CARVING OUT A NICHE MARKET

Pumpkins1

Chris Covert is fond of the ‘goofball’ approach to art, bringing a loosey-goosey attitude to choosing his subjects and often settling on celebrities who tickle his funny button.

He likes stand-up comics, and will knock off a portrait of one if he or she is enough of a ‘goofball.’ If the comedian has a gig coming up at the Count Basie, after which Covert might get a chance to show his work to a star, all the better. That’s all it takes in the way of inspiration.

“I just do ’em because I’m a goofball,” says Covert, 32, who also makes sandwiches at Elsie’s Subs, owned by his “better half,” Tish, on Monmouth Street.

This time of year, Covert turns his eye to that annually favored medium of American carvers, the pumpkin. Working in a storage area behind Elsie’s, Covert creates highly detailed pumpkin portraits.

For those, though, any goofball or non-goofball will do as a subject, as long as somebody ponies up the fee Covert charges for such immortalization. He calls his operation Pimp My Pumpkin.

That’s right, immortalization, akin to what the pharaohs got from their pyramids. These aren’t real pumpkins, which go soft, mushy and moldy. These are some kind of foamy, rigid plastic that will outlast the glaciers. But they’re quite lifelike in appearance. Even the inside of one looks like the gutted interior of a farm-grown one.

The fact that they’re fake is fine by Covert’s customers. At $70 to $90 a pop, they want the carvings to last, he says.

Covert works from still pictures and creates high-contrast blow-ups that he transfers to the pumpkin skin. Then’s it’s carving time.

Asked if he learned the craft from another practitioner, Covert says, “No. I know I’m the only one stupid enough to be doing it.”

And frankly, he says, it’s not a creative process he enjoys. Only when he’s done does the satisfaction come.

“This is tedious, tedious work,” he says. “The bitch is when you get to that last, critical part and you slice the nose off.”

Another Covert sideline involves the creation of portraits using sentences snipped from books written by the portrait subjects. But that’s a story for another day. Meantime, you can check out some of those images at the Art Alliance of Monmouth County just down the street at 33 Monmouth. Covert has the window display this month.

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