The Cornish Soliloquy or How to Deface a vintage Mills & Boon

Cornish cover

The hero… or is he a villain? of this vintage romance ‘Whispering Winds’, is the mysterious Mr Cornish. I sprang off from there to Cornish Rex cats, and 25 or so drawings later, here we are. With a Cornish Soliloquy. An artist’s book full of Cornish Rex drawings and paintings, tracing the internal conversation I had as I learned how to draw a new thing.

I don’t think I’ve ever met a Cornish Rex in person. I feel I know them a little now, and I’d certainly like to be introduced to one. Apparently they are wonderfully soft, and wonderfully curious. They have simply enormous ears, large eyes, a delicate build, a prominent roman nose and a crinkle cut hairstyle.

I won’t include all of the drawings here. Suffice to say it was an interesting journey. From fussy carefulness, through wild experimentation and daring (I should have been wearing my superhero mask for that bit) to lazy and half-hearted (before afternoon tea) and finally simple ink outlines, which are some of the ones that worked the best.

I’ve put them roughly in their order as they appear in the book. But this is not the order in which they were drawn. I wonder if you can work out which ones I did first and last.

Cornish soliloquy 26

Cornish soliloquy 25

Cornish soliloquy

wet on wet. Good fun.

Cornish for 'welcome'

Cornish for ‘welcome’

mission I set myself

no matter how unpromising resolve second pass

Cornish soliloquy 1

I made a hash of the drawing on this page and in the spirit of challenging myself to ‘save’ every spontaneous picture, I quickly followed Matisse’s example and ‘drew’ another cat with scissors. I was happy with the result, despite the fact that this fellow does not have the required roman nose. Other pictures were ‘saved’ less well.

Cornish soliloquy 24

Nice and simple

Cornish soliloquy 23

This has the cornish character.

brushy and quickbrushy and quick

Cornish soliloquy 21


This is just blatantly cute! I mean really!

This is just blatantly cute! I mean really! There’s simply no excuse for this sort of thing. Ha ha! But seriously, why is it that this looks horribly cheap to me, and the two ink kittens at the front of the book seem to me good? Of course, all is subjective with art. But perhaps some of it is the soft pastel used here, which sometimes has an association with sentimentality. The ink looks vaguely oriental, and perhaps more sure-handed. It’s all conjecture. But these are things that get me pondering. And it’s a constant source of friction when drawing for children’s books. How to make the work feel like genuine art to me, and not fall into any of the several mine shafts that say ‘sentimental’, or ‘cute’ or ‘sugary’ (aaagh!) or ‘mediocre’ (that’s a very easy one to fall into, and let’s face it, by its very definition, most of us will fall into that category much of the time.)… the mine shafts go on forever.

Cornish soliloquy 2-2

This was the first one I did and is horribly overworked. In fact, just horrible, full stop. Truly cringe-worthy. Good thing I continued on and improved… he he

collage funcollage fun

Cornish soliloquy 2

I could have improved this I think, with a different background treatment and a little more work with the swirling lines on the cat.

Cornish soliloquy 3

I quite like this one, despite the fact that he looks a little like a panther. At least he goes well with the ominous phrase picked out… ‘Mr Cornish is here, he wants to see you.’ Dum dum daaaaaa!

Cornish soliloquy 4

Corny cornish. Would have been less corny if I’d kept away from the colour highlights. She is ready for the chocolate box lid :-)

What the...?

What the…? Mad, but I don’t mind it. It’s a bit quirky. And I enjoy the effect of the lines across the text.

Cornish soliloquy 6

A mistake to colour the eye. Another corny cornish.

Cornish soliloquy 7

Very rough, but rather soft and expressive. I don’t mind this one.

Cornish soliloquy 8

This cat is lying down. I perhaps should have drawn a shadow. Then he wouldn’t look like a floating phantom. But it would have lost its graphic quality…I quite like him nevertheless. He’s a shape as well as a cat. These last two employ a chinese brush pen with a rubber tip. It’s quite nice to use, dries out quickly though, and the ink is so soluble that it’s rather ‘volatile’ when you add water later on. You can lose all your lines unless you work with care.

Cornish soliloquy 9

Here I used a fine liner pen, way too fine for the job, but it looked interesting once I added the ink with a brush.

Cornish soliloquy 10

DREADFUL. But if you’re experimenting, you’re experimenting. You have to take a risk or you get nowhere.

Cornish soliloquy 11

The cat is more interesting than the drawing. Quite a personality by the looks of him. ” ‘You look wonderful,’ he said. It’s years since I had such a glorious pet’ .”

Deep. Very deep

Deep. Very deep. he he.



Cornish soliloquy 14

Here I used a LARGE conté stick.

One of my faves. Jaunty little fellow.

One of my faves. Jaunty little fellow.



I think this is shorthand.

I think this is shorthand. (This was before my afternoon tea. Did you guess?)

What do you get when you cross a sheep with a cat?

What do you get when you cross a sheep with a Siamese?

This is my favourite. Love the library dates. They go well with the drawing gestures. All flicky!

This is my favourite. I LOVE the library dates. They seem to go well with the drawing gestures. Don’t ask me why. (One day later: Ask me why! Ask me why! I’ve worked it out. It’s the repeating verticals and hook gestures… Of course I did that on purpose. Phew!)

There are many more drawings and writings in the book. Something on nearly every page. I kept coming back to it, as it became quite addictive.

This book is supposed to be on exhibition at the Courthouse Gallery in Camperdown, western Victoria from next week as part of the community exhibition ‘Animalia‘. I’ve missed the post, but I’ll try to get it there in time anyway.

20 thoughts on “The Cornish Soliloquy or How to Deface a vintage Mills & Boon

    1. Judy Watson Post author

      Thanks Myf. And I’ll bet you don’t like some of the ones that I am fond of. I really like it that people are drawn to different things. It’s an intrinsic part of the whole mystery of human creativity and art. But there’s no getting around it, when you’re the creator… You have your own set of emotional / intellectual / personal responses to your work that will rate it for you. (Artistic baggage:-) Do you find this with your own work?


      1. Myf

        Yes, you are completely right. Sometimes I show friends something I think is a disaster, and they say it’s their favourite of my work. It’s always good to get a perspective. In any case, I love your big-eared cat illos.


  1. Kerrie

    This is truly delightful. The only problem is that the exhibition goers in Camperdown wont be able to read your amusing narrative and way to harsh criticisms. Lovely way to spend the day. We know a real rex cat that would model for you. XX


    1. Judy Watson Post author

      I’d like to meet Mr Rex. Is he a Cornish or a Devon Rex? I believe the Cornish are softer but with bigger noses! Naturally this makes them better Mills & Boon material.


  2. Clive Hicks-Jenkins

    Online I was first introduced to a Devon Rex by the name of Jeffrey, who belongs to my cousin Pamela and her husband Steve in New Zealand. I thought Jeffrey so wonderful that I wrote to my friend, the artist Philippa Robbins, extolling his virtues and sharing photographs. Philippa researched Devons, but after a couple of years of looking and wondering about whether she might find one for herself, her daughter Oonagh and Oonagh’s fiancé beat her to it, acquiring one for themselves… an enchanting little thing called Marceline… who I met during the Summer. Looking at Marceline I can understand how the Egyptians worshipped cats. There’s something utterly beguiling about Marcy’s gaze, and the sense of connection when she turns it on you like a searchlight.

    I too think you’re being tough about some of the drawings above. I understand your reservations about when a drawing gets overwrought, and I’ve often failed to see the merits of my own work when it turns out differently to how I’d planned. You clearly value and aspire to the fluent and spontaneous line, and there are many examples above that have those qualities in abundance. But the drawing where the right-hand page is densely worked, with the shadowed shape of the cat emerging into the light at left, works beautifully on all sorts of levels, drawing attention to the very thing… the gutter of the book… that so often provides a tripping point for illustrators and artists.

    The book is a delight!

    Very best
    C H-J


    1. Judy Watson Post author

      Thanks so much for your wonderful comment. So interesting. I was looking at your blog in an agony of delight this afternoon when I stumbled upon your Jeffrey collages in a google search of ‘Cornish Rex’ (for my current illustration project). Your artwork is just beautiful. Thanks for visiting and commenting. I’m looking forward so much to receiving your blog posts in my email. (By coincidence I am crazy about puppetry so double delight!)


  3. Pingback: Little Cats (or patience is a virtue) | endpapers

    1. Judy Watson Post author

      Thank you! I enjoyed doing it, and it’s led to quite an interest in Cornish Rex cats. Although I’d love to own one, I fear we won’t be getting a cat any time soon. We’ve just moved into a house bordering native bushland and we have a lot of beautiful birds in our garden. I couldn’t bear to have a cat killing them, and keeping the cat indoors would probably be a bit of a nuisance for all of us, and possibly the cat too…


  4. Clive Hicks-Jenkins

    It was interesting, being notified in August 2015 of a post in which we’d had a conversation in 2013. Much has happened in the interim, but it was rather lovely to return and revisit the beauty of your work in this little book. So much of what we make as artists is edited by us and by others, but this feels lemon zesty in its immediacy and freshness. Yummy!


    1. Judy Watson Post author

      Thanks Clive. You are right. Much is edited or at least influenced by others. Sometimes people can influence my work without even saying a word. It’s merely via an imagined interaction with the work that takes place in my head! This is why for years Scott has been saying I should produce a book (or a good part of one) before I speak to an editor… to avoid the pressure of perceived editorial expectations and the heady brew they make when mixed with personal expectations. But on the other hand, the editor offers an invaluable service to the artist working home alone, by providing impetus and intelligent feedback. It’s an interesting challenge.
      But the Cornish Soliloquy is indeed a piece of pure self indulgent pleasure, and was a fun thing to do. I think I need to do something of the like again now, to regain my joy in drawing after a period of intense disruption. Back to some blobs I think. They are so frivolous that they are like a recreational activity.
      Thanks for visiting.


  5. Michelle

    OMG!!! You are an amazing artist! I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE, your cornish rex book! What beautiful creativity, lovely renderings of some beautiful cats. You captured their essence so wonderfully.
    Thank you, what a pleasure it was discovering your work.


    1. Judy Watson Post author

      Thank you Michelle. How nice of you to take the trouble to comment. I’m glad you like the work. I became quite fascinated with Cornish Rex cats for a while, and used them as the model for the cat in my picture book at the time. (Thunderstorm Dancing, by Katrina Germein.) I love a nose with character and the Cornish profile I find delightful. I’d like to own a cat but alas we couldn’t do that here because it would be doing a disservice to all the wonderful bird life. I’ll hope to see you around the blog again :-)


  6. Greta Huls

    I was so tickled looking at these delightful sketches that I knew exactly the photo that inspired you so well done! Now I need to buy the book and any other Cornie items of yours I can find!



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