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The pumpkin is your canvas: jack-o-lantern lessons from local artists

Be sure to check out the Salvador Dali exhibit at the Rooted Artist Collective.

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It starts with a well-cut lid, moves to removing a gooey inside, then sketching an outline, and, finally, taking a serrated kitchen knife to the canvas that is your pumpkin.

That's the advice put forth by a local York artist, commissioned recently to show off some pumpkin-carving skills and provide the best tips for anyone looking to take their creative inklings to the pumpkin. These tips can be used for the everyday-carver, or for the more experienced artist looking to prove themselves on the Halloween decoration.

Here are some highlights from our discussion with Jessica Flynn, who co-owns The Rooted Artist Collective in York. Flynn showed off some carving skills with the collective's other co-owner, Dustin Nispel.

  • — Think about the pumpkin as a canvas. Size does matter, depending on what you want to carve. Flynn carved an owl, with worked with a short plump pumpkin. 
  • Use a pen to sketch your image. Pencil doesn't show up well, and you don't want to use a permanent marker in case you don't carve out the sketch completely. A wet paper towel can clean off any extra pen.
  • — Tend to avoid store-sold carving tools. They can be too flimsy, Flynn said, and break. "I always go to the kitchen and grab a series of different knives," Flynn said. The best knife? A serrated knife. The smaller, the better, she noted.
  • Don't worry about making mistakes. Flynn likes to think about art world mistakes as separate from real world mistakes. If you make one, they were meant to be and should be incorporated into the piece.
  • — There is one place where you should avoid messing around: be careful cutting the lid or touching it up with extra carving. You want one clean cut as you go around taking the top off. You want that puzzle piece to fit back when you're all done with the pumpkin.
  • — Final tip: buy mini-LED lights for the inside of your pumpkin. They're cheap and sold at most stores. Buy the ones that have a switch to turn on and off.

If you go

What: The Rooted Artist Collective currently has Salvador Dali on display. There are his etchings and other lithographs. 

When: Wednesday through Saturday, noon to 6 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. Month of October.

Where: 101 N. Newberry St., York

Cost: All works are up for sale. Prices range from $600 to $70,000.

For more information: Call 717-793-1232 or visit