Spectacularly Spooky Pumpkin Artist Jon Neill

Photograph by John Calpin

The Laguna College of Art and Design instructor has produced sculptures and illustrations for the film and TV industry for more than 20 years, but his other claim to fame is his ability to transform pumpkins into intricate works of art. He competed on season three of Food Network’s “Halloween Wars” and was season four’s champion carver. Why pumpkins as a medium? “I love Halloween, and there’s something great about going over the top with traditions.”

Pumpkin of choice?

Something big and dramatic, different from what you’d find at the market. I like it to have some character to it. That helps me imagine what face I can carve into it.

Do you sketch before carving?

I don’t work with a sketch, but I often put a mirror in front of me and light my face from above so that I get strong shadows. I’ll make a fun expression and translate that into pumpkin anatomy, so to speak.

How long does the carving take? 

Five to 10 hours. And I have to do it in one sitting so the skin won’t go rubbery before I’m finished.


I don’t cut into the center of the pumpkin if I can help it. As long as you don’t expose the middle of the pumpkin to air, it’ll last a long time.

 Do you carve anything else?

Potatoes, apples, butternut squash, radishes, even leeks. I carve vegetables into Christmas characters, too.

See His Work!
Check neillartstudios.com for a list of upcoming events.

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