A Pine Cone Value Study With Details Added

This hatching technique adds and subtracts from a middle value. It’s a good technique for value studies. A value study is a drawing made with attention to lighting, and not much else. You concentrate on the shadow and highlight patterns and draw those, instead of zeroing in on hard shapes and edges.

The resulting drawing can have a dreamy, or out of focus, quality. It’s an excellent way to train your eye to notice how the light falls on objects and textures. When all is said and done, all we really do is draw the effects of light, so study light and your drawing will improve.

Pine Cone Sketch by C. RosinskiSupplies

I like to start a value study with the “middle” value so I can lift out highlights and hatch in shadows to create the overall shape and texture.

Sometimes I use a value scale to find the lightest highlights and darkest shadows, and then decide on a value between those extremes. Sometimes I just squint my eyes to see an averaged value and use that.

Pine Cone Hatch C. Rosinski

Pine Cone Hatches

For this drawing, I make hatches with different pencils held on their side to see which one made the best middle value. The hatch on the left was made with an HB pencil, and the other with a 2B.

I decided the HB pencil hatch made with light pressure was the best.

Pine Cone Mid-Tone Hatch C. Rosinski

Pine Cone Mid-Tone Hatch

First Shape and Hatching

I measured the length and width of the cone with my pencil, transferred those measurements to the paper, and then hatched the main pine cone shape with the side of the HB pencil.

Kneaded Eraser Tip Shapes C. Rosinski

Kneaded Eraser Tip Shapes

Since this was an opened cone, I used a kneaded eraser that I’d pinched into a point to remove ‘notches’ from both edges to represent the opened scales. I placed them at ‘about’ the right points with ‘about’ the right spacing, but didn’t try to be exact.

I used the kneaded eraser because I wanted the notches to have soft edges. The stick eraser would have made very sharp edged erasure marks.

Pine Cone With Erased Highlights C. Rosinski

Pine Cone With Erased Highlights

Erased Highlights In Cone’s Body

Using the kneaded eraser ‘s tip shaped into a small round ball, I ‘lifted’ out the general highlight shapes with a firm taps. If you drag the eraser across the graphite, it’ll smear the texture that we’re trying to preserve.

Again, I was not very precise but I did try to match the placement, pattern, and size of the scales. (There were in rows, with largest scales in the middle, and smaller scales at both ends.)

Adding Detail To The Value Study – At this point, I decided to add more details to this drawing making it slightly more than a value study. The beauty of beginning any drawing with a value study is that you have already built a realistic three dimensional base to add the details to.

Pine Cone Hatched Shadows C. Rosinski

Pine Cone Hatched Shadows

Added Scale Gradations And Cast Shadow

I used the flattened point of the 2B pencil to gradate the scales. The value pattern of each scale was basically the same. There was a ‘sharp’ highlight line on the tip that gradated into darker shadow as it angled back into the cone. I repeated that pattern on each one, although they were all different sizes and shapes.

I added the cast shadow underneath the cone with the side of a 2H pencil.

Flat Pencil Tip Example C. Rosinski

Flat Pencil Tip

The flattened point gave me finer control than the side of the pencil, and it still matched the texture. To make a flat tip, just rub the pencil back and forth across scrap paper a few times.


Pine Cone With Refined Details C. Rosinski

Pine Cone With Refined Details

Refined Shadows and Highlights

To make the scale edges look sharper, or more defined, I used a writing grip on the 2B pencil to draw a line around each tip. Then I blended that line into the shadow area next to it so it wouldn’t stand out as a ‘outline.’

To lighten the tips of the scales a bit, I placed a kneaded eraser, pinched into a rounded wedge shape, on the tip of each one and gently pulled it into the shaded part of the scale. That movement lightened the highlight back into the shadowed area.

Then I cut the stick eraser into a wedge with a knife, and did the same thing with it. That lightened the highlight in a gradual way a little more than the kneaded eraser did. After each couple of scales, I cleaned the eraser by either rubbing it on scrap paper or by cutting it again.

Finally, I noticed that the left side of the cone was in shadow, so I darkened it slightly with light over-all hatching made with the side of a 2H pencil.

Sometimes you have to erase in layers to get the effect that you want.

The kneaded eraser followed by the stick eraser might seem like the long way to get to a result, but graphite is very slick and it can ‘clog’ erasers quickly. Firstly, I used the kneaded eraser to remove some graphite so I wouldn’t have to clean the stick eraser quite so much. Secondly, the stick eraser used on top that much graphite would have created a smeary mess.

I’m happy with the way I was able to preserve the scale’s texture, and the gently gradated highlights made the tips “stand up” in a very three dimensional way, so you can’t argue with success, even if you can complain about how slow it is. :)

I’m a Blick affiliate. They’ve been my art store for over thirty years, and I get a bit of money when you buy from my links, so if you do that thanks! In any case, these are the brands I use and recommend.

Here are the supplies you need for this lesson:

Derwent Graphic 2B
Derwent Graphic HB

Derwent Graphic 2H

(If one is out of stock, get the next softer grade.)
Canson Classic Cream Drawing Pad
Strathmore 400 Series Drawing Paper Pad

Faber-Castell Kneaded Eraser

Tombow Mono Knock Stick Eraser

Kum Long Point Pencil Sharpener