Tips for Carving Halloween Pumpkins from a Professional Pumpkin Carver

The following tips are from Doug Goodreau, a professional pumpkin carver located in the Los Angeles area.

Choose a pumpkin with an irregular shape

More often than not, Mother Nature can give us a head start with a     squash that already has some Halloween character. (i.e. Get something that looks like something and stop trying to find the ultimate, perfectly, round one.)

Pick a pumpkin with a thick and dark-orange and/or colorful skin

Thumping the outside, just like when selecting fruit at the store, gives us a good idea that the soon to be sculpted squash will allow us to carve a greater variation in depth for details if the skin is thicker. We want something that feels and sounds solid. More color also tends to indicate a greater thickness.

There are no such things as mistakes

If we accidentally cut off a tooth or horn, we can easily stick it back on with tooth picks.Cover ugly spots with some hair. Paint over something if you don't like it at first. 

Short, sharp bladed knives and clay sculpting tools work well.

I often use a steak knife or whatever's available. You have to find what works best for you.  Walking through a culinary store may give you ideas, but don't spend too much money(I break several tools a season).

Visually, organic shapes work best with other organic shapes.

As you may have noticed, I often include a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, hemp, etc. in my work. These all blend well together when painted and make it difficult to determine where the pumpkin ends and the other elements begin.

You don't have to be a sculptor

For example, a clown can have two tufts of hair stuck on the sides with an orange for a nose. Then all you need to do is carve a closed mouth frown and some evil eyes.  

If you don't like scooping out the pumpkin guts,..... don't

Leave the insides in to better preserve the vegetable. The more air and outside bacteria that gets past the surface skin, the sooner your decoration will rot.

*** Experiment!

It's only a pumpkin, don't be afraid to really carve it up and try something new. I have a good time just looking around the pumpkin patch to see what potential faces peer back at me. YOU'LL FIND THAT IF YOU JUST START CARVING WITHOUT DRAWING ANY LINES YOU'LL BE MORE INCLINED TO HAVE "HAPPY ACCIDENTS".

Paint it with the cheepest hardware store spray paint and clear acrylic (or hairspray) you can find

This cuts down on the mold and makes the design last longer in addition to keeping your finished work of art in a cool, dry place.

Give it motion

A corncob pipe with some insence burning is always a nice touch. Insence in the nostrils of a dragon make it apear to be resting while waiting to scare the next trick-or-treater.  If you really want to get fancy, a strobe light will make any pumpkin look like it's going to jump.