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.
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!
Creator of Doodlewash®, founder of World Watercolor Month (July), World Watercolor Group™, and host of the Sketching Stuff Podcast. Sharing daily watercolor illustrations and stories while proudly featuring talented artists from all over the world! If you’d like to be a guest artist on Doodlewash.com, contact me!