2009 Jack-o-Lantern: Proposed New Laboratory for Dr. Frankenstein; Interior


The Laboratory of Dr. Frankenstein; JS 2009

I guess a  jack-o-lantern or carved pumpkin can be architecturally “on-topic”, I mean, if it’s an interior perspective, right?

Let’s call this one a rendering of a “Proposed Laboratory Renovation for Dr. Frankenstein, by Ivo Shandor, Architect”.  That way I get to write off the cost of the pumpkin. (…bonus points if you can tell me who Ivo Shandor was without googling).

Carved this pumpkin last night, from about 8pm ’til 2 in the morning.  Started from a sketch I’d made in photoshop from some pasted-up reference images, after watching the 1931 film starring Karloff.  A couple of the images I used as inspiration were stills from the various “Frankenstein” movies, and I modified that idea enough to make something I thought might work as a back-lit carving.

The scene is taken a moment or two just before the doctor raises his monster to the open skylight above, where the electrical storm can bring him to life. The lab didn’t really look like this in the film so much, I had to make most of this up. It’s an idealized version of the scene as I thought I remembered it.  When I watched the film again, I was amazed to see how brief the whole scene is, and how spare and small the lab was.

Believe it or not, my favorite part is actually the big round flask of unknown liquid off to the right.  It was the last thing I carved, and could have gone horribly wrong. There’s no undo button with these things.  I had no idea how to make it read like glass and semi-transparent liquid, and had my fingers crossed when I lit the pumpkin at the end.  Small triumphs, I guess….

I carve them with the light on.  I used to keep a small lamp next to me as I did it, and would shut out the lights putting the lamp inside it to check the lighting, but now I just carve the whole thing by feel.  When I have it carved to the depth that I think works, I go in with a scraper and thin the walls behind the image.  After that, I light it up. The fun in doing these is not knowing whether or not you have it right until lighting it at the very end.

Here’s a shot of it with the lights on, which is how it looks when I’m working on it..

Frankensteins_Lab_2009_lights on_blog

A shot of the pumpkin with the lights on.

Like this, with the room lights on, the pumpkins usually gives no hint of what the image is until it’s lit. I tend to carve the front to the depth required for highlights, which means the brightest parts when lit are usually the darkest and deepest when the room lights are on. Essentially a bas relief in negative.

Concept Sketch

Concept Cartoon for the Carving

This is the thumbnail sketch I did, cobbled together from chunks of photographs, movie stills, etc. I overpainted this in photoshop, printed it out, and roughly drew the scene in water-resistant ink right onto the pumpkin, adjusting for the curve of the pumpkin and any ribs or grooves in the surface.

I don’t have a shot of the thing in-progress, but here’s a typical set-up (see below, from the 2007 Pumpkin). I usually carve these during the marathon Red Sox/Yankees post-season games (which often run 4-1/2 hours), but this year the Sox tanked it, so I had to settle for a Tivo’d run of MythBusters and Alton Brown… such is life (Go Phillies!).

carving set up

The Typical pumpkin carving set up. Rough-sketched pumpkin, sheets of reference images (including my cartoon sketch), and a set of linoleum cutters for the carving.

The pumpkin above was from 2007.  Here are a couple more shots of it. It started out to be Dracula’s Castle, but end up being the Castle of the Wicked Witch.

witch 2007

The Castle of the Wicked Witch; JS 2007

…and a shot of it with lights on.

witch lights on SMALL

The Castle of the Wicked Witch, with room lights on...

I’ve had more than a few folks tell me I should carve these into the urethane pumpkins that are now available, so that they will last from year to year.  I dunno…  Sandcastles fall, pumpkins rot.  Nothing lasts forever.  Much of the excitement the kids get out of this is knowing it won’t be around for more than a few days.  When it’s gone, it’s gone. …’til next year, I guess.

1 Comment

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One response to “2009 Jack-o-Lantern: Proposed New Laboratory for Dr. Frankenstein; Interior

  1. Anonymous

    Wow, your work is jaw dropping. You’ve inspired me to pick my game with pumpkin carving!

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