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Monday, October 8, 2012

Halloween Jack-o-Lantern Scratch Art

one of Dad's jack-o-lanterns
Every October since before I was born, my dad has made the best jack-o-lanterns. He would start by buying the biggest pumpkin at the grocery store. Then he'd gather his supplies: a large spoon, a bucket or bowl, a large knife, and a smaller knife. Sometimes he'd sit outside for this annual project while other times, he'd work on it at the kitchen island. Either way, my sisters and I would gather round in great anticipation. No two jack-o-lanterns were ever the same, but one thing was certain. No matter how many times my sisters and I would request a pretty jack-o-lantern or a "little girl" jack-o-lantern, that request was always denied. Nope, Dad's jack-o-lanterns were big and angry! 

I have fond memories of watching him carefully saw open the top, scoop out the seeds and innards, and carefully go about creating the face. It was never the simple triangle features found on our neighbors' front porches. No, his had wrinkles, scars, pointy ears, snaggly teeth, arched eyebrows, and realistic eyes with pupils. Upon completion of his work, we'd turn off the kitchen lights and wait with abated breath for the grand finale when he'd add a lit votive to illuminate its scary features. Then we always stood in awe.

Once I grew up, married, and moved into my own house, Dad still created his Halloween masterpieces for each of his daughters. He'd drive to our houses to deliver his hand-made works of art to display by our own front doors. I loved it! I didn't dare try making my own even though about this time, stores started selling those pumpkin-carving kits, complete with ornate templates. I felt like those kits were cheating. 

one of my sad attempts of a scary jack-o-lantern
In 2004, my husband was relocated to a new city, so my dad would not be delivering his jack-o-lantern to our house. It was up to me to replicate one of his. I bought a medium pumpkin, grabbed a large spoon, and a couple of knives, and set to work on our back patio table while my two little boys (aged 3 years and 11 months) stood watch. Could I duplicate my dad's masterpieces? I tried, but I never realized how unyielding that pumpkin's flesh could be. Scooping out the seeds was the easy part. For fear that I'd end up with a lost finger or a gaping gash with blood squirting over my two freaked out witnesses, I tried to be as cautious as possible and questioned my reasoning for refusing to cheat with a carving kit. However, I managed a lopsided jack-o-lantern and was mildly proud of my attempt. 

The following year, I found large plastic pumpkins at Michael's on sale after Halloween. I had an idea! I would have my dad carve one of these, so we would forever have one of his originals! During his next visit, even though it was no where near Halloween at the time, he graciously set out to carve one of his jack-o-lanterns so his grandsons wouldn't be denied his handy work. They sat next to him on the sofa as he went to work. That was about seven years ago, and even though we've since moved back to my hometown where my dad is able to carve us a real jack-o-lantern that he proudly delivers before dusk on Halloween, I still have the plastic one and display it inside our house.

Dad carved one of his special jack-o-lanterns for my son's kindergarten class.
While I loved watching my dad carve those pumpkins, a part of me longed to make my own, but I was too young to yield a knife, so the most I could do was help scoop out the seeds. That certainly didn't satisfy my creative desires. This year, I've figured out a fun way to get my children into the pumpkin carving spirit. Yes, I know we could buy each child a pumpkin to paint, and we've done that in the past, but I wanted an activity even easier and cheaper, one we could do dozens of times if we wanted and not have our house turn into a pumpkin patch.

Then my eight-year-old son came home with an assignment: Decorate this cut-out pumpkin. We could use anything we wanted, but seeing that he pulled it out of his backpack the day before it was due and the day after I'd already made a trip to the craft store, I told him he was stuck with two options: orange scrapbook paper or paint. That's when we realized he could carve this pumpkin into a jack-o-lantern following the scratch art concept from our Summer Bucket List.

We gathered our supplies:
  • pumpkin cut out of card stock
  • crayons
  • newspaper
  • sponge paint brush
  • orange tempera paint
  • Dawn dish soap
  • cup and stirring stick
  • paper clip
 Originally, he colored with all sorts of crayons, but when it came to painting the pumpkin, we realized the orange paint couldn't cover the darker colors. We flipped the paper over and began again.  

This time, he stuck with green on the stem and yellow all over the pumpkin. I had already mixed the orange tempera paint with a couple drops of the Dawn dish soap, so he was ready to paint. He went off with his dad and brothers to attend a school football game while the paint dried.

That evening, he scratched off the stem and started carving out his pumpkin's face using a paperclip. Lacking the scars, eye brows, and ears of his grandfather's jack-o-lanterns, his looked more common place, but he had fun making it, and I was relieved that our project was finished before bedtime. 

Whether it's for a school project or just a fun autumn activity, I hope you'll give our scratch art jack-o-lanterns a try with your children. And if you do, please share them on my Facebook page or Google +!   

I'll be sharing this post at some of these parties here or here  




  1. very creative post! would you like to follow each other in gfc? let me know!

  2. followed you back :)

  3. Even at 41, my fine motor skills are nada, so I'm always impressed when I see things like this ... well done, and SO much fun to feast your eyes on!

    Found you via the blog hop and am now following along!

    Come on over and visit this little light when you can! {}

  4. Hi there..i'm your newest follower !! You have sucha beautiful lil princess!! stopping by from blog hop & I would soo love it if you could return the favour. Thnx :)

  5. Awesome! I love the scratch off idea:) Thanks for linking up!

  6. This looks so neat! I'm going to have to try it with my kiddos!

    Found you on the Mommy Brain Mixer.

  7. What a cool idea to draw on it by scratching color off! Thanks for sharing at The Fun In Functional!

  8. great project Bonny, thanks for sharing

  9. This is such a cool idea! My daughter would love it!

    Thanks so much for sharing at Artsy Corner, hope to see you again this week :)

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