Amazingly enough, Centreville pumpkin-carver Noel Dickover never took art classes in school. And he'd love to someday take a sculpting course "to learn to do it better."
Meanwhile, what he does is pretty impressive.
"All year long, I'll save pictures that I think would make good patterns — things with striking contrasts," he said. Then he does both pumpkin carving and sculpting.
"In pumpkin carving, the pumpkin is just the canvas and disappears in the dark so only the design is visible when lit," explained Dickover. "In pumpkin sculpting, the pumpkin itself is the object that people notice."
The dragon from the fantasy book, "Eragon," is an example of pumpkin carving. And the Shrek bust Dickover will create on a pumpkin this Halloween will illustrate pumpkin sculpting. Interestingly enough, he got the idea from a plastic replica of Shrek filled with children's bubble bath and decided it would translate well to a pumpkin.
When he first began this hobby, to transfer a design to a pumpkin, he either made or downloaded the pattern, taped it to the pumpkin and then outlined it with hundreds of tiny holes made by a small, punching tool from a craft store. Then he'd carve out the pieces with woodworking tools — little, V- or U-shaped gouges.
But in 2004, Dickover started using artist's graphite — also called "transfer paper" — placing it between the pumpkin and the paper pattern. And it was a vast improvement. "It's easier to follow a complex pattern that way because I can outline it with a pen onto the pumpkin," he said.
Dickover usually carves all his pumpkins in the last five days before Halloween. When finished, he sprays their interiors and exteriors with Lysol to kill any fungus or bacteria.
Then he coats the carved designs with petroleum jelly to keep them from drying out, covers the pumpkins with Saran wrap and places them in the refrigerator until showtime. He keeps the huge, 70- 120-pound pumpkins in the basement.
Actually, says Dickover, www.carvingpumpkins.com contains lots of free patterns and advice, so people wanting to give pumpkin carving a whirl could begin there. "Anybody could carve Scooby or SpongeBob — they're not that hard," he said. "My kids carve pumpkins every year."
Son Justin, 13, attends Liberty Middle School, and daughter Sarah, 8, goes to Centreville Elementary. "Justin made a 'Family Guy' pumpkin last year and the kids loved it," said his proud dad. "I think he'll do a 'Simpsons' one this year, and Sarah will do a dolphin."
Dickover's wife Nam, originally from Korea, adorned a pumpkin with the image of Rain — the top singer and TV-drama star in her native country. "I did the pattern for her from a CD cover, and she carved it," he said. "Carving pumpkins is a big, family thing with us."