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HORLYK: Sioux City tattoo artist turns skills to pumpkins

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SIOUX CITY | Using an ice cream scoop and a homemade chisel, Luke Schroder, 33, gives an over-sized pumpkin an extremely spooky makeover.

A tattoo artist, he's been making pumpkin sculpting a profitable sideline for four Halloweens.

Schroder will be showcasing his talents and selling his art from 9 to 11:30 a.m. Saturday at the Sioux City Farmers Market, at Tri-View Avenue and Pearl Street.

Schroder doesn't create your typical jack-o’-lanterns. His pumpkins are carefully carved into frightful faces of zombies, monsters and animals.

"I've always been artistic," he said outside of his shop, Addictive Tattoo & Body Piercing in Sioux City. "I love to draw, paint and sculpt."

Seeing famed sculptor Ray Villafane – known for his 3-D pumpkin carvings -- on a Food Network special inspired Schroder to scour the Internet for ways to turn gourds into works of art.

"Everything I know about art, I taught myself," he said. "Pumpkin carving was no different."

Schroder said his initial efforts were pretty poor. Gradually, he got better.

"Oh yeah, there was plenty of trial and error at first," he said. "Luckily, pumpkins are a lot cheaper than canvas."

Schroder at first set up shop at area Hy-Vee stores, entertaining audiences while chopping, slicing and sculpting edible art pieces and selling up to 60 carved pumpkins per season. This year, he's taking special orders from a long list of customers familiar with his work.

"I've just been swamped making one pumpkin after another," Schroder said. Each can take between 30 minutes to several hours to complete, depending on the size and complexity of the design.

He never uses a pattern. Instead, he prefers to let the pumpkin inspire him.

"Certainly a skinny pumpkin or a rounder pumpkin lends themselves to certain characters,” Schroder said. "Since I'm currently working on a rather long pumpkin, I decided to turn it into a fairly generic, creepy old guy."

With tattoos, Schroder said, he uses a person's musculature to create the right design. He proceeds to balance both light and color in creating body art. Those same artistic principles apply to creating pumpkin art.

Schroder said his love for the macabre comes from a desire to be "outrageous and grotesque, at least for one day out of the year."

"Everyone leads pretty normal lives 364 days out of the year,” he said, “yet Halloween is the one time when it's OK to be terrified out of our minds.”


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