Gansai and Graphite

I first discovered gansai — Japanese watercolor — about a year ago. I purchased a small set, tried it, and immediately fell in love with it. Now, having used up that first set, I have a larger set with many more colors, and I’ve found that the more I use gansai, the more I enjoy it. I’m especially fond of doing quick ink sketches and then coloring them with gansai. That’s my usual approach. Recently, though, since I’ve been working with graphite — another of my favorite media — combining it with gansai, and I really like the results.

This morning I started sketching one of the two aluminum plants (pilea cardieri) we have in our kitchen. Instead of sitting outside on the porch, I was doing my daily drawing practice at our kitchen table. Long story, but Flower Child is grounded. She got herself into a bit of trouble by squirrel-chasing too close to the street. Fortunately there’s little traffic where we live, but even so, she’s overstepped her boundaries and has temporarily lost her porch privileges. So, she joined me this morning in the kitchen as soon as I got out a few art supplies.

You might be able to tell from that perturbed look on her face that she’s not happy about losing her morning time on the porch. Oh, well. She’ll get over it. And, for what it’s worth, I bought her a new chirping bird toy this morning along with another new scratcher (and two new dishes for her food and water), so she’s really got nothing to complain about. Of course, I hadn’t yet gone shopping when this picture was taken. She was still in a little cat snit.

She is much happier now.


Being confined to the kitchen, yet wanting to draw a plant from life, the obvious choice was one of the aluminum plants. We have two fairly large plants. They were in the guest room before, but once we brought Flower Child home, I moved the plants. For some reason I was thinking they might be toxic to cats. They’re not. I just looked it up, so maybe they will go back to the guest room.

I started sketching with pencil, but Flower Child wasn’t having it today. She wanted to check out the plant, and again, still concerned that the leaves might be toxic for her, I quickly gave up on that idea, put the plant back on top of the refrigerator, shrugged, and simply colored in what little I’d drawn.

I actually drew only the topmost three leaves “from life” and then added a few leaves after putting the plant away. I knew I wasn’t getting it quite right, but, oh, well. I’ll probably do another drawing/painting of one of the plants simply because I love the colorful patterns of the leaves.

My simple sketch — on regular drawing paper — was fun to do and here are a couple things I learned:

  • It’s good to work with media that we like using. It makes our art time more enjoyable and gives us more incentive to learn.
  • Working from life really does help us improve our observational skills, and therefore, our drawing skills as well.

I’m having so much fun with graphite and gansai that I’m going to do a lot more of it, and I’m going to start using actual watercolor paper for some of my drawings. While I was out shopping for all those cat toys, I detoured over to the art supplies and picked up a pad of “Bee” Watercolor Paper. I was recently introduced to this line of paper products, and this pad — 140 lb. weight and cold-pressed surface — seems to be a decent quality. I found this at Walmart, and the price is quite reasonable.

Now, Flower Child is contentedly sleeping on a rug, the house is quiet, and I’m going to go do a bit more gansai and graphite drawing so I can try out my new paper. I might even get that aluminum plant back down and draw it again.

Happy arting, whatever you’re drawing or painting today!



    1. I would love to have either a Maine Coon or a Norwegian Forest cat. When we first decided we wanted a cat, I browsed around online but couldn’t find either breed for sale anywhere in our area. We decided to adopt from a shelter, and I’m glad we did. Flower Child was considered to be a “problem cat”. Maybe not exactly “My Cat from Hell”, but one that was difficult. She was adopted out once and returned almost immediately. She’s not aggressive. She was merely a very frightened cat. The other cats at the shelter picked on her, so of course she became defensive. She didn’t trust anyone, didn’t want to be petted or picked up. I’m sure that many shelters would have given up on her, called her “unadoptable” or “dangerous” because of her clawing and biting behaviors, and simply euthanized her. We are so thankful that she was in a no-kill shelter. Otherwise she wouldn’t be here in the guest room with me right now, stretched out on the bed, enjoying the morning sun streaming through the windows. We adore her, and it’s rewarding to see her settling in and taking more “ownership” of the house day by day.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Awww, your current feline overlord sounds like our last one.

        Our previous cat was a legit rescue from a dedicated Siamese rescue agency. She was 5-years old when we got her, very grumpy and hated other cats, and had been at the shelter for over 18 months because she didn’t “show” well for interested adopters. We were told that she didn’t like men, that she’d been abused, and that she’d be a problem for anyone that adopted her, i.e., pretty much the same thing that you describe for yours. The adoption agency was so desperate to place her that they just gave her to us – no charge! – and threw in some toys, blankets, and a big basket to transport her home in.

        Once we got her safely here, the transformation was immediate and surprising. She completely lightened up, hissed at me once and immediately head-butted me afterward, then decided that our place was juuuuust acceptable as her new forever home.

        She quickly became my cat and loved seeking me out and plopping down on my lap for naps and scritches. Ha – so much for “hating men”. She turned out to be my favorite Siamese cat, and was a wonderful companion for many years, until she finally got old enough that day-to-day living was quite painful for her and we had her put to sleep back in the fall of 2015.

        When we wanted a new cat a few months later, we were torn; Cindy wanted a Maine Coon, and I wanted a Rag Doll. I lost, and I’m so glad that I did! Cindy found a breeder within driving distance from us, and worked with them.

        We got Autumn first, and were so taken by her that we decided to get a second kitten a week later, which is when we picked up Terra.

        Wow, wow, wow!

        These are the very best cats I’ve ever had, and I’ve had a wide variety of felines for most of my life. Super personable, constant companions, and almost dog-like in how they interact with us – I just can’t say enough positive things about them. It’s hard to believe that we’ve had these two bozos for nearly 6 years now. Highly recommended.


      2. Oh, your cats sound so awesome! Maybe someday I’ll find a Maine coon or a Norwegian. For now, I’m delighted to have Flower Child.

        Sounds like our homecoming experiences were very similar to your Siamese. My husband was getting a little frustrated because the adoption process seemed to be taking so long. We were told it usually took 24-48 hours, and we’d been waiting several days before we got an answer. We had actually gone to the shelter several times to visit Flower Child, and as I was signing the adoption papers the director explained that they’d deliberately delayed the process to give us more time. They wanted to be sure we were aware of Flower Child’s “problems”. Yes, we were, and my husband and I both had a very strong feeling that Flower Child was waiting just for us. We needed her, and she needed us.

        It took 3 adults 20 minutes to catch the cat and get her into a carrier. I figured when we opened the carrier at home she would bolt out, run and hide, and that it might be days before we saw her again.

        I talked to her all the way home (about 20 miles) and she seemed fairly calm. At home, when I opened the carrier, she climbed out, crawled on my lap, and looked around. My husband looked at her and said “That’s a completely different cat.” She sure seemed like a different cat. She curled up in bed between us that night, and she quickly became part of the family.

        She still gets a bit overstimulated if she’s petted too much — but she loves being brushed. She’s not a lap cat and maybe she never will be (although I’m hoping she gradually will), but she’s like my little cat shadow. She’s rarely more than a few feet away from me.

        Recently while we were outside, the neighbor’s little girl (about 3 years old) asked if she could pet the cat. I had no hesitation about it. Amber Rae petted Flower — no problems.

        If she’s tired or overstimulated, she might still get a little rough, but only long enough to say “That’s enough.” We understand. I’ve taken a few pictures of her to the shelter for them to put on their pin-up wall. They’re delighted to know that Flower Child truly has found a forever home with us.

        Liked by 1 person

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