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The Art of the Jack-O-Lantern: More than just a pretty face!

Streeter Seidell explained the history of the pumpkin made into a Halloween Jack-O-Lantern yesterday in 7 Burning Halloween Questions: Answered! Once it became a tradition, the carving of the pumpkin has evolved into an art form, and in many places, a competition. Everyone knows who the best pumpkin carver in your neighborhood is. Many communities have pumpkin carving contests. And on the internet, all you have to do is post a picture and your jack-o-lantern will be judged and compared to the best in the world. Here are some of them.

3D Jack-O-Lanterns

Ray Villafane is a master of pumpkin carving. This Predator pumpkin shows off his 3D technique. You'll also find intricately-detailed cartoonish faces of all kinds on his site, as well as a tutorial on how to make your own 3D Jack-O-Lantern!

Fantasy Pumpkins

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Noel Dickover carves designs from science fiction and fantasy. One of his more popular designs is the Death Star Jack-O-Lantern, which he carved into a 120 pound pumpkin over a period of nine hours in 2006. Dickover's website Fantasy Pumpkins has a tutorial on carving the Death Star, and patterns you can use for many other icons and characters.

Pumpkin Gutter

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Scott Cummins is an artist by trade, but this time of year he turns into the Pumpkin Gutter. See the dozens of Jack-O-Lanterns he's carved over the past dozen years or so in the galleries.

Extreme Pumpkins

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Tom Nardone does Extreme Pumpkins, a site that will fire your imagination beyond Jack-O-Lanterns with traditional smiles. There, you'll find flaming pumpkins, drowning pumpkins, puking pumpkins, mooning pumpkins, conjoined twin pumpkins, cannibal pumpkins, radioactive pumpkins, and pumpkins that have been wounded by guns, axes, and other implements of destruction. Extreme Pumpkins has a pumpkin carving contest every year.

The Toothy Look

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Nathan Wesling of Pumpkin Way tends to emphasize teeth in his pumpkin carvings. He posts his carved Jack-O-Lanterns for ecards, wallpapers, and screen savers.

World of Warcraft

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Last year, World of Warcraft sponsored a pumpkin carving contest that attracted quite a few wonderful designs. This geeky Jack-O-Lantern by Keeff stood out among the game characters.

Yes We Carve

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With a presidential election so soon after Halloween, it was inevitable that Jack-O-Lanterns are used to display the carver's political leanings. This "Barack O'Lantern" by Scott Gierman of Marion, Illinois is one of many featured at Yes We Carve.

Pumpkin Artists for Hire

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You don't have to be talented, or even experienced, to have an expertly-carved Jack-O-Lantern. Masterpiece Pumpkins is a professional pumpkin carving service to do it for you! They will carve or etch a design onto either a pumpkin or watermelon, including your own portrait if you like, or they can come and give a pumpkin carving demonstration.

Snap-O-Lantern

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From Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories comes a Jack-O-Lantern wired to snap its teeth open and shut! The Snap-O-Lantern has a hinged jaw controlled by a tiny servo motor. Instructions for making your own are included, plus a video.

Painted Pumpkins

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If you want to keep your pumpkin intact for cooking, or if you just don't like carving, painting your pumpkin may be the way to go. Tagyerit Presents Painted Pumpkins has a large collection of submitted painted pumpkins from all over. Terri Matschilles painted this pumpkin for her daughter's kindergarten class in Munich.

If you'd like to try some art Jack-O-Lanterns, there are plenty of web resources to help you out. First, some basic carving tips. Here are instructions for adapting a photograph into a pumpkin-carving design. The Pumpkin Wizard offers free carving patterns and a forum for carvers.

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The Simple Optical Illusion That Makes an Image Look Like It's Drawing Itself
iStock
iStock

Artist James Nolan Gandy invents robot arms that sketch intricate mathematical shapes with pen and paper. When viewed in real time, the effect is impressive. But it becomes even more so when the videos are sped up in a timelapse. If you look closely in the video below, the illustration appears to materialize faster than the robot can put the design to paper. Gizmodo recently explained how the illusion works to make it look like parts of the sketch are forming before the machine has time to draw them.

The optical illusion isn’t an example of tricky image editing: It’s the result of something called the wagon wheel effect. You can observe this in a car wheel accelerating down the highway or in propeller blades lifting up a helicopter. If an object makes enough rotations per second, it can appear to slow down, move backwards, or even stand still.

This is especially apparent on film. Every “moving image” we see on a screen is an illusion caused by the brain filling in the gaps between a sequence of still images. In the case of the timelapse video below, the camera captured the right amount of images, in the right order, to depict the pen as moving more slowly than it did in real life. But unlike the pen, the drawing formed throughout the video isn't subject to the wagon-wheel effect, so it still appears to move at full speed. This difference makes it look like the sketch is drawing itself, no pen required.

Gandy frequently shares behind-the-scenes videos of his mechanical art on his Instagram page. You can check out some of his non-timelapse clips like the one below to better understand how his machines work, then visit his website to browse and purchase the art made by his 'bots.

And if you think his stuff is impressive, make sure to explore some of the incredible art robots have made in the past.

[h/t Gizmodo]

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Tessa Angus
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Surprising Sculptures Made From Fallen Feathers
Kate MccGwire, Orchis, 2012
Kate MccGwire, Orchis, 2012
Tessa Angus

Kate MccGwire is a British sculptor with an unusual medium: feathers. Her surreal, undulating works often take the form of installations—the feathers spilling out of a drain, a stove, a crypt wall—or stand-alone sculptures in which antique bell jars, cabinets, or trunks contain otherworldly shapes.

MccGwire developed her obsession with feathers after moving to a studio barge on the Thames in 2006, as she explains in a video from Crane.tv recently spotlighted by Boing Boing. The barge was near a large shed full of feral pigeons, whose feathers she would spot on her way to work. "I started picking them up and laying them out, collecting them," she remembers. "And after about two weeks I had like 300 feathers." At the time, concerns about bird flu were rife, which made the feathers seem "dangerous as well as beautiful."

When not supplied by her own next-door menagerie, the feathers for her artwork come from a network of racing pigeon societies all over the UK, who send her envelopes full every time the birds molt. Farmers and gamekeepers also send her fallen feathers from birds such as magpies, pheasants, and roosters.

The cultural associations around birds are a big part of what inspires MccGwire. “The dove is the symbol of peace, purity, and fertility," she told ArtNews in 2013, "but it’s exactly the same species as a pigeon—which everyone regards as being dirty, foul, a pest.”

The same duality is present in her own work, which she frequently shares on her Instagram account. “I want to seduce by what I do—but revolt in equal measure. It’s really important to me that you’ve got that rejection of things you think you know for sure.”

You can see some pictures of MccGwire's work, and watch the video from Crane.tv, below.

Kate MccGwire's installation "Evacuate"
Evacuate, 2010
J Wilde

Kate MccGwire's sculpture "Convolous"
Convolous, 2015
JP Bland

Kate MccGwire's installation "Gyre"
Gyre, 2012
Tessa Angus

Kate MccGwire's sculpture "Gag"
Gag, 2009
JP Bland

Kate MccGwire's sculpture "Writhe"
Writhe, 2010
Tessa Angus

Kate MccGwire's sculpture "Quell"
Quell, 2011
Tessa Angus

Kate MccGwire's sculpture "Taunt"
Taunt, 2012
Tessa Angus

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