So, you've got your pumpkins all wiped down and ready to go... take a deep breath and just start. Trust the stencil and cut slightly inside of the line - you can always shave out a bit more if the opening is too small, but you can't put back what's been cut. Orb-viously.
It's easier to carve a standard jack-o-lantern kind of face, with eyes, nose, and teeth since the sizes and shapes of these can be determined by the artist. It's when you do movie or TV characters, or celebrities that things can get tricky.
When I start out for the year, I like to do one I've done before, if I can. I've got cut-memory, if you will. This Thriller Michael Jackson was a good one to offer for the fundraiser event they were intended for, since most people know who it is, and it's cool-looking for the tiny kids who have no idea who Michael Jackson is, without being too scary. (Plus is was "easy" for me, since I've cut him before.)
MJ remains one of my all-time favourites.
'Cause this is Thriller...
I decide what stencil I'll work on, not necessarily by what I hope it will look like in the end, but rather by noting all the places I have to cut on the stencil. Some look easy as pie, until you notice the teeny-tiny places that seem nearly impossible to wield the knife around. And it's the details that make the final image work best - depending on how you hack it, it may not be so forgiving.
In keeping with the let's-not-scare-the-children-too-much idea, (and in trying to cut one I've wanted to try for a while) this scarecrow wasn't easy at all, but because of the artistic relief of the grasses and things, if it wasn't as perfect as the original, I knew it would still look fine. The cut marks were SO SMALL. And the beaks on the birds? Holy crap. I lost the handle on my hatchet in the fence post at the last minute too *swears and cries* Crap! Balls!! Mutherfaaaaark... But, it was still okay. These things look so much better in the dark of night.
Scarier in person, yo.
And don't be fooled by the "simplicity" of a stencil. Some of the hardest ones I've ever done were ones I thought I'd ace, but turned out to be tougher than I thought. Like, never look a gift stencil in the mouth. Or something like that. Case in point: Superman, the Bastard. I couldn't lose the details in the face or else he wouldn't have looked correct. And just as I was certain I'd ruined it (you can get lost in the detail of the pattern, and cut out parts that are supposed to remain, and vice versa) I turned out the lights and had a gander...
It's a bird... it's a plane... it's a shame I couldn't keep him!!
And sadly, it's fairly impossible to get pictures of lit jack-o-lanterns at 3:15 in the afternoon- you can't capture their true glow until it's truly dark outside, but *shrugs* they needed delivering by 4 PM, so... suck.
But I'm not quite done - I have two days, and three uncarved orbs left... who knows what else I'll make, but I hope to upload better photos next time!