2012 Pumpkin Lantern: London Under the Blitz

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This year’s pumpkin lantern is a full panorama, some 54 inches long, depicting one night of the German Blitz of London, December 29th, 1940. …see more details and photos below
The subject was inspired by the iconic photograph “St. Paul’s Survives”, taken by Herbert Mason, December 29th, from the roof of the Daily Mail.  St. Paul’s stood unharmed amid smoke and fire on all sides, the city around it on fire. The photograph became a symbol of British resolve, and was declared the “War’s Greatest Picture”.

“St. Paul’s Survives”, by Herbert Mason of the London Daily Mail. Taken from the roof of the Daily Mail, during the bombing, on December 29th, 1940

“The Blitz” was an extended nine-month strategic bombing of the U.K. by the German Luftwaffe. In addition to targets of industry and production, the capital of London itself was bombed every single night for nearly two months straight, 57 nights in a row, and 71 nights in total over the nine-month period.

The panorama starts with the barrage balloons over Tower Bridge, German bombers in the distance and the Thames aglow from distant fire.

Tower Bridge and the Thames, a working waterfront. Barrage Balloons hang in the air in an effort to discourage low-level strafing runs by enemy fighters

Panning along the waterfront and a small gunboat, continuing up across the central image of St. Paul’s behind the still burning debris of destroyed buildings.

View of the Pumpkin with Room Lights on. St. Paul’s at rear, behind a pile of still burning debris, firefighters at far left

St. Paul’s, surrounded by burning debris and smoke, with rising sparks at low left

Following a trail of rising sparks, we encounter the bombers (Dornier Do17s), and pan down along a building being futilely attacked by firemen on both sides.

A building ablaze, with the German Dornier Do17 Bombers high above.

Continuing left, we see the Monument to the Great Fire of 1666.

The tall columnar monument in the middle of the street is the Monument to the Great Fire of 1666, with another statue of a horse and rider in front.  My original idea was to carve the Great Fire of London, all the way around.  But it occurred to me that since most of the buildings were destroyed, there’d be little or no iconic structures to include which would make clear that we were talking about London.  And so I modified the subject to the Bombing of London.  As destructive as the Great Fire was,  I can’t think of anything more terrifying than the continuous bombing Londoners endured for two months straight.

The silhouette of a man with walking stick under a blacked-out street lamp, at far left, alongside a smoldering building, is a nod to the Londoners’ ability to maintain morale in the face of the onslaught.  “Keep calm, and carry on”.

Some details…

Detail of a volunteer firefighting crew. During the height of the war, the number of men serving as firemen would swell to 273,000 nationwide. A special crew manned St. Paul’s itself, and on December 29th alone, extinguished some thirty fires started by German incendiary bombs.

The Bombers, with the Room Lights on to show the nature of the carving

Detail of Tower Bridge and the Thames waterfront, with room lights on

The Rear of the Pumpkin, “London Under the Blitz”, room lights on

Though I chose to depict London, the number of cities which could have been chosen for the subject is far too long.  Coventry, Dresden, Stalingrad, Hiroshima…. More civilians died in World War II than did soldiers, and heavy bombing played a great part in the tally.

The pumpkin was a 100 pound “Atlantic Giant”, almost 54 inches in circumference, purchased at Wilson’s Farm, of Lexington, Massachusetts.  After carving and hollowing, it now weighs 37 pounds.

It’s nearly impossible to capture the lighting and wrap-around nature of something like this in 2D.  The intent is to make it an experience, to invite people to walk around and investigate it. The best I can offer is a video, which at least conveys something of the scale and quality of the lighting effects.  See here… Video:”London Under the Blitz”

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24 Comments

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24 responses to “2012 Pumpkin Lantern: London Under the Blitz

  1. Larry Ward

    WOW…Looks great Jeff

  2. Anonymous

    Jeff,
    These are amazing and truly inspiring.
    I agree with your thoughts on Villafane and the difference between sculpting and creating a more 2D work of art. Each is wonderful.
    Learning and developing in your style, with an emphasis on shading, is a big goal. Could you possibly explain your technique a little?
    It almost seems like you’d have to thin every pumpkin’s inside walls to the same thickness each time to know the shading you’ll get. Or do you constantly turn the lights on and off to gauge it as you go?
    Is there a certain type of internal lighting that best brings out shade?
    How do you avoid lighting up the pumpkin’s rib lines?
    Sorry for so many questions. Immensely fascinated.
    Any tips would be tremendously appreciated. Patience and trial-and-error are no problem here; I’d just love to get an inside-baseball look at the process.
    Thanks!

    • Hi.

      I used to painstakingly transfer the pattern, incise it, shave it out, and then light and relight and retest the depth of the cuts over and over as you say: by turning on and off the lights. …took forever.

      Now, I roughly sketch the scene onto the pumpkin, using the cartoon sketch as a reference (no time-wasting ‘transferring’). No one is going to know if it isn’t exact, and I also edit on the fly sometimes too.

      The past few years I have made my life simpler. It’s true that the brightest cuts are thinnest. I used to cut all the way from the front, deeper and deeper, to achieve that brightness. Now, I roughly eyeball the depth. deeper will always be brighter. But I don’t over analyze it. I just go deeper where I want lighter, and shallower for dimmer. And then, when the cuts are reasonably deep, I will instead go at them from the back. I used a scraper to thin the walls from the rear. For the most part, by laying a hand on the front of the pumpkin, and scraping from inside with the other, you can ‘feel’ how thin it is becoming, and stop short of punching through.

      I’m at the point now where, as with the “Blitz Pumpkin”, I can usually be 95% ‘done’ when I light it the first time. That one looked pretty much the way I wanted the first time I lit it. I think I went back and thinned the sky a bit, and especially at the top (where the planes are), because that is the thickest part of the pumpkin, and no light would come through without losing maybe four inches of thickness.

      The pumpkin started at 100 pounds. The seeds and guts were maybe 10 pounds or so… I forget. But the meat scraped from the walls amounted to between 30-40 pounds.

      I used to light it with a 75 watt incandescent on an extension cord. But that cooks and softens the pumpkin. Now, I use an old string or three of the small white Christmas lights, balled up loosely to roughly fill the pumpkin. They get warm, but no too badly.

      As for the ribs…. I choose as smooth a pumpkin as possible. But there are always defects. I try to use them to advantage (smoke and clouds, for example).

      • Anonymous

        Jeff, you are the man! It means a great deal that you’d take the time to write back and share your process.
        The information was very helpful, and I’m now more eager than ever to take on the next pumpkin project, armed with the new knowledge.
        Thanks so much!

      • Anonymous

        What’s the 2013 Edition?

  3. Anonymous

    I can’t believe you did this! It’s crazy sick!

  4. Michael - RGBHV

    Amazing work – you’re very talented.

    Michael
    RGBHV

  5. J

    Great job Stike! Amazing!

    Shwiezzee

  6. Anonymous

    Killer!
    Great job Stike!

    Shwiezzee

  7. Gator Bait

    More awesomerer every year Jeff, thank you for sharing another years great pumpkin. Like others I have been hoping and looking forward to it for a couple days now. : )

    Have you ever considered doing a Christmas squash? I bet you could do wonders on a Blue Hubbard. ; )

  8. My 2012 Halloween is now complete. I have been waiting for this for days.

  9. Elzbth from Green Eggers Forum

    Awesome – your talent is amazing!

  10. Ma

    :You are truly a gifted kid. .

    Love you and take all the credit for your talents…….Ma

  11. Amazing Jeff! Your pumpkin carving skills are out of this world.

  12. YB

    As always great Jeff.Hope you will always share your work with us.

  13. sherif anis

    OMG. you have seriously outdone yourself….and the rest of the planet.
    this makes me want to be a headless horseman.

  14. Kim Y.

    Amazing…you are pumpkin carving genius…

  15. You never disappoint us! Every year your carvings are truly amazing and demonstrate the true genius and artist that you are. Thanks Jeff for being you!

  16. BENTE

    wow jeff yet another great looking pumpkin. i look forward to your carving every year

  17. Words just don’t do it justice, stike. Amazing as always.

  18. That is incredible… Amazing work Jeff.

  19. Anonymous

    Jeff,
    I love Holloween like crazy, and one of my favorite things has become seeing your pumpkin carving. Fantastic!

  20. Clark

    Awesome! Never to be disappointed with your carving skills!

  21. Anonymous

    Wow Jeff. Awesome. Best I’ve ever seen.

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