Before the official prompt list for Inktober was released, my monkey mind and I had already decided that trees would be our theme. We knew we were going to do a lot of crazy searches combining all the prompt words from 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2019, and we knew it was going to be a lot of fun. Of course, we expected a few challenges along the way, but that’s the point of Inktober. It’s a time to push ourselves a bit and surprise ourselves by seeing how far we can go.
So, when the 2019 prompt list came out, Cheeky and I couldn’t wait to start our searching. I didn’t want to get half-way through Inktober only to discover that we couldn’t come up with a suitable tree for one of our searches. I also wanted time to browse a bit for reference photos, especially for those trees I’d never heard of before, like the amla tree for the first day.
As I went through my list of trees, I smiled when I came to pine. “I’ve got this. I can do this one, no problem.” After all, how many pine trees have I drawn in my life? Even before I started learning how to draw, I sometimes scribbled childish-looking little Christmas trees. We’ve all done that, right? And as a landscape artist and tree-lover, I’ve drawn all kinds of pine trees. I’ve painted pine trees. I’ve done pine trees in charcoal. I’ve done pine trees in pastels.
Now, I should point out that the phrase pine tree covers a lot of different species. Essentially a pine tree is any conifer in the genus Pinus — a conifer being a cone-bearing plant. Officially there are 126 different species recognized as pines, with another 35 possible species.
So, not only was I confident in my ability to draw a pine tree, I knew I would have a wide variety from which to choose.
Let me back up for a moment though, and explain how Cheeky and I arrived at pine for today’s silly prompt: sad, long, chicken, build, tree. It came, of course, from those chickens, and the idea of building something for them — in this case, chicken houses or coops. Modern Farmer recommends a rot-resistant lumber such as redwood or cedar, and cedar happens to be one of those 126 species listed as a pine tree. It’s also recommended to use pine chips for bedding, although in that case you don’t want cedar. The oils contained in cedar may be harmful to the chickens, which leaves me wondering why you’d want to use it for a coop. Oh, well. I have no chickens to house.
Anyway, one way or the other, pine was the tree my monkey mind and I chose for today’s prompt. I thought it would be so easy.
Was I ever wrong. Inktober is only five days old, and maybe this sounds a little silly to say, but the simple pine has been the hardest challenge I’ve faced. I think that’s because I expected it to be so easy. I did want a bit of a challenge you see, so I skipped over the idea of just drawing a familiar-looking pine tree and calling it done. That would have been too easy.
Instead, I looked for reference photos with up-close views of pine needles. I found several, but when I printed the photos out — converting them first to black and white — they were too indistinct. Briefly I thought back to my graphite drawing of a Scots Pine (the one I tried inking over when I got my new dip pens) but I didn’t want to re-draw the same picture a second time.
Since pines are conifers, I wanted to include one of those seed-bearing cones, so I looked at more reference photos, and finally came up with this one.
This looked simple enough, but my drawing didn’t turn out quite so good. Here’s my not-so-lovely version. I didn’t even attempt the snow.
It’s an all right drawing, and maybe it’s a sign of progress that I am occasionally disappointed by my artwork. When I first started drawing, I would have been pleased with this, I’m sure. Now, though, I feel that I could have done better.
Feeling less than satisfied, I set about doing another drawing, and while it, too, has its flaws, I’m actually much happier with it.
I’m very happy with the tree itself, and I like the very distant hills. I’m not happy with the inking over the dark forested hillside on the left, and trying to “ink-in” the rocky foreground was a big mistake, so I did only the topmost portion on the right side and used ink only for shaping the rocky edges a bit. I do like the sky. I’ve learned to use a blending stomp to create various shades in the sky so that it’s not stark white.
When all is said and done, today’s pine should have been the simplest one for the month, but it proved to be a real challenge. In the spirit of Inktober, though, I completed my pine, and I learned that it is good to push ourselves. Maybe we won’t always be happy with the results, but maybe that’s a good thing, too. It can be easy to become complacent, to do only the simple little things. Where’s the challenge in that? I’m finding that it’s more fun to push myself, and I’m learning a lot from doing so.
TOMORROW’S PROMPT WORDS:
Oh, my goodness! This is going to be interesting.