“I have a short attention span,” admits Reynoldsburg, Ohio-based graphic designer and fine artist, Deane Arnold. “Whether it’s painting or scrimshaw, I work in whatever medium I’m drawn to at the time.” Come autumn, however, the Dutchess County native only has eyes for pumpkins.
In 2012, after noticing elaborate jack o’ lanterns hand-carved by other artists, Arnold started whittling his own creations. Although he’s not guided by any particular design inspiration, his goal is simple: “I want each pumpkin to have a personality. But because this is a celebration of Halloween, it either needs to look scary or silly.” One of them might bear a furrowed brow, another an angry, agape mouth. An axe is plunged into the head of one of his pumpkins; deep-sunken eyes shuttered in peaceful repose distinguish another.
“Each carving is a challenge for me to see what I can improve upon. Sometimes I want to concentrate on the nose, other times the teeth,” Arnold explains.
When he first started, Arnold dreamed up about 20 different versions on pumpkins bought at the grocery store; now he’s committed to churning out one a day for the duration of fall and has been called on for special commissions. When he leads four-hour demonstrations at local farms, crowds queue up to see the artist in action.
Throughout the season, at least half a dozen of Arnold’s pumpkins grace his front yard at any given time — “until they rot, because that’s what happens. There’s nothing you can do to stall the process,” he points out — and says the feeling is a “little freaky. They all look like they are part of a special gathering, living in their own world.”
Meet him in person this weekend, when Arnold takes to Soons Orchard in New Hampton (September 26, 1-5 p.m.); Hurd’s Family Farm in Modena (September 27, 1-4 p.m.); and Barton Orchards in Poughquag (September 28, 11 a.m.-5 p.m.).
Ed. note: An earlier version of this article included an image of someone we incorrectly identified as the artist. This article has been updated to reflect an actual photo of Mr. Arnold. Thanks to reader Fred Jodsworth Boak for the correction.