Sketching Pine Cones

Day 21 - Pinecone Watercolor - Doodlewash

There are days when I have grand ideas for a sketch, and then there are days when I’m confronted with a pine cone. I truly find these objects one of the most difficult things to sketch, at least in my faux-realistic style. I had originally imagined some greenery to accompany it, but ran out of time before I could add any. So, I just have this little pine cone trophy of sorts. I remember my earliest drawing classes and pine cones always seemed to be one a subject matter. I’m quite sure it’s because they are so devilishly tough to draw, with repeated patterns that are perfectly balanced, but not always perfectly symmetrical. When I think about, though, that’s sort of how I’d describe a good life. For this one, I inexplicably started sketching it from the middle outward and just hoped for the best. There are indeed more studious ways to approach something like this, but I thought I’d hop in without a plan and see what came out. Sometimes, that’s my favorite way to approach sketching. It’s good to have a grasp of all of the basics, but also good to just play around every now and again. And, it’s what keeps my sketching habit balanced, without being too symmetrical.

Lately, I’ve been asked many times to share a bit more of my process, and so I’ve been thinking about that quite a bit. In truth, though I have a consistent sketching routine, I don’t really know what my process is since it changes from day to day. The only consistent thing is that I start with an ink sketch and then start coloring with glee, based on my mood that day. A bit of wet on wet then wet on dry, then dry brush, then, well, whatever comes to mind next. It struck me that this was exactly how I approached art as a kid. I would read some books and listen closely to my awesome art teacher at school and then say, “Ok!” and rush off to grab my crayons and start scribbling. Everything I learned was still in my little brain, but I just let my hand guide me through the rest. As an adult, I adore tutorials and taking classes, but then I go off and create my own thing again. That’s when it suddenly dawned on me. I’m not a teacher so much as a happy enabler, and that’s a very different sort of thing. It therefore, needs a very different approach that matches better with my childlike exuberance. So, yes, I’m working on something now that I hope to share in the next couple of months. It probably can’t be called a traditional class, but it will, I hope, be something that teaches and enables more people to try and enjoy sketching stuff.

My goal with all of this has always been amazingly simple. I just want to get more people to DO what I was do because it’s so much fun, so therapeutic and so rewarding! Within the first few weeks of this blog I was already talking about starting a doodlewash movement. It’s exactly what a little kid would think might be possible, while every sane adult would roll their eyes or nod condescendingly, knowing it’s just plain nonsense. Maybe it was. But, I’ve never let something as mundane as nonsense stop me from pursuing my dreams. And, I don’t think anyone else should either. Dreams are only ever interesting when they’re big and incredible. Though they often seem like a mere fantasy, there’s so much truth to be found in them. Things may not turn out exactly as I envisioned, to be sure, but chasing that vision is all of the fun. I hope whatever crazy idea you currently have in your head, that you’ll chase after it as well. Though things can be difficult, nothing is ever truly impossible. Even if you find yourself faced with the incredible complexity of sketching pine cones.

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Da Vinci Paint Co.: Nickel Azo Yellow, Terra Cotta, and Cobalt Blue. (My “Shiny” Trio) + Opus (Vivid Pink). Lamy Al-Star Safari Fountain Pen with sepia ink in an A5 Hahnemühle Watercolour Book. Want to purchase a print of this doodlewash? Send me a note with a link to this post, and I’ll add it to my shop!
Pinecone Watercolor - Sketchbook Detail


Recommended4 recommendationsPublished in By Charlie
  1. Sandra Strait 4 years ago

    I love your pine cone. It makes me think of zentangle in a way because there is a definite pattern. That’s one of the things I love about objects in nature – there is always a pattern and if you can find it, you are halfway to being able to draw it! I know what you mean about teaching – when I do a tutorial I have to thinK about what I’m doing, and I often find that makes it very difficult for me to actually do it. Art works better when your hand and hind brain communicate directly without that persnickety old forebrain getting in the way.

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 4 years ago

      Thanks, Sandra! 😃💕 This is a bit like zentangle! No wonder it was so fun! And you’re awesome at tutorials… I bow to you! hehe… so good! I have no idea where to start. But yeah, when it comes to the making, it’s always easier for me when my forebrain just goes to sleep! lol

  2. CURIOUStotheMAX 4 years ago

    Faux Realism! I think you’ve created a new movement. From now I’m calling myself a Faux-Realist – both as an artist and human (it fits with the times . . .)

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 4 years ago

      haha! Awesome! 😃💕Glad you liked it! I just typed that, but now googled it and I think it was a name for a weird foreign policy during the Bush administration. Not enough hits to matter though… we artists can take it back! 😉 hehe

      • CURIOUStotheMAX 4 years ago

        Are you sure it wasn’t the current administration . . . ?

        • Author
          Charlie O'Shields 4 years ago

          That would be faux humanism I think… but I always get terms mixed up. 😉

  3. Art-Chap-Enjoin 4 years ago

    Good job!

  4. Lisa Cihlar 4 years ago

    Well done! I put a pine cone in a still life I was using and it was the hardest part. I never got it right as a painting, but I finally drew it in colored pencil and it turned out well. Of course there are many different kinds of pine cones, so one down, a dozen to go! 😀😀

    My grandparents used to go to Florida every winter. They would bring us back these giant cones. I wish I still had one. The other cool thing they did was collect super long pine needles and make baskets from them. I have three of them here. They are very beautiful.

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 4 years ago

      Thanks, Lisa! 😃💕 Yeah, pine cones are rough! Now I understand why they show up in art class assignments! hehe I always think colored pencil would be so much better for it each time I try. hehe I’m not even sure I’ve ever seen pine needle baskets. That sounds amazing! Love that!

  5. Sharon Nolfi 4 years ago

    I’m looking forward to whatever you dream up in the coming months. In a certain way, the best teachers are happy enablers. They instruct, but then stand back and encourage the student to DO. Nice job on the pine cone!

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 4 years ago

      Thanks so much, Sharon! 😃💕 Yeah, I’m going to be channeling my enabler big time! hehe… it just feels more true to me.

  6. smzang 4 years ago

    Charlie said, “I just want to get more people to DO what I was doing because it’s so much fun, so therapeutic and so rewarding!”

    Most people never know what their calling is, but you have surely found yours. A huge thumbs up. as for that pine cone…super! it looks so real…

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 4 years ago

      Thanks so much, Sarah! 😃💕 Glad you enjoyed my pine cone. They are so tough to sketch!! hehe And yes, I think I have found what I love to do, or at least what I think I can be good at… those two are quite often the very same thing actually.

  7. ahewe 4 years ago

    I really admire your pine cone! It looks so deceptively easy sitting there, but boy if you try to paint it 🤪…. From our latest trip to the States I have a perfect giant cone sitting in my studio – I tried to sketch it once and it was a total desaster . But having seen yours now in all its humble glory I think I will try again.

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 4 years ago

      Thanks so much! 😃💕 Thrilled you enjoyed my pine cone. And even more thrilled that it inspired you to sketch the one in your studio again. You should definitely DO it!!

  8. Snehlata Maheshwari. 4 years ago

    Pine cone is very nice.,,🦃💮

  9. LoriCtoo 4 years ago

    One day when I saw we were going to sketch a pinencone, I thought, “Ugh, all those prongs!” Then the day arrived to do it and I just jumped in and it wasn’t so bad. I always look at nature things when sketching, as not perfectly symmetrical. It makes it so much easier! I added a squirrel t mine. 🙂

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 4 years ago

      I know!!… when I saw the prompt come up (because you know I write them and then immediately forget what I wrote! lol), I was like… oh no! But it’s really fun! And huge bonus points for adding a squirrel as well you over-achiever you! hehe 😉

      • LoriCtoo 4 years ago

        More like a brown noser. :p

        • Author
          Charlie O'Shields 4 years ago

          haha! No… over-achiever for sure. After my pine cone adventure… I couldn’t have possible added anything with it! lol

  10. LoriCtoo 4 years ago

    Oh, and I think your’s is lovely!

  11. Linda Murray 4 years ago

    Love your pine cone, Charlie 🤗 It’s perfect!!

  12. I think your sketch conveys the spirit and form of the pine cone perfectly! Embrace your “faux realistic” style…it’s lively and fun. I struggle to break away from a “scientific realistic” (LOL) style in my own sketching!

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 4 years ago

      Thanks so much, Carole! 😃💕 hehe… I totally know what you mean. When I started I was trying to get every little detail in place. I still do that, but I have such little time to sketch it forces me to make sacrifices. So if you want to try a looser style… I recommend setting a timer! hehe… Mine aren’t always what I wanted, but I did it! 😉

  13. memadtwo 4 years ago

    A difficult subject, but totally recognizable. (K)

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 4 years ago

      Thanks so much, Kerfe! 😃💕 That was literally my bar on this one… I find pine cones not too hard to sketch, but painting them is a bit tough!

  14. Mamabror 4 years ago

    Aren’t plenty of people teaching how to do art? Maybe this little sketch with a philosophical ramble is your specialty! I haven’t really seen other people doing quite what you are in your fun way.

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 4 years ago

      Thanks for that! 😃💕 So happy you enjoy my approach! I agree… there are plenty of amazing art teachers and I’d much rather promote them instead! I’m come up with some way to share what I’ve learned, but it will be something very different. 😉

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