Intro: Why'd It Have to Be Snakes?!
Sometimes pumpkins have to be snakes.
Step 1: Draw
Step one is always scribbly, and this was no exception.
The initial idea was one big coiled snake, then it turned into two big snakes arching around each other in somewhat ying-yangish fashion, then I added more snakes for the hell of it. The challenge was tangling up a bunch of snakes without getting lost, so during the scribbling I ended up doing more shading than I would otherwise, leaving a relatively idiot-proof set of instructions for myself to follow.
Step 2: Hack
The first thing I did was remove the large, non-snake chunks; the negative space between the illustrations. This meant slicing out a bunch of small triangles, leaving a little extra pumpkin around each snake. After that I had enough room to reach the pumpkin guts, so I cleaned out the inside and was left with a heavily perforated pumpkin.
Step 3: Cut and Curve
I traced the outer line of each snake using small wood carving tools, keeping in mind which snake parts needed to be in front and which ones needed to look as if they coiled behind. The challenge is to create enough depth for the snakes to wriggle comfortably, limited by the thickness of the pumpkin, which in this case was close to two inches.
The images in this step show the process of getting one snake behind another one: the coil in front is pretty straightforward - you just round it off. But the coil in back has to arc steeply toward the center of the pumpkin until it's believably "behind" the one in front.
There's really not much else going on here; all of the other snakes basically follow the same procedure. I had smaller snakes coiling around the two larger snakes, which looked cool, but also helped keep the structure together.
The initial scribbles spelled out only side-to-side wiggling, basically on an x and y axis. But as the snakes became snakier, I was also able to add some in-and-out wiggling: coils that were all by themselves (not arcing around other coils) could still play within that two-inch limit, curving inward and outward on the z-axis, as well as up and down and left and right. I think that helped make this look more like a pile of snakes just being snakes.
Step 4: Details, Details...
These snakes ended up mostly looking like grumpy jerks, but a couple of them seem nice. Like that little tiny one all wrapped around the big one, he's pretty cute. And there's that other, bigger one looks like he's smiling. But yeah, the other ones? Jerks.
Step 5: Add Scales
At this point I had quite a tangle of snakes, and I wanted he two "original" snakes to show up better. So (inspired by Ray Villafane's classic and creepy "Medusa") I cut a grid of lines into the two "main" snakes for a scaly effect which helped set them apart from the others.
Step 6: Paint
I brushed some thinned black paint over the more textured areas to show the detail a bit better, and called it done.
At the moment, the pile of snakes are on my front porch, and are beginning a collective lean to one side. My guess is, they've decided that if they can tip all the way over, they'll be able to slither away to freedom. I'll let you know what if any of them go missing.
Thanks for reading!
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