I carved this photographic Jack-o-lantern this evening of Captain Jack Sparrow, from the Pirates of the Caribbean movie. It is a design project I am having my visual literacy & digital media students working on. I wanted to be sure I knew what the process would be like before I make my students complete the project. Last year, I only had them do the design. This year we are planning to actually carve pumpkins using the student created designs.
The process is pretty straightforward, and gives us a chance to practice our digital media skills. First, we had to select a digital image to work from. I found this one doing an image search on Google.
(The Johnny Depp / Jack Sparrow image is Copyright © Walt Disney Pictures)
Next, we bring the image into Illustrator and place it into a locked layer to use as a reference. Using the pen tool, we create a contour line drawing to use as a pattern. In my image, I put the medium values in one layer and the highlights in another layer. This is great practice in working with the design fundamentals of negative space, shape and value. We actually wind up creating a picture negative by making the highlights black and the mid-tones gray.
Carving a pumpkin like this is very similar to traditional methods. You have to cut out the top for a lid, and scoop out the innards, just like you would for any jack-o-lantern. Then I transferred my pattern to my pumpkin by using a little toothed-wheel provided by an inexpensive plastic pumpkin carving kit. I imagine you could also use some sort of transfer paper as well. A toothpick or thumbtack could also work to poke holes along the pattern lines if you don’t have a kit.
Using my pattern as a guide, once I put the lines on the pumpkin, now the fun begins. I bought myself a set of wood carving tools, which made the carving very simple to do. I used these tools to remove the skin, but leave some pumpkin flesh remaining everywhere I wanted a mid-value tone (gray on my pattern). I used a little knife to cut clear through the pumpkin for the highlights.
Once I finished, we dimmed the lights, lit a candle, and enjoyed the finished work. This carving took me approximately 2 1/2 hours to complete. I’m really happy with the results and I’m looking forward to seeing what my students come up with.