This year’s pumpkin started with an idea to play off a basic human fear: the vastness of the open ocean. What could feel more overwhelming than being in the middle of the Pacific, in a small boat, at night?
It plays off the idea of “aliens”. On the rear of the pumpkin is a pair of whales, escaping the whalers (men in ships) who are themselves being attacked by ships from another world. Exactly who are the aliens here? Just as a whale is plucked and taken from its habitat, so are the men being harvested. A little recompense being paid by the men of the Recompynse.
The center of the composition is a longboat, being lifted into the mothership by a tractor beam, men falling or hanging by ropes as the longboat levitates into oblivion.
I think I enjoy most the man at the front of the longboat, rowing frantically in vain. The highlights that define his back and hands are nothing more than a few rounded gouges in the pumpkin. This part of the image was inspired by the fantastic image from the label on a bottle of Maudite…
My favorite part about this detail is the hat of the man standing at far right, and the way the tractor beam glows, with the glare from the beam partly covering the waves in front of the boat.
This year it was a full panorama around the pumpkin. Impossible for me to stitch together even a few decent images, so it must be shown in feeble detail shots. I have made a test image here> Whaler Recompynse in 360° (which will open a flash-based movie in another page) where you can click and drag all the way around, rotating the pumpkin as you like. You can also tilt it downward to see the top, and rotate that as well. It is as close as I can get to capturing the effect, although the lighting in person is much subtler, and the detail reads far better. (Right now the file has a ‘trial’ watermark on it. If you think the interaction is any good, I might buy a full copy and re-do it. Let me know what you think)
A hand-held movie, with appropriately cheesy Halloween Sound effects, is here > The Whaler Recompynse
For me, this isn’t “carving” in the sense of sculpture. I have seen (and am in awe of) the fantastically expert carvings of Ray Villafane, whose pumpkins are I think undeniably the best carved pumpkin sculptures ever done. But for me this is less about sculpture than it is about using the pumpkin as a 2D lantern, with effects from light and dark and shading, made by carving the image to differing depths. The deeper you go, the brighter it gets. It’s a physical negative in a sense.
As we all perhaps enjoyed when children, when you turn out the lights and add a candle inside, it should be transformed from one thing into another. The pumpkins I do tend to look very strange when the room lights are up. We take one to a party every year where they set the pumpkins in a corner of the room which is fully lit, for a pumpkin carving contest. You can’t look at this in a room with lights on and find anything to recommend it. With lights on it looks like a hideous blob of pale orange, incomplete and half done. I always feel foolish putting it on the table with the others because frankly no one can tell what the heck it’s supposed to be, and no amount of my explaining will do the trick… I shudder, too, when people try to take a photo, because if the flash goes off, you see none of the lantern effect. And if there’s no flash, you get a blurry orange smudge. But that’s exactly what I like about it all. It can’t really be captured well. Just like the sand arches, it’s not meant to last, and it really is meant to be seen in person. It’s fleeting fun.
Here’s last year’s pumpkin, too. Frankenstein’s Lab
Hope you had a great Halloween.