- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 25, 2003

‘Tis the season for pumpkin carving, and here are some tips from professional gourd artist Hugh McMahon of Brooklyn, N.Y., on how to make the best of it:

• Pick a pumpkin that suits the design: “If you’re doing a portrait, you need a tall pumpkin. But if you’re doing a cat, for example, you’d probably want a rounder pumpkin,” says Mr. McMahon, who specializes in pumpkin portraits of such celebrities as Martha Stewart and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

• A lighter-colored pumpkin will glow better.

• Keep the pumpkin in a cool place.

• Cut the underside of the pumpkin to clean out the seeds. When cutting the underside, make sure the pumpkin can stand and has good balance.

• For portraiture, pumpkin-carving tools are not sharp enough. Mr. McMahon uses vegetable and fruit knives as well as an Exacto knife for precision cutting. Children, however, should use duller pumpkin-carving tools, he says.

In his designs, Mr. McMahon sometimes doesn’t cut through the pumpkin completely but leaves a sheer layer of pumpkin wall to create shadows and other details.

• Use a water-based marker to work on the design on the pumpkin itself. The design also can be done on a piece of paper and then traced onto the pumpkin.

• In picking a design, Mr. McMahon urges adults and children to “use your imagination, do something you wouldn’t normally see.” Beginners should keep designs simple, though, avoiding too many curves and angles.

• When you have finished carving, spray the pumpkin with lemon juice, which will make it last longer.

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