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THE CREATIVE GAMER - Carving SnakeKitty from Dungeon Petz on my Halloween Pumpkin

-matt s.
United States
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Every year at Halloween my family goes to the pumpkin patch and takes a horse drawn or tractor drawn hay ride out to the patch to pick a fresh pumpkin. It's a fun tradition that we will continue as long as the kids enjoy it (and maybe even as long as the kids DON'T enjoy it)

Here are some pics from Lone Pine Farms in Junction City, OR:

While waiting in the long line for the horse-drawn cart (most popular) the kids checked out the Goat Walk and sent them a little feed via the pully system (pic on the right):

From gallery of tasajara
From gallery of tasajara
From gallery of tasajara

The Goat Walk (sort of a hamster trail for goats)

Then we went to the patch and picked out some pumpkins:
From gallery of tasajara
From gallery of tasajara

My son greeting the horses and the traditional family pic

From gallery of tasajara
From gallery of tasajara

Searching the fields for the perfect pumpkin, my wife and daughter

The next day I washed all the pumpkins and we got started carving. First we carved open the tops and scooped them out.
From gallery of tasajara
From gallery of tasajara

From gallery of tasajara
From gallery of tasajara

Carving open and scooping out the pumpkins

My son decided to do an image he found in a design book we have that has the headless horseman. My daughter went for a simpler design of a cat (surprise, surprise - she loves cats). She also ended up doing some 'scary eyes'

This is the results of their own carvings:
From gallery of tasajara
From gallery of tasajara
From gallery of tasajara

Emily's scary eyes and scary cat, Jacob's headless horseman

So, my idea came to me pretty quickly - I had just been showing my kids the game Dungeon Petz the previous evening and we had looked through all the various Petz you could breed. The most natural choice for me was the SnakeKitty because my daugher loves cats, my son loves snakes, and I love games

Board Game: Dungeon Petz


It seemed like a fun and Halloween-y carving project with some interesting challenge as well.

First, I grabbed the tools I would need. We've purchased several pumpkin carving kits in the past and have a number of tools available. Here's what I chose out of our kit:
From gallery of tasajara

The tools are:
(Across the bottom of the image)
* Large carving saw - for carving large areas, primarily for cutting open the top.
* Drill - used for drilling starting holes or opening up small areas.
* 'Poker' - this has a line of sharp pokers on a curve. You use this to poke a series of holes to mark the design on the pumpkin.
* Washable pen - this is sometimes used to highlight parts of a design that are hard to see while carving.
* 3 different detaile saws - Different sized saws for doing larger cuts and then detailed cuts.
* Peeler/Carver - Used to scrape/peel off the skin, also used for carving out details and cleaning up edges.

(Across the top)
* Scraper - Used to scrape out the seeds inside and also can be used to thin down the walls to make them more translucent and/or easier to carve if they are too thick. No more mangled spoons!
* 2 different LED Pumpkin lights - The one on the left does a yellow glowing/flickering effect like you'd get with a candle, the other does a multi-colored display rotating through different colors. We also have a white strobe light version not pictured.

Next I cropped the SnakeKitty image, then printed it to a full sized sheet so I could tape it to my pumpkin, then started 'tracing' the parts of the image I wanted to carve using the 'poker'.

If you look at the image below where the picture of SnakeKitty is taped to the pumpkin you can see a bunch of small holes where I used the poker to trace the design onto the pumpkin. This makes it fast, easy and 'permanent'.
From gallery of tasajara
From gallery of tasajara

Image taped to the pumpkin, then a shot of the pumpkin surface where you can see the holes poked into it.

Now, I will say that there was a lot of thought process involved in this step - you have to make good decisions about where you want to carve through, what needs to remain attached, and what areas you might want to carve away/sculpt. Last year I my carving was mostly carved through with some details carved into the surface. This year I wanted to do a bit more of the carving/sculpting and this image lent itself to that.

So, now that I had the design traced I focused on the 'carving through' areas. The thing I've learned from previous designs and looking at other designs is if you have an 'object' in the middle then it helps to have a 'frame' around it so that you can get that great glowing effect with some depth added. BUT, you also have to look for key points that the design can attach to the frame so that it stays connected to the base pumpkin - you don't want too many bits hanging out by themselves and obviously you can't cut all the way around the object or you'll just have a big hole.

Here's where I decided to make the cuts through to give the frame but still keep it connected:
From gallery of tasajara

The initial mapping out of negative space, and beginning to carve away the sculpted/thinner areas

You can see where I kept the 'whiskers' attached for support but also cut away enough to get the light to come through. I liked the idea of the eyes glowing and also initially intended the fangs to glow as well. Later, I switched this around and made the fangs solid. My focus was on keeping the face dark and close to the front, then try to show the furry/winding body more in the background and 'glowing'. This was accomplished (I hoped) by carving away the surface of the pumpkin.

While it looked good in light, in darkness the lantern light just didn't show through enough to 'glow' because the walls were too thick. I tried thinning them from the back side using the scraper but it was slow going and I was concerned about the whole design popping out of the pumpkin (i.e. I should have thinned the walls BEFORE carving)

So, I turned to actually carving out a layer of the middle areas to make it thinner. I don't have any pics of the process but here's the final result:
From gallery of tasajara
Board Game: Dungeon Petz

SnakeKitty carving complete, and comparison with glowing version

You can see how the middle areas are now set back - this was due to carving out those areas. I used the saws to slice into the depth and pull out most of the material, then used the 'peeler' to carve away the rest. I also used it to carve texture into the surface in the lower portion - note that doing that is NOT easy to do and difficult to get much fine detail on.

You will also note that I have changed the fang design here to be positive space instead of negative space (i.e. black/shadowed instead of glowing)

Well, that's the process. There are some details I glossed over, but not much really - the key is envisioning how the design will work, then determining where you can cut through to get a good design and what you can leave for interesting shadowing effects.

If you have any interesting carvings you've done recently I'd love to see them.

Now, go play a spooky game for Halloween! (wish I had Dungeon Petz to try out!)

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