Happiness is a decorated pumpkin – tips, tricks and contest

Pumpkins are one of the keenest things to decorate, a perfect canvas for ghoulish faces, scary scenes or a pair of skeletal dogs modeled after Sawyer and Phoebe.

Phoebe and Sawyer/Art and photo by Ryn Gargulinski

Phoebe and Sawyer/Art and photo Ryn Gargulinski

Follow some easy tips to get your pumpkin ready for our photo contest.


Avoid pumpkins that are mushy, stinky or have big slashes that ooze out innards. Opt for one that sounds like a wooden skull when you knock on it.

You can pick your pumpkins from an over-priced roadside stand or a run-of-the-mill supermarket where they cost about $5 each.

Supermarket pumpkins should be taken through the self=checkout, where the correct price code will invariably not be keyed into the system. This allows you to hold up the line while people behind you with a single half-gallon of milk shuffle their feet and sigh loudly.

Sawyer liked Phoebe's pumpkin enough to eat/Art and photo Ryn Gargulinski

Sawyer says Phoebe's pumpkin was good enough to eat/Art and photo Ryn Gargulinski


Even though paint can stick to your thigh for weeks on end, it’s still less messy than the carving. Painters tape is helpful to keep the paint where you want it. Either make a border around the eyes, nose, mouth and hair or do a “reverse negative” effect like I did with the Sawyer and Phoebe pumpkins.

Spray paint is a good choice, or you can use paint markers or those large graffiti markers that make your head spin when you sniff them.

Spray with sealer to deter dogs.


Before you even think of carving a pumpkin, you need to properly prepare. Thoroughly mop, scour and disinfect the floor and general area where you’ll be working, then cover it with an inadequate amount of newspaper. This way you can fret and swear when the pumpkin guts spew all over and ruin everything you just cleaned.

AZMouse's infamous Sarah Palin pumpkin and two others/submitted photo

AZMouse's infamous Sarah Palin pumpkin and two others/submitted photo

Get yourself one of those chintzy Pumpkin Carving Kits with little blades and cheap plastic handles so you can swear some more when they break.

Draw your design with pencil on the pumpkin so you can erase any remaining lines. Then carve away.

Begin by cutting a circle around the stem so you can scoop out the innards. Painstakingly clean all the stringy guts off the seeds then bake the seeds on a cookie sheet for some fine snacks. Swear some more when no one wants to eat them because you burnt them to high heaven and forgot to add salt.

Finish off your carving by carefully cutting along those pencil lines you drew. Throw everything into a compost heap – except your finished pumpkin – then display proudly on the porch until someone runs off with it to smash it in the middle of the street.

Happy Halloween.

Phoebe refrained from eating the pumpkins. Good girl./Art and photo Ryn Gargulinski

Phoebe refrained from eating the pumpkins. Good girl./Art and photo Ryn Gargulinski

Pumpkin decorating contest

Send us your pumpkin pictures for our decorating contest. All types of pumpkin art welcome. Entries will be showcased on Rynski’s Blogski. Please e-mail to rynski@tucsoncitizen.com

Photos must be received by Saturday, Oct. 31 – Halloweeeeeen!

Winner gets a lifetime supply of burnt, unsalted pumpkin seeds or Rynart, whichever Sawyer says.


What’s the worse pumpkin decorating experience you ever had? The best?

Are you into smashing pumpkins? Shame on you.


About Rynski

Writer, artist, performer who specializes in the weird, wacky and sometimes creepy. Learn more at ryngargulinski.com.
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21 Responses to Happiness is a decorated pumpkin – tips, tricks and contest

  1. leftfield says:

    Don’t forget the pumpkin seeds.  I soak mine in brine overnight and then bake them to a light tan color.  Lots of good fiber and tasty too.

  2. radmax says:

    Mornin’ Rynski! Was it hard to do the artistry on your uneven pumpkin canvas? Regardless, they turned out smashing!
    I usually wait ’till a couple of days before the big night to carve, as they don’t hold up very well in our 90 degree heat.
    PS-Those aren’t those plastic punkins, are they? 🙂

    • Rynski says:

      mornin’ radmax – thanks for sawyerphoebepumpkin compliment! the artistry was not too tough on the uneven canvas – but taking a good photo without an obnoxious glare was! carve yours next wed so you can enter the contest! should i move the deadline then if people wait to carve? i’m used to painting them, which can be done any time.
      no, not plastic punkins – although i did get fooled at Michael’s when i saw a large outside bin full of gorgeous pumpkins! only to run over and find they were fake. went for holding up self-checkout line at supermarket instead.

      • radmax says:

        Ha! I had a similar experience with a cranky old ha…er…nice older lady, at Fry’s. I was taking my stuff out of the cart, which my girlfriend had at a different checkout, when ‘cuddles’ comes over, pushes my stuff out of the way, and grumbled continuously about the fact that the cart was in another checkout. Maybe her Depends were leaking…

      • Jennatoolz says:

        LOL!! I love people sometimes. 🙂

      • Rynski says:

        cuddles!! i’ll bet she’s so angry because she never decorates pumpkins. i’m under the impression that folks who don’t decorate pumpkins are kind of like folks who don’t like animals – grumpy and mean.

      • leftfield says:

        Do you have a diffuser for your flash?

      • Rynski says:

        no diffuser – but i was even having trouble with the flash OFF as every small shred of light was wanting to reflect. i was about the smash the dang things (haha).

  3. Marie says:

    We’ve always carved pumpkins, but now, looking at Rynski’s pumpkins, I’m thinkin’ paint is the way to go.   They look great!  

    Leftfield beat me to the pumpkin seeds comment.  Knoshing on pumpkin seeds IS the best thing about Halloween pumpkins.  

    • Rynski says:

      you guys must have a magic touch with pumpkin seeds! the only homemade version i’ve ever witnessed were really disgusting. thanks for paint compliment! hope i get to see what you come up with for the photo contest!

  4. Jennatoolz says:

    OHH my boyfriend and I weren’t going to carve pumpkins this Halloween because we didn’t want to deal with the mess…however, I may just talk him into it now!
    This reminds me…we bought some spooky decorations at Walmart this past weekend, and the cashier was asking us if carving pumpkins was hard…she claims she’d never carved one before. She must have been seriously deprived as a child!! 😛

    • Rynski says:

      wow – she never carved a pumpkin? that’s like never riding a bike, no? you should have told her it was easy with those crappy Carve a Pumkin kits (haha). if you don’t want the mess, go with paint! you can get paint off your thigh (or any skin) with generous amounts of baby oil, by the way.

      • Jennatoolz says:

        Lol good to know about the baby oil!

        I told the cashier that it was fun and that she should try it if she doesn’t mind making a mess. Then she changed the topic completely, and asked me if I liked the color green…haha.

        I’m excited now, I’ll probably go buy a pumpkin and carve it myself this Saturday since the boyfriend will be working all day. 😀

      • Rynski says:

        yaaay!!! send the photo, for sure!
        promise prize in punkin contest will take less time than the tattoo design i’m creating for you! (i keep changing my mind…you’ll see!)

      • Jennatoolz says:

        Hahah, no worries, take your time! 😀

        I’ll definitely send over some pics! Looks like I’ve got some tough competition with AZmouse in the mix! Those pumpkins look amazing…but to that, I say….Bring it on!! 😉

      • Rynski says:

        oh, goodie – bring it on!
        yes, azmouse has a definite talent for carving pumpkins!

  5. azmouse says:

    Okay Jennatoolz, I’m ready and hoping  to win more Rynart!

    Yours look great, Ryn! I usually don’t carve till the night before Halloween. Can we expand the date until midnight on the 30th??

    I’m tempted to make my buddy Leftfield a Fidel Castro pumpkin……

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