The narrative pumpkin carvings by Boston architectural illustrator Jeff Stikeman don’t use stencils, they aren’t found in Martha Stewart magazine and chances are you haven’t seen anything like them. Here are four of his impressive jack-o-lanterns, each of which tells a story.
Pumpkin Carvings of Jeff Stikeman
These are Pumpkin Lantern Carvings. Meaning, the carving is done like a bas relief – a technique that has become increasingly popular and gives a glowing ‘lantern’ effect. They don’t look as impressive in daylight as completely carved pumpkins might, but turn off the lights and “wow”.
For me, this isn’t carving in the sense of sculpture. I have seen (and am in awe of) the fantastically expert carvings of Ray Villafane, whose pumpkins are I think undeniably the best carved pumpkin sculptures ever done. But for me this is less about sculpture than it is about using the pumpkin as a 2D lantern, with effects from light and dark and shading, made by carving the image to differing depths. The deeper you go, the brighter it gets. It’s a physical negative in a sense.– Jeff Stikeman
Jeff, who specializes in architectural renderings, begins by creating the original concept art prior to carving. His 2014 and 2013 pumpkin carvings are full panoramas. The wonderful anecdotes, facts and tales behind the subjects come from Jeff and I’ve reprinted them here. Be sure to watch the videos as well.
ONE DAY IN POMPEII (2014):
Based on the Diary Entries of Pliny the Elder, the scene is a five foot long wrap-around panorama carved into a 75 pound “Atlantic Giant” pumpkin.
Panoramic view :
The scene is centered on the Great Forum, in Pompeii, in the shadow of Mount Vesuvius.
Pliny’s first diary entries that day are pleasant enough: “Enjoying breakfast on the balcony after a cold bath.” …things changed quickly though.
The carving starts at left, in the morning, showing a peaceful and unsuspecting Pompeii as it stirs to life.
Panning to the right, the scene follows the progression of events known to us through Pliny’s writings: Earthquakes followed by falling flaming rocks raining from the sky.
Flames and flowing lava running down the sides of Vesuvius, a mountain which no one until just then realized was a volcano.
And then, as we pan to far right, the collapse of the standing cloud of ash, ultimately leaving Pompeii buried under twenty feet of ash in just over a day’s time.
The “One Day In Pompeii” relief carving with the lights on:
KONG’S DEMISE (2013):
It wasn’t “beauty that killed the beast”, it was the damned men in planes shooting bullets at him that did it.
I always saw Kong as a sympathetic character, not some giant wild beast that needed to be taught a lesson.
And frankly the whole “falling in love with a tiny human woman” thing wasn’t merely a bit of a stretch, it’s downright inter-species weirdness.
Kong is a peaceable guy, hanging out on his own island, not a care in the world, King of the Jungle. …but along comes Man in a giant metal smoke-belching floating thing, dragging him to Manhattan, and chasing him to the top of the Empire State, where he’s attacked and shot by men in metal birds. Um, guys? This is why we can’t have nice things.
Seriously though. Whales, tigers, elephants… All the great beasts under siege and threatened with extinction. News last week that one Northern White Rhinoceros is left in the wild.
Sure, “King Kong” is just a story. But it isn’t one of a gorilla that falls in love with a human woman and who dies trying to protect her. It’s just an amplified telling of the same age-old tale: Man (capital ‘M’) sees something that scares him, and doesn’t understand, and so decides it needs to be hunted and killed.
Perhaps over the top. But for the past five years or so, all of these pumpkins have an underlying theme: the primal fear that arises when confronted by an unknowable otherworldly phenomenon, beyond one’s control, helpless against it.
The “Kong’s Demise” relief carving with the lights on:
Kong has no idea why he is there, or what is happening to him. That’s some primal fear, in my book.
LONDON UNDER THE BLITZ (2012):
“The Blitz” was an extended nine-month strategic bombing of the U.K. by the German Luftwaffe. In addition to targets of industry and production, the capital of London itself was bombed every single night for nearly two months straight, 57 nights in a row, and 71 nights in total over the nine-month period.
This lantern carving was inspired by the iconic photograph “St. Paul’s Survives”, taken by Herbert Mason from the roof of the Daily Mail. St. Paul’s stood unharmed amid smoke and fire on all sides, the city around it on fire. The photograph became a symbol of British resolve, and was declared the “War’s Greatest Picture”.
The carving starts with the barrage balloons over Tower Bridge, German bombers in the distance and the Thames aglow from distant fire.
Panning along the waterfront and a small gunboat, continuing up across the central image of St. Paul’s behind the still burning debris of destroyed buildings.
Following a trail of rising sparks, we encounter the bombers (Dornier Do17s), and pan down along a building being futilely attacked by firemen on both sides.
The tall columnar monument in the middle of the street is the Monument to the Great Fire of 1666, which had been my original idea for the carving.
The silhouette of a man with walking stick under a blacked-out street lamp, along a smoldering buildings, is a nod to the Londoners’ ability to maintain morale in the face of the onslaught. “Keep calm, and carry on”.
The “London Under The Blitz” relief carving with the lights on:
Though I chose to depict London, the number of cities which could have been chosen for the subject is far too long. Coventry, Dresden, Stalingrad, Hiroshima…. More civilians died in World War II than did soldiers, and heavy bombing played a great part in the tally.
The pumpkin was a 100 pound “Atlantic Giant”, almost 54 inches in circumference. After carving and hollowing, it weighs 37 pounds.
LAST VOYAGE OF THE WHALER RECOMPYNSE 1810 (2010):
It’s 1810 and a whaling ship in the Pacific is hunting a pair of whales, who escape when the whalers are themselves attacked by ‘men in ships’ (Three flying saucers).
The tall-masted Whaling Ship ‘Recompynse’, in full sail, under attack from other ‘ships’, or flying saucers.
The mothership lifting Longboat No.1 and its crew out of the water with a tractor beam, and bringing them on board to their demise.
The men of The Whaler Recompynse, in longboat No.2, watch helplessly, transfixed and in fear, as their comrades are raised from the water, never to be seen again.
They know now perhaps how the whale feels when one of its own is taken from the water, from close beside it, by men in ships from another world.
A pair of whales escaping their attackers. At left, the tail of a diving humpback. At right, between two clouds, is the spout and arcing back of a humpback rising for a breath, before diving again in the escape.
The “The Last Voyage of the Whaler Recompynse 1810” relief carving with the lights on:
It does not appear that Jeff carved a pumpkin for 2011, but to see his 2009 pumpkin of Dr. Frankenstein’s New Laboratory, go here.
all images, stories and videos courtesy of Jeff Stikeman