Returning to Nuts! (Botanical Art Week 6 – Entry 10)

With the basics of shade, tone and definition introduced and practised in our botanical art classes, in this week’s class it was time to return to the Australian favourite, the Gum Nut to turn our nutty lines from week 4 into something a little more defined and special.

Back in week 4, I remembered being so embarrassed with my efforts that I wanted to throw them out straight away, so it’s little surprise that I started dreading this class as soon as I knew I had to return to those other sketches. After a quick tutorial about how to approach shading, we were all sent on our merry way to bring our sketches to life. Now, this is where it gets weird. I pulled out my awful sketch and added a little shade as directed, and something amazing happened. A sketch that I would have previously disowned was brought to life. The sketch now had the body and was clearly showing a cluster of gum nuts. Suffice it to say, I was shocked!   For an absolute beginner, the idea that my growing collection of rubbish outlines could be brought to life by a little bit of correctly applied graphite was game-changing. All of a sudden I could see that I had the potential to be an artist. I’ll freely admit that this isn’t the most amazing sketch ever drawn, the gum nuts are a little wonky and the shading could be a little more gradual in places, but the realization that I could make this drawing thing a reality, means the picture below, holds a special place in my heart.

Sketch of a cluster of shaded gum nuts

With this newfound confidence, I spent the rest of the lesson working on sketching up another cluster of Corymbia nuts to shade. While I ran out of time in the lesson to get them shaded (we’re not allowed to take the nuts home as they’re used for multiple classes as they don’t wither and die) I’m still impressed with my efforts here. Even in the basic sketch, it’s fairly clear that the two nuts at the bottom are in front of another two nuts, and the cluster of 5 nuts at the top of the branch is at the back. I’m so happy with this sketch, that I’m a little concerned about messing it up when I add in the shade, so this sketch is going to be the first in my ‘to trace’ pile. Hopefully, this is the first of many!

Sketch of a cluster of gum nuts


  • Top Tips
    • Adding shading and tone can improve sketches that you think are really awful.
    • A great way to ensure that you know how to continue on a sketch is to take several photos of the subject, including close-ups on the texture, and how light falls on the subject. Having these photos make it much easier to add detail in later on.
    • If you draw something that you love and want to continue working on it without worrying about messing it up, trace it. Using your tracing create a new picture and work on that. If you stuff up your image – no worries! Create another image from your tracing and start again.