A Peek Into a Pumpkin Head with Adam Rex

h1 August 7th, 2008 by jules

Adam Rex has a new book out, Frankenstein Takes the Cake (Which is Full of Funny Stuff Like Rotting Heads and Giant Gorillas and Zombies Dressed as Little Girls and Edgar Allan Poe. The Book, We Mean — Not the Cake), published by Harcourt. It’s a sequel, of course, to 2006’s Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich (And Other Stories You’re Sure to Like, Because They’re All About Monsters, And Some of Them Are Also About Food. You Like Food, Don’t You? Well, All Right Then). And if you haven’t read that prequel, well there’s a hole in your life too big and awkward for us to even address, so we won’t do that then, okay? Moving right along…

Since 7-Imp’s fan-dom for Adam’s work knows little to no bounds, we imps are quite excited. But you won’t see a review of this illustrated poetry anthology until later this month. Kelly Fineman, Poetry Goddess, and I plan to co-review it over at Guys Lit Wire (and perhaps I’ll post the same content here in 7-Imp-Land. Plus, if Eisha’s got a copy of the book by then, why of course she’ll have to chime in). More on that later.

But Adam is stopping by briefly this afternoon to share some of his illustrating process with us. If you’ve seen the book, you know that it includes very funny blog entries from Off the Top of My Head: The Official Blog of the Headless Horseman. There’s a wide array of artistic styles on display in this wonderful sequel (which, again, we’ll address later), but the blog spreads—a total of three (for those of you who haven’t seen the book yet)—were created using good old-fashioned photography. But just how did Adam create the Horseman’s head, pictured above as it appears in the book in the please-stop-staring-at-my-delicious-head spread? Well, wonder no more, since Adam is here to explain, for which I thank him heartily. You know how I love to yak it up with illustrators about their artistic processes.

So, in Adam’s words…

* * * * * * *

I have no talent and little experience with papier mâché (which I believe is French for paper mache), but I’d heard of enough of these projects starting with balloons that I decided to go the same route. I bought a large play ball and some long, rib-like balloons and saw about trying to fit them all together.

Then a lot of strips of alternative newsweeklys and a flour-water mixture, of course.

I eventually made a sort of paper clay as well out of pulverized newsprint, water, and glue, and you can see some details that I created with this in the third image. I also used this paper clay to create the stem and mouth area.

Then I cut holes, tore the balloon intestines out of the thing, painted it in several layers, and inserted some strips of paper into the eye holes to give the pumpkin the illusion of having a thicker skin than it actually does.

Then it’s a fairly simpler matter of finding a Physics graduate student to wear the pumpkin head and a suit in various locations during a bitter Philadelphia winter day, and photographing him. He needs to be tall and thin, and his name should be Joey.

This is when I realized that I’d taken a vertical photo when I’d meant to take a horizontal one, so I added a foreground tree from an old vacation photo. I pushed and pulled in Photoshop to give the pumpkin head the expression I wanted for this particular image (I used the same pumpkin for every Headless Horseman image in the book), and touched the whole thing up with a bit of digital painting. Then I searched for Creative Commons images of crows and pigeons on flickr, and added those to the image as convincingly as I could. Then I added a chicken at the last minute from a photo I took in Hawaii.

* * * * * * *

I hoped there’d be an actual blog, but the closest Headless Horseman blog is a political one to which I don’t care to link. Plus, we can cut Adam lots ‘o’ slack, ’cause….well, you’ll know when you see this title and Adam’s impressive artistic versatility on display once again. The book is awesome in about seven different directions. Did I just say “awesome”? I guess it wouldn’t be 7-Imp if we didn’t use that word at least once in each post. And I’m sure Kelly will put it way more eloquently later this month when we discuss the book.

Until then . . .

* * *

Edited to Add: How could I forget to say: Adam’s blog has a handful of posts about the new book.

Buh-bye again.

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7 comments to “A Peek Into a Pumpkin Head with Adam Rex”

  1. I’ll say it too: AWESOME.


  2. You know I adore the book. And the headless horseman blog art is genius.


  3. I appreciate the craft tips, especially this one:

    He needs to be tall and thin, and his name should be Joey.


  4. Love this post — we’re fans of Mr. Rex here as well and my girls laughed out loud reading his last book.

    Btw, I thought 7-Imp might be dialing it down with the posts a bit…seems like you’re still hard at it! Not that I’m complaining…


  5. Jeremy, my increased work hours still preclude me from posting as much as I’d like, but we manage to keep up. I’ve always wanted to email you and personally apologize for no longer doing the Picture Books for Impossibly Busy Parents post, ’cause you were a fan. If work slows down one day, I’ll pick it back up.

    Thanks for liking our blog.

    (“Preclude me”? Yeesh, I sound like I’m writing a contract…)


  6. Ha haha…oh my, please don’t apologize. As long as it’s staying fun for you two, then that’s the right level of commitment to the blog.


  7. […] version but maybe this will help. This guy is an amazing artist and I really like his pumpkin. Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast Blog Archive A Peek Into a Pumpkin Head with Adam Rex __________________ This is me… […]


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