Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Happy Halloween Everyone!!!

Well, it's All Hallows Eve - Samhain, festival of the dead, Summers End etc. This holiday whilst not as popular in the UK as it in the United States has a theme that most people love, ghouls and ghosts, pumpkins and fancy dress parties. For me, it's mainly about pumpkins, so without further ado, a few more interesting things for you.

  (from Wikipedia, used with no permission whatsoever!)

Celtic influences

Though the origin of the word Halloween is Christian, the holiday is commonly thought to have pagan roots.[11] Historian Nicholas Rogers, exploring the origins of Halloween, notes that while "some folklorists have detected its origins in Roman feast of Pomona, the goddess of fruits and seeds, or in the festival of the dead called Parentalia, it is more typically linked to the Celtic festival of Samhain", which comes from the Old Irish for "summer's end".[11] Samhain (pronounced SAH-win or SOW-in) was the first and most important of the four quarter days in the medieval Gaelic (Irish, Scottish and Manx)[12] calendar.[13][14] It was held on or about October 31 – November 1 and kindred festivals were held at the same time of year in other Celtic lands; for example the Brythonic Calan Gaeaf (in Wales), Kalan Gwav (in Cornwall) and Kalan Goañv (in Brittany). Samhain is mentioned in some of the earliest Irish literature and many important events in Irish mythology happen or begin on Samhain. It marked the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter or the 'darker half' of the year.[15] This was a time for stock-taking and preparing for the cold winter ahead;[11] cattle were brought back down from the summer pastures and livestock were slaughtered.[15] In much of the Gaelic world, bonfires were lit and there were rituals involving them.[15] Some of these rituals hint that they may once have involved human sacrifice.[16][11] Divination games or rituals were also done at Samhain.[15]
Samhain (like Beltane) was seen as a time when the 'door' to the Otherworld opened enough for the souls of the dead, and other beings such as fairies, to come into our world.[17][18] The souls of the dead were said to revisit their homes on Samhain.[19] Feasts were had, at which the souls of dead kin were beckoned to attend and a place set at the table for them.[20] Lewis Spence described it as a "feast of the dead" and "festival of the fairies".[21] However, harmful spirits and fairies were also thought to be active at Samhain. People took steps to allay or ward-off these harmful spirits/fairies, which is thought to have influenced today's Halloween customs. Before the 20th century, wearing costumes at Samhain was done in parts of Ireland, Mann, the Scottish Highlands and islands, and Wales.[22] Wearing costumes may have originated as a means of disguising oneself from these harmful spirits/fairies, although some suggest that the custom comes from a Christian or Christianized belief (see below). In Ireland, people went about before nightfall collecting for Samhain feasts and sometimes wore costumes while doing so.[22] In the 19th century on Ireland's southern coast, a man dressed as a white mare would lead youths door-to-door collecting food; by giving them food, the household could expect good fortune from the 'Muck Olla'.[23] In Moray during the 18th century, boys called at each house in their village asking for fuel for the Samhain bonfire.[24] The modern custom of trick-or-treating may have come from these practices. Alternatively, it may come from the Christian custom of souling (see below).
Making jack-o'-lanterns at Halloween may also have sprung from Samhain and Celtic beliefs. Turnip lanterns, sometimes with faces carved into them, were made on Samhain in the 19th century in parts of Ireland and the Scottish Highlands.[25] As well as being used to light one's way while outside on Samhain night, they may also have been used to represent the spirits/fairies and/or to protect oneself and one's home from them.[26] However, a Christian origin has also been proposed.[27]

Christian influences

Snap-Apple Night (1832) by Daniel Maclise.
Depicts apple bobbing and divination games at a Halloween party in Blarney, Ireland.
Halloween is also thought to have been influenced by the Christian holy days of All Saints' Day (also known as All Hallows, Hallowmas or Hallowtide) on November 1 and All Souls' Day on November 2.[28] They are a time for honoring the saints and praying for the recently departed who had yet to reach Heaven. All Saints was introduced in the year 609, but was originally celebrated on May 13.[29] In 835, it was switched to November 1 (the same date as Samhain) at the behest of Pope Gregory IV.[29] Some have suggested this was due to Celtic influence, while others suggest it was a Germanic idea.[29]
By the end of the 12th century they had become holy days of obligation across Europe and involved such traditions as ringing bells for the souls in purgatory. "Souling", the custom of baking and sharing soul cakes for "all crysten christened souls",[30] has been suggested as the origin of trick-or-treating.[31] Groups of poor people, often children, would go door-to-door on All Saints/All Souls collecting soul cakes, originally as a means of praying for souls in purgatory.[32] Similar practices for the souls of the dead were found as far south as Italy.[33] Shakespeare mentions the practice in his comedy The Two Gentlemen of Verona (1593), when Speed accuses his master of "puling [whimpering or whining] like a beggar at Hallowmas."[34] The custom of wearing costumes has been linked to All Saints/All Souls by Prince Sorie Conteh, who wrote: "It was traditionally believed that the souls of the departed wandered the earth until All Saints' Day, and All Hallows' Eve provided one last chance for the dead to gain vengeance on their enemies before moving to the next world. In order to avoid being recognised by any soul that might be seeking such vengeance, people would don masks or costumes to disguise their identities".[35] In Halloween: From Pagan Ritual to Party Night, Nicholas Rogers explained Halloween jack-o'-lanterns as originally being representations of souls in purgatory.[27] In Brittany children would set candles in skulls in graveyards.[36]

Families picking pumpkins for Halloween in Maryland, United States, 2012
In Britain, these customs came under attack during the Reformation as Protestants berated purgatory as a "popish" doctrine incompatible with the notion of predestination.[28] This, coupled with the rising popularity of Guy Fawkes Night (5 November) from 1605 onward, led to Halloween's popularity waning in Britain, with the noteworthy exception of Scotland.[37] There and in Ireland, they had been celebrating Samhain and Halloween since at least the early Middle Ages,[12] and the Scottish kirk took a more pragmatic approach to Halloween, seeing it as important to the life cycle and rites of passage of communities and thus ensuring its survival in the country.

Pumpkin Carving

That's enough education. Getting back to the more important and relevant topic now, yes cool pumpkin carvings.....

Yesterday I made a post about Ray Villafane and his excellent work. Ray has recently established a VERY talented team of pumpkin carvers. Here are a  couple of bits about a couple of that team.

First is sculptor Andy Bergholtz. I love this guys work, he is a great sculptor. Yahoo have done a great feature on him which you can read here.

Here is his Joker pumpkin....

The Yahoo article article shows a time lapse video of Andy sculpting to, so be sure to check that out.
Next an interent buddy of mine, Alfred Paredes. Alfred is a very talented sculptor, doing fine art work, resin garage kits featuring comic book and horror characters and pumpkins, recently joining Ray Villafanes team. Alfred has featured on national TV and his pumpkins have appeared on the Ellen Degeneres Show amongst  others.

You can see a video of Alfred on TV demonstrating and talking about pumpkin carving here....

Happy Halloween everone!

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Halloween and the Pumpkin Master Ray Villafane

When October comes and peoples thoughts turn to ghosts and goblins and sweets and pumpkins I think first of one man - Ray Villafane and of what amazing creations he will be carving throughout the month.

Ray is a pumpkin carving champion on American TV's Food Network channel and has done much other work that has been in the public eye. His biography is a very interesting read and you can see it here.

If I had to choose a favourite sculptor amongst all the people I love, as hard as that maybe to do, I would have to pick Ray. Anyway, gushing admiration aside, here is a selection of his amazing work. If you want more Ray has a Facebook page here or you can visit Ray Villafanes website here

Quick note, Ray does sell some pumpkin carving related items, first and foremost he has a video tutorial, available as both a download and a physical DVD. The DVD has some extra tutorials as a bonus as well. Ray also has a book, contaning photographs of his work. And the toolset used by Ray is also available to buy. I haven't seen the video yet myself, but have been assured by a friend that it is very good. I don't think there are probably that many pumpkin carving DVD's out there to choose from so would have to say this is going to be the best choice!
A video of Ray working on a world record pumpkin can be seen here, well worth the watch to see this monstrosity being made!!!


Let the Eye Candy Commence!

Well thats it for today, one more feature tomorrow hopefully on a Halloween theme. It's rather late to do now, but I was meaning to take a look at a whole host of other great pumpkin sculptors and their work. I guess I will save that for next Halloween....


Thursday, 25 October 2012

Adrian Smith Art Book

This is just a heads up that the wonderful artist Adrian Smith has offered to do an interview for the blog which is great news as he is just about to release a new art book. I ordered mine the other day so rest assured there will be a look at the book itself, some photos to wet your appetites and an interview with Adrian along with lots of samples of his artwork for you to drool all over.

You can visit Adrians Facebook page here, there is a lot of his artwork - sketches and finished work on the page and you can also pre-order the art book using the link at the top of the page. I believe this is the only way to order the book and all pre-orders come with a signed art print as a little bonus! The books release date is the first week of November so get your pre-order in quick or you will miss out.

Look out for the interview and a peek at the book soon!


Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Abaddon Turnaround

I found a shorter clip of the Abaddon  model by Forgeworld on my camera at last, it was hidden away in a different folder on the camera for some reason. However the better clip of the two runs into 200mb and is not even that long so I ended up using the very short clip, which although only a few seconds long is enough to give you a look at it. 

Enjoy, dont forget to head over to and subscribe to the blog in order to stand a chance of winning the Angron primarch model, signed by Simon Egan!