished this stage, I called it a night. My belly was rumbling and it wasn't asking for pumpkin!
The next morning, it occurred to me that this pumpkin had really awesome, thick walls, so I could go deeper without fear of falling through it. That started a whole new process, during which I ended up carving off all her markings. (Sometimes these things happen... When you feel inspired, go with it!)
I ended up rounding her body, adding basic muscling, even the turn of her head. Her legs are now at different depths, which is what truly makes her look like she's popping out of the gourd. While deepening the background, I added more branches to the tree at different depths, and gave the raven a second wing, just visible above the first. You may notice the raven's beak has shrunk since the day before... Tiny bits will tend to do that. I could have slowed the process by coating the carved parts in Vaseline, but since I wasn't finished, I didn't want to deal with the goo.
Then I painted it!
Paint can hide some mistakes (shhh, I won't tell if you don't!) and really makes your carving stand out. I painted her body with a mix of pearlescent white acrylic paint, red and fleshtone. I used less white in the mix to add some shading in her lower areas, then used the pearly white for her mane and tail highlights and a gloss black for all the black areas. I let everything dry thoroughly - that was the hardest part... I never said I'm patient! - and then went back and redrew all of her markings with a Sharpie again. I have a ton of respect for you, Sommer Prosser, for creating this beautifully intricate design. Trying to copy it made me really appreciate all the nuances she included.
Is it perfect? Heck no, but where's the fun in that? If it were perfect, I'd get bored and not be itching to do it again next year with whatever Halloween Horse Breyer springs on us. If you're worried you're not talented enough to carve a horse, carve whatever you want, but I recommend giving it a shot. As long as you don't poke yourself with the sharp objects, drop the pumpkin on your toes, or have to deal with goblins, what's the worst that can happen? You aren't obligated to create a finished piece to be posted on social media. You're doing it for yourself, for the fun and challenge. If you truly hate the outcome, present it to the wild birds and critters as a healthy treat before winter, and start again if you like! There are plenty of pumpkins to be had right now, and they're all just hoping to become something cool!
If you do carve a horse into your pumpkin, I'd love to see it. Please feel welcome to email pictures to me or send them in a Facebook message. Happy Halloween!