Painting the Pinecone Spiral
I love this natural craft activity and I could do it again and again. Finding the pinecone spiral and tracing its pattern in paint is such a simple exercise that improves observation skills, nurtures the Waldorf ethos and brings about an awareness of the patterns in natural forms that indicate the underlying mathematical rules of growth. Thats quite a lot for one small painting activity!
I have led this activity several times as part of The Smart Happy Club in after school groups or family events and it is lovely to see how everybody can identify with it.
- Step One.
Collect your pinecones. An important part of the activity is getting outside, observing and really looking at nature. Rummage under trees and in bushes to find your specimens. Yours will vary depending on type of pine tree. Some are small some are large. It can be done at most times of the year as pinecones tend to be around for a while.
Brush off any leaves and mud. Sometimes they will be quite damp depending on where you are. I don’t really worry about this too much. This is about the immediacy of a natural item becoming art.
- Step Two.
This bit is about observation again. More close up observation this time about looking for the pattern in the pinecone shape.
NOTE: The scales that make up the outline of the pinecone (yours might be roundish bumps or spiky triangular bumps) hide the seeds or the pollen under them. If your pinecone has opened up it has released this already. If it is tightly packed then it has still to release. You can use pinecones at either stage. (We have painted them closed then when they come inside and warm up they have popped open and the painted pattern moves with the scales, its sort of exciting to see)
The scales are arranged in a pattern as they grow out from the central axis. The angle that they sit at to each other tends to be because of efficiency of space. (This is the angle that is commonly referred to as Fibonacci or Golden angle but don’t get too worried about the numbers here!).
We are encouraging our eye to pick out the spiralling line that neighbouring scales create around the shape of the cone. It sounds more complicated than it is.
- Step Three
Use one paint colour and paint each scale in the curving line creating a solid spiral that wraps around the pinecone. Any poster or acrylic colour paint will do, just not to drippy as you need to turn the cone in your hand as you work.
I suggest keeping to one colour per line to start with to emphasise the pinecone spiral shape.
You can carry on creating stripes or using different colours as you wish. Sometimes less is more.
Each cone will have one type of spiral that turns one way (duplicated several times) and another shape of spiral that curves the other direction (again duplicated several times) This is what is known as the interconnected spirals in nature. There is a lesson here about a famous number sequence, Fibonacci, if you want to make the activity about that too.
After painting your first pinecone spiral line, you can observe the opposite turning spiral and paint that in too, making the interconnected pattern where the two spirals cross over each other. One ‘scale’ will be shared by both spirals so you will need to decide which colour that one is.