While many people can carve impressive pumpkins, very few can match the extraordinary works of art created by Arizona-based sculptor, Ray Villafane. The two-time winner of Food Network's Outrageous Pumpkin Challenge does not just carve pumpkins - He magically turns the fruit into 3-D sculptures - Ghoulish ones of course.
Ray's sculpting talent was discovered quite accidently. After graduating from the school of Visual Arts in New York City in 1991, he decided to pursue a career as an art teacher in Bellaire, Michigan.
Faced with a pumpkin carving project one Halloween, he decided to tackle it like he was molding a sculpture out of clay, rather than carving a fruit. While he thought it turned out okay, the kids loved it so much, that they kept bringing in pumpkins for him to carve. That's when he realized he may have some hidden talent and began to offer them to local hotels and restaurants.
Ray enjoyed it so much that he decided to try his hand at professional sculpting. He was so good that he left his teaching job and joined DC comics where he spends his days 'sculpting' wax prototypes of toys and action figures like Sabretooth, Magneto, and The Punisher.
Meanwhile, pumpkin carving remained his favorite fall hobby, and only the locals knew how good he was. Then in 2007, he was asked to participate in Food Network's Outrageous Pumpkin Challenge - He not only won against three professional carvers, but the show was so popular, that he was invited again in 2010. Of course, he was the best again!
Today, Ray's Halloween pumpkins are world-famous with fans eagerly awaiting his ghoulish carvings every year. While his pumpkins may look out of this world, Ray who spends about two hours on each masterpiece, says that he uses the most basic pumpkin carving tools. His key to success is the fruit he selects - Big and heavy, so that there is plenty of flesh to sculpt with and, gnarly instead of perfectly round, to add character to his creations.
What's even more interesting is that Ray has no drawing or even a preconceived idea of what he is going to carve when he begins. He sometimes sketches an outline on the gourd, but most times, he just looks at the shape of the fruit, for inspiration.
And, if that is not enough carving, the artist has now taken up sand sculpting and is being invited all over the world to create and showcase his incredible sand art talent. To check out some more ghoulish pumpkins and pictures of Ray's other sculptures go to villafanestudios.com.
Resources: ifc.com, villafanestudios.com, dailymail.co.uk