Here's the pine cone, pretty ordinary looking, with the finished one beside it:
I sketched it and then lightly shaded in the darks, trying to emphasize their spiral pattern:
It was clear that I'd never really looked at a pine cone before. (!) As I paid attention to it, I observed that it must have opened out like a flower as it was growing, and that there were two distinct parts to each "petal". Rather than try to paint these further details immediately, I thought it would be better to work out what I needed to do to paint the petal. This observational shot shows how I approached it, first going way too dark and then finally LOOKING at it:
I hope you found this helpful!