Looking for some inspiration for your Halloween pumpkin? Then you might want to check out American sculptor and artist, Ray Villafane’s masterpieces. The two-time winner of the Food Network show, “Outrageous Pumpkins,” does not just “carve” pumpkins. He transforms them into 3-D sculptures — ghoulish ones of course!
Ray, who now resides in Arizona, was born and raised in Queens, New York. In 1993, after graduating from New York's School of Visual Arts, he joined a school in Bellaire, Michigan as an art teacher. One Halloween, Ray put his artistic talents to work by “sculpting” a pumpkin. It was so extraordinary that he was inundated with pumpkin carving requests from students. Realizing that he may have an unusual talent, the teacher began selling his “sculptures” to neighborhood hotels and restaurants. Sure enough, they were a huge success.
In 2004, Ray accepted a part-time position sculpting toys for Marvel Comics. His "practice" creation of X-Men's Wolverine as Logan was so good, that the company immediately put it into production. Over the next two years, Ray designed many wax prototypes of toys and action figures, including, Sabretooth, Magneto, and The Punisher. In 2006, Ray finally resigned from his teaching job and accepted a full-time position with DC Comics, where he worked until 2010.
Since then, the Picasso of pumpkin carving has been busy showcasing his talent for pumpkin carvings in the fall, and massive sand sculptures, in the summer. For the past four years, the artist extraordinaire and his team of equally talented sculptors, have also been commissioned with transforming the New York Botanical Garden into a spooky Halloween wonderland.
This year’s exhibit, which runs through October 30, focuses on scarecrows. Entitled “From Heartland to Horror,” it explores the evolution of scarecrows from their role in agriculture to cultural icons in movies and comic books. While viewing the exhibit in the daytime is fun, the eye-popping pumpkin scarecrows are best seen when they come to life after 3:00 p.m. every day.
Though his pumpkins may look out of this world, Ray, who spends about two hours on each of the smaller masterpieces, says that he uses the most basic carving tools. His key to success is the fruit he selects — big and heavy so that there is plenty of flesh for sculpting. Ray also prefers pumpkins that have lots of lines and curves because they help add character to his creations.
Wish to show off your pumpkin carving skills to the maestro? Then you might want to participate in the inaugural Villafane Studios Pumpkin Contest by posting an image of your creation on the studio’s Facebook fan page before November 15. With six categories to choose from, including ones for kids and teens, there is a chance for everyone to showcase their spooky pumpkins to both Ray and the rest of the world!
Resources: nybg.org, villafanestudios.com, wikipedia.org