When Less Is More

Lesser Spotted Woodpecker Watercolor Illustration

For our prompt of “Trees” today, I decided to sketch a woodpecker as I heard the unique sound of one while out walking the other day. That odd crazy hollow drill of a sound that’s most pleasing when you find out it’s coming from a tree and not the side of your house. I went in search of a woodpecker that might have actually been the culprit, but then found this little one from the UK and just had to sketch him. I believe he’s referred to as a “lesser spotted woodpecker.” Unlike birds whose names start with “Great,” he’s in the camp of less, which makes me adore him even more. A bit of an underdog, really, but truly only named that because of his small stature. When it comes to ornithology, size really does matter. The scientific name doesn’t get any better as it’s Dendrocopos minor, making the diminutive term stand out even more as it’s the only recognizable and, indeed, pronounceable component. Thankfully, we don’t have to refer to humans this way. It would be odd to have to greet a diminutive family member with a “Hi there, Lesser Uncle Bob!” or a less personal “scientific” name like “Avunculus Minimus.” And I’m often fascinated by what we humans deem “lesser” at times, when in my life, they’re often the things I value most!

Indeed, when I started this site, I was told that sketchbooks are something only meant for practice and “real” art happens on stretched paper or a stretched canvas. Sketchbooks are just cute and quaint things meant to further us in our journey to create a grand painting of some kind. And, this is actually quite true, for many people. For those of us wishing to make large and grand paintings, the lesser sketchbook is indeed only something meant for practice. After over four years of sketching and coloring, however, I’ve found that a sketchbook can DO just a bit more. For me, at the moment, I only want to produce illustrations that I can use later in some book I have planned or one I’ve yet to create in my mind. These will always be scanned and reprinted, so I get to play inside my sketchbook all of the time. Sometimes, something a bit more grand appears there and people will often tell me “that’s much more than a doodlewash!” But, in my mind, a doodlewash is the best thing on the planet! There’s no better thing in the world than making something you love with love, even if it’s just in a little sketchbook. A doodlewash isn’t something “lesser” at all.

While ornithologists may disagree, when it comes to art, size doesn’t matter. Nor do the materials used to make it. Though we all know that those professional materials have some super cool advantages that have to be seen to be believed. Yes, it’s still true that better materials will help produce certain amazing effects only possible through using them. But, the raw creative talent that each of us possess can be expressed with any art material at all, even crayons. I’ve met many people on this journey who can’t yet afford professional paints, and somehow feel “lesser” in the process. So, I’m here to tell everyone that we’re all definitely “greater” simply for having shown up to make something with whatever we have at our disposal. Art is actually an exhibition of an idea, and we’ve been moved by those ideas for centuries. Historians may speak of pigments or methods, but it’s still just the moment of creation that captured our hearts and minds. In the end, our own passion to create is the real secret to making art. Better art supplies only work when we’ve developed the necessary spark to use them with all of our wonderfully personal ingenuity. So, yes, better art supplies will help your natural talent soar, but they’re not required to experience that talent in the first place. Those moments when you create, simply because you feel the urge to do so, are the most beautiful moments, when less is more.

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About the Doodlewash

Da Vinci Paint Co.: Yellow Ochre, Quinacridone Red, Cobalt Turquoise, Terra Cotta and Cobalt Blue. Lamy Al-Star Safari Fountain Pen with black 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!
Lesser Spotted Woodpecker Watercolor Illustration Sketchbook Detail
Recommended5 recommendationsPublished in By Charlie
24 Comments
  1. Karen Fortier 4 months ago

    Great woodpecker Charlie! This spring I was walking our rail trail system weekly until the weather got too hot. As the trail passed through a wooded section of the golf course I could hear dueling woodpeckers as the males were claiming their territory. It was kind of cool. I love learning and observing nature. If I get to document it in a sketchbook that is a bonus and I did document this in my nature journal. Oh and sketchbooks are more than just for practice as you know. They are great for documenting so much. They are more fun to share than a stack of photos. 😉

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 4 months ago

      Thanks so much, Karen! 😃💕Yay to that! Love that! Sketchbooks are definitely more fun to share than a stack of photos! So much more personal and evocative of life!

  2. Sandra Strait 4 months ago

    Your woodpecker is awesome! One of my pet peeves is when people spout off about art must be this or that and whether a piece deserves the attention it is getting. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but it always seems it is the disagreeable opinions that are spouted the loudest.

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 4 months ago

      Thanks, Sandra! 😃💕hehe… yeah, my pet peeve as well! Hence, the name Doodlewash and a DO Manifesto of only DO’s and not silly DON’Ts. Art is a joy of self-expression and that doesn’t come with rules. But yes, disagreeable people are always the loudest opinions in the end. 😉

  3. swxe 4 months ago

    Do I see another bird face in the tree section? >\<

    Love the rhythm and flow of your 3-paragraph circular daily commentary.
    Does the reflection come while you are sketching, or have you done the thought patterns first and led into your subject matter?

    Also, was looking at tools and supplies in your shop link (scanner) and wondering what you use for a printer — I have always had an "all-in-one," but don't think the scanners are that wonderful, never need a FAX anymore, and printers seem to eat ink cartridges voraciously.

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 4 months ago

      Thanks so much! 😃💕I’m so thrilled you enjoy my posts! They’re set up in a sort of loose 3 Act structure. But honestly, there’s no pre-thinking them. I just let whatever idea comes to mind after my sketch lead me onward! As for a printer, I don’t print anything at home. I just decided to use a vendor for my prints instead. I had an all-in-one, but the scanner was not exceptional. So I was thrilled when Philippe bought me a dedicated scanner instead.

  4. Linda Murray 4 months ago

    Thank you Charlie! I don’t need a BIG painting to justify myself! That thought has put a damper on my painting. I can do small and medium sketches/paintings and still have a sense of pride. I love your style, it feels comfortable! 👍🤗
    Awesome woodpecker! I really like how you used your colors 😄

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 4 months ago

      Thanks so much, Linda! 😃💕 Yay for small paintings that make us smile! I adore large paintings, but if we think that’s all that is art then we’d make nothing at all. Here’s to making, no matter what!

  5. Lisa 4 months ago

    I have woodpeckers here every day. They are eating my sunflower seeds, but my favorite is when they get on the hummingbird feeders to sip sugar water. They put a hole in one of our decorative beam ends on the end of our house. Other birds have now found it and are raising babies in the box.

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 4 months ago

      Oh my goodness! That’s the total circle of life you’re experiencing there, Lisa! 😃💕hehe… not sure whether it’s bothersome or just awesome!

  6. Zertab Quaderi 4 months ago

    I love the term Avunculus Minimus! Lol! Great woodpecker! We have a couple of them visit us every day for bread crumbs.

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 4 months ago

      hehe! Thanks, Zertab! 😃💕 Glad you liked that term! And glad you liked my woodpecker!

  7. Sharon Nolfi 4 months ago

    I love the sound of woodpeckers – they are living drills. Yours is nicely sketched.

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 4 months ago

      Thanks, Sharon! 😃💕 They are totally living drills… such a distinct and awesome sound!

  8. Mary Roff 4 months ago

    Beautiful woodpecker, Charlie! We have three different woodpeckers that visit our yard and I love seeing them and hearing their “ra ta tat tat”. A doodlewash is definitely more not “lesser” to me: if it wasn’t for Doodlewash my brushes would most likely be idle and collecting dust. So, thank you for Doodlewash!!!

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 4 months ago

      Thanks, Mary!😃💕 Aww yay!! Thrilled to know that Doodlewash has inspired you to make things! And they are super gorgeous things indeed!

  9. LoriCtoo 4 months ago

    Nice woodpecker! Yes, I love listening to them….on trees and not the house. One of the few birds we have around here that has color. I was just thinking this morning about switching to single sheets of paper instead of my sketchbook. My husband said one day that I should frame my sketches and sell them. I laughed, silly ol’ bear. However, I was thinking I could use them for cards I send to people. However, I like to go back and look at my work to see how far I’ve come. Something to ponder today. 😉

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 4 months ago

      Thanks, Lori! 😃💕hehe… I say make and share however you feel inspired to do so! Yes, if original paintings are what you want to share, then proper paper is required. But, if you want to make other things with your art, like reprinted cards, then that can all be done within the confines of a sketchbook. It’s all a matter of choice!

  10. Robert J. Coleman 4 months ago

    A very fine woodpecker looks a lot like the hairy and downy woodpeckers we have all over the eastern USA. And l really like the point you make about you make about what we use to make art: the spark of creativity is so much more important than the pile of supplies one may amass. It’s way too easy to expect a new brush, a special paint or paper to make our work special. Instead, look at what our ancestors made in the caves of Europe over 10,000 years ago. Some mud, sticks and a remarkable vision of their ancient world.

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 4 months ago

      Thanks, Bob! 😃💕 And so true!! Our ancestors had only the merest supplies and yet made things we still treasure to this day. Art is definitely born out of ideas first, but yeah, juicy colors and artist paints are a grand thing to make them come to life brilliantly.

  11. memadtwo 4 months ago

    I love the look on his face. Yes, humans are strange…(K)

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 4 months ago

      Thanks, Kerfe! 😃💕 haha… yes, humans are indeed strange. One day I’ll attempt sketching them though.

  12. Nanette Levin 4 months ago

    What a great post, Charlie. Your message that expensive materials aren’t requisite to start playing with this watercolor medium is so wonderful to hear. You’ve been a huge inspiration for me in many ways. I stumbled on you and what you’re doing just before World Watercolor month this year. Was too chicken to post work to your Facebook Page, but signed up for a watercolor class at a local community center an decided to model my rebranded website after your delightful blog approach with mostly me-made illustrations as the “image”. After walking away from art more than a couple of decades after accepting contract work took the fun out of it, I’m getting back into it and exploring watercolors for the first time. I’m hooked! Thanks so much for all you do to inspire and encourage the budding or latent artist in all of us. Your Doodlewashes are delightful! So are the messages you share. Thanks!

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 4 months ago

      Oh wow, Nanette!! Your comment makes my heart smile BIG! Love that! That’s exactly what I hope each day might happen with this site. I just KNOW that we all have it in us to make something wonderful and so, yep, we should totally DO that! My approach is sketching and painting from pure joy… nothing more… if that happens, everything sort of works out just fine! 😉

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