Keeper of the Cone (Botanical Art Class Week 8 – Entry 14)

How would you draw a pinecone? That’s the question of today’s botanical art class, where the topic of the day was all about pinecones.


When I initially selected my pinecone from the box I felt that this would be a botanical subject that would just flow straight from the pencil to the paper. Those thoughts stopped once I’d returned to my seat and had my pencil in my hand. Drawing the basic oval shape was fairly straightforward, but then it started to get tricky fast. The advice we’d received was to pencil in guidelines to help place all of the scales (which appears to be what the little poky bits are technically called) on the cone. Now, pinecones are one of the members of the botanical world that feature the Fibonacci sequence, and this pattern can be used to place the scales onto evenly onto your drawing.


What’s the Fibonacci sequence?

For those who haven’t had the chance to learn about the Fibonacci before (or those like me who need a little refresher), this is a special pattern where every number (after the first two numbers) is the sum of the last two. So, let’s see this sequence in action:


Number in the Sequence 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
Value of the Number in the sequence 1 1 2 3 5 8 13 21
How We Got Here 1 (we just start with 1!) = no. 0 value + no. 1 value

= 0 + 1

= 1

= no. 1 value + no. 2 value

= 1+ 1

= 2

= no. 2 value + no. 3 value

= 1+ 3

= 3

= no. 3 value + no. 4 value

= 2 + 3

= 5

= no. 4 value + no. 5 value

= 3+ 5

= 8

= no. 5 value + no. 6 value

= 5 + 8

= 13

= no. 6 value + no. 7 value

= 8+ 13

= 21


Now I can hear you saying ‘Awesome. Lots of numbers are exactly what I want to know about when I’m trying to draw’. Well, actually it is. If we know the pattern that’s in the botanical shape, then we can use the pattern to guide us to make a better drawing.   So, what do all of those fancy numbers mean? When the smart cookies out there put these numbers onto a graph, they turn into a pretty spiral.

In short,

Fibonacci = Spirals


And when you put the spiral arms onto your sketch correctly you end up with scale-sized spaces that you can just slot your scales into. Win! I wish I was that cool about it during the lesson.

I managed to place the spirals onto the cone with relative ease and started to fill each little segment with a scale, and as you can see the pinecone started to take on an almost architectural quality to it. Then I went and got some advice from the teacher. Not the best idea. The teacher had done a very loose, artistic, dark pinecone that was nothing like the one that I had in progress. So, I decided to cut my losses with the sketch below and start a second one with a looser quality.

Sketches of Structured Pinecone - 24 03 2018


By the time I had kicked off work on the second sketch it was late in the class so I didn’t have too much time I really get too much done other than lay down the spiral lines and fill in a few odd holes with pinecone scales.   While it isn’t complete, it does show the spiral lines clearly, so it’s worth showing here.

Sketches of Spiral Pinecone Lines - 24 03 2018

Looking back on the class, I wish I’d backed myself and continue with the architectural pinecone sketch. While this wasn’t anything like teachers one, I think it would have shown, or at least attempted a greater level of detail.

Top Tips

  • The little poky bits of a pinecone are called scales.
  • The scales of a pinecone are arranged in the Fibonacci sequence. (When you hear Fibonacci – think spirals).   You can add the spiral lines to your work to help you place all of the scales accurately.
  • Back your own art. Although botanical art is about accuracy, there are always some stylistic elements to the work, so you work probably won’t look exactly like the work that the person next to you has done.