Please Note! The statute of limitations on this post has expired!
Check the date: This post was originally published in 2011 and is kept here largely for archival purposes. Anything older than three years may contain ideas and opinions for which such a gap of time has likely reshaped, altered, softened, re-jigged, or otherwise changed those ideas and opinions to a state incongruent with my current existence.
I wanted to carve something a little less traditional for Halloween this year. Digging through the ThinkGeek pumpkin template archive I discovered a ready-made black-and-white stencil to mimic the in-game Jack-o-lanterns from Minecraft.
If you’ve never played Minecraft, understanding that pumpkins are something of a residual anomaly in the game might give you a better sense of their meaning. The game itself seems to have evolved over the last year, adding new features here, dropping a few over there. But pumpkins, serving no real purpose other than as this random decoration that seems to have lingered from a year-old Halloween-adjacent update, have stuck around. And they don’t do much more than glow.
They are also decidedly 8-bit… y’know: pixel-based. Squarish. And requiring something of a careful eye when it comes to chopping out near-literal bits when one is so otherwise tempted to just hack away in flowing curves.
This resulted in less intricate work than I would have imagined. I mean, conceptually the idea of carving a series of believable 8-bit pixels from a spherical-ish orb might have posed a few more problems.
My first step was really in securing an orb big enough.
You can’t really get HUGE pumpkins at the grocery store, so I had to settle for the biggest one I could cull from the bottom of a pumpkin display and lug to the cash register in my cart.
Washed and ready, I opted to keep the theme consistent throughout and chopped a squarish-pixel-kinda hole at the top too. All the better for gouging the guts from and prepping for the carving-proper.
See my little pixel-shaped brain hole?
I find that a lot of folks are too eager to cut right through the pumpkin shell, too. Something I’ve really discovered in recent years is the careful art of pumpkin detail: shaving the thick orange rind off a few millimeters deep and exposing the softer flesh as part of the design.
The shading-styled pixels in the original appear in the stencil as those trimmed sort-of details. One normally slices the pattern a shade into the rind with a sharp knife, then very carefully wedges the same knife into a delicate, prying position to slice laterally the top bit of thick rind from the surface. This action exposes the softer flesh (as I noted before) leaving a paler bit of detail work behind.
It’s also great for doing teeth on traditional designs.
What happens though, then, is that when your pumpkin is sitting out in the dark of evening with a candle glowing inside, there is a different lighting quality to those bits of detail.
It’s fairly spooky.
Some of the edges are not as neat and straight as I would have liked.
(And it would have looked awesome with a square pumpkin, of course.)
But for a little more than an hour’s labour — watched carefully by one impatient little girl — the results were pretty Minecraft-y. And considering I probably would have spent the time just playing Minecraft instead… hey… this works too.
There are a whole lot more photos — and some Halloween evening images too — in my gallery. Feel free to post links to your own pumpkin art below. Or start submitting suggestions for NEXT HALLOWEEN!