How did you get into pumpkin sculpting?

I’m a computer animator here in Raleigh, so I spend all day inside on the computer. I like to work with my hands, so I pick up various other hobbies. Pumpkin sculpting started out as a hobby. I’m a big fan of Halloween; it’s my second favorite holiday, and the whole jack-o’-lantern thing was always interesting. I found out about five years back that people were actually sculpting pumpkins, and I picked it up from there. It’s addictive. I started taking it more seriously after about a year or so. I learned as much as I could as fast as I could.

How did you hear about this Food Network opportunity?

I saw a couple of images online, and that’s what got me interested, seeing pumpkins fashioned in a different way. As I started to explore that, and seeing people like Deane Arnold and Sue Beatrice—all of these people had been on Halloween Wars. After a couple of years, I actually found the show on The Food Network channel and binged all the seasons. I told my wife, “I’m going on that show.” If you want to get better, you have to challenge yourself. That’s where the best pumpkin carvers were. So I wanted to go be with them and learn from them.

What makes your pumpkin sculpting style unique, and how did you develop it? 

I learned just like every artist learns: by copying. If you’re a painter, initially, you learn by copying all the artists over in Europe, by sketching “David” and the “Mona Lisa,” and eventually, you develop your own style. So you see other pumpkin sculptors’ styles, and you sort of play with them. I do a number of different art techniques, character cartooning, that sort of thing. I pull that into my sculptures and make them 3D, instead of just linework, by adding form to them. Lately I’ve been playing lately with going off photo references and getting more of the subtleties of the facial expressions and the folds of the skin, trying to find references online of people making extreme faces and getting the flavor of that. The team [on the show] is so very supportive. If I have a question about any technique, I can hop online, get in touch with them, and they’re happy to share. We’ve had Zoom carving sessions with butternut squashes because pumpkins are seasonal, and we like to keep it moving and fresh. Everybody there—not only the pumpkin carvers, but the cake makers and the sugar artists, too—is so talented. You can’t come off that show without learning something. The stories they tell with these displays are pretty incredible, too. It’s fun to be a part of, and it’s fun to watch.

Halloween Wars airs on The Food Network at 9:00 p.m. on Sundays.

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