With just a few days remaining before Halloween, Noel Dickover of Centreville will be working overtime, getting ready for "showtime," as he calls it.
Sitting at his kitchen table with an arsenal of carving tools in front of him, Dickover settles into master-pumpkin carver mode, working from dawn to the wee-hours to complete his latest jack-o'-lantern.
The goal is to have about 30 carved by Sunday.
Dickover, a government contractor, said he does not really have an artistic background, but his produce-turned-artwork tell a different story. Intricately designed and well-planned, Dickover can take as long as 30 hours to carve a single pumpkin -- most of which feature sci-fi themes.
"In 1997, my brother got one of those [pumpkin-carving] books ... and I thought it was really cool, but I didn't want to spend $5 on it," said Dickover, who creates his own patterns for pumpkins. "What I do is, I find images on the web" and base carvings on them.
From websites, Dickover drags the image he wants to carve into Photoshop. The image is then reduced into three colors, which translate on canvas -- or rather gourd -- to solid pumpkin, skinned pumpkin and cut-through pumpkin. On one pumpkin alone, which was carved to depict Mickey Mouse in "Fantasia," the Photoshop process took 14 hours, Dickover said. The carving process lasted an additional 30 hours.
The results almost always are gourd-ous.
This year, Dickover's pumpkin-R2D2 from "Star Wars" -- has become an Internet sensation.
"R2D2 took about 10-and-a-half [to] 11 hours," he said.
Three years ago, another of Dickover's Star Wars-themed pumpkin creations -- The Death Star -- drew national attention. The pumpkin depiction, weighing in at more than 145 pounds, was named Wired magazine's "Geekiest Pumpkin" in 2007. The pumpkin-Death Star has become an annual favorite, said Dickover, adding "That's sort of like Billy Joel's 'Piano Man.' People just expect that."
Carving has become a family affair, with Dickover's children Justin, 17, and Sarah, 12, combining efforts to produce 30 jack-o'-lanterns for display.
"We're the pumpkin house. We're the one that people don't just drive by. They stop," he said.
This year's display, which will light the walkway up to the Dickover residence, will include images from "Avatar," "Star Wars," "Toy Story" and more.
"We must do SpongeBob [SquarePants] and Patrick or kids start to cry," Dickover said.
The pumpkin carver offers this advice to those taking up the blade this week: "There's a wonderful solution for failures ... Super Glue."
See more of Noel Dickover's carvings at www.fantasypumpkins.com.