Monday, 4 November 2019

Pumpkins Sixteen to Nineteen: Some of my many mistakes and how I tried to fix them

 Pumpkin Sixteen: Pittenweem Gyles (First Attempt)

Right from the start of this pumpkin, I felt like I didn't know what I was doing. I was distracted, making mistakes, and just not really interested, even though I had been looking forward to this scene.

Halfway through carving, I accidentally switched between source photos, so my shadows were going in two different directions and the angles weren't quite right on the buildings. I accidentally cut windows out, and went right through the flesh twice. I also got my first minor cut from the U Gouge flicking through the pumpkin flesh and into my finger.

But it gave me an opportunity to experiment with some 'fixes', and show that I don't always get my carvings right the first time, and the benefits of trying again.

Pumpkin Seventeen: Pittenweem Gyles (Second Attempt)

Get the pumpkin properly prepared!

My most common mistake is rushing into carving without properly scraping the inside of the pumpkin down to a workable level. When I first started carving, I thought having a good 4cm of flesh would mean I could get a lot of tonal variation; I have since learned that about 1.5 cm is the best, and most of the pumpkins I messed up this year were because I was trying to carve into pumpkin where the flesh was too deep and sometimes uneven.

Pumpkin Flop 2019 - this failed as the flesh was too deep.

Pumpkin Nineteen - Seagull
Lots of detailed carving was lost on this one as the flesh was too deep to show it

(I will get a seagull one day, but it's not been a good start!)

Below is my first attempt at the Lighthouse, Low Light, on the Isle of May. As the pumpkin flesh was very thick, and not evenly distributed, the top of the tower became much darker, as the light was going through a lot more flesh. It also meant that some bits of the carving were sticking out about 3cm, which gets a bit tricky when working on other areas.

To try and save the Low Light pumpkin, I tried scratching off some more flesh from the inside, focusing on the bottom half. This resulted in me poking a hole in the wall at the front corner, meaning the light came through a bit too strongly, despite some patching. However, it also created a lovely fluffy cloud like effect where I used the U gouge to cut out deep, slightly rough grooves in the grass. not great for a grass effect, but something I hope to utilise in the future at some point.

Low Light - First attempt. I didn't give this pumpkin a number.

Patching Areas 

The light bit to the left of the tower is where I accidentally scraped through the flesh completely, and had to patch it with some fresh shavings of pumpkin flesh which I got by using the U gouge to remove thin layers of skinless Pumpkin flesh, I carefully laid these over the hole, and then used some soft goopy flesh which I got from scraping the sky with a flat edged sharp tool to smooth the finish. It's not ideal, but patches an image you may want to save. This technique can also be used for a hole you have dug a bit too deep to darken it.

If at First you don't Succeed

In the end, I used the ultimate fixing tool. I did it again... And I got what is so far my favourite pumpkin of 2019. (I am a bit behind with the blog, so I am up to pumpkin 24).

Pumpkin Eighteen: Low Light, Isle of May, Second Attempt 

This image made its way onto my RedBubble shop. Have a look at the 70+ different things you can get with this image on it ;-)

Below is a rather dramatic example of how retrying the same pumpkin carving can yield dramatically different results. These were from last year, when I was still very new to carving pumpkins. I had just carved two pumpkins before this, and only one using the shading technique of whittling away flesh to different levels.

Pamela Coleman Smith Attempt One
Please don't laugh, it was only the third pumpkin I ever carved!

Pamela Coleman Smith, Second Attempt
And this was the fourth pumpkin I carved

If you make a mistake, or aren't good at this straight away, don't worry, practice and if you want to redo a pumpkin, redo it!

Oops! I cut off a window!

This happened to me very early on in my pumpkin challenge, and actually helped me come up with a technique which I now use deliberately, even if I don't accidentally cut off a window.

Whilst working on my cartoon fishing boat, which had three dark windows sticking out about 3cm against a white cabin, I accidentally cut through the bottom of one of the windows.

At first I tried propping the window up with shavings of flesh stacked underneath the window, but the fix was too visible. So I tried cutting a little hole at the bottom and pushing the window through it, so it had the depth of flesh to be dark, but it didn't stick out as much. As you can see from the photo on the left hand side, you can see quite a bit of the side of the protruding windows. After I inserted one window, they didn't all match, so I cut out the whole base of the windows, and inserted the three windows, packing the gaps between them with shavings of pumpkin flesh. The result was much better than it would have been if I had never accidentally cut off the window.

This technique is really useful for small windows, tightly packed windows, or any design where you have small dark shapes against a paler background. If you lose the original shape, you can use a craft knife to cut out a small deep section of pumpkin from the base of the pumpkin, and use that to insert into a small hole. The final shape will have a slight halo around it, but that adds to the charm.

Using pumpkin skin for small details.

I started doing this when my original weather vane for the Dreel Halls, which I had painstakingly cut out, looked far too dark and large, looming over the top of the spire. So I cut it off, smoothed the sky out with a flat sharp knife and then cut a couple of little grooves in the flesh, but not all the way through. I then cut up bits of thin shavings with the skin still attached and used tweezers to insert these into the holes. To make the fish, I folded one bit of skin over.

I later used this technique for the windows of the Low Light Lighthouse, and since then many other windows, lamp posts, etc. which requires a small thin line of darkness.

Pumpkin Carving Hints and Tips Index:

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