An Old Dog's Song

I've had my Portuguese Water Dog, Figo, since he was a wee pup and this last Christmas he turned 14. He is definitely an 'old boy' now, although not doing too badly for his age. His back legs and hips are certainly giving him 'a bit of gyp', he is fairly deaf, his bladder control is questionable, his old eyes don't produce enough tears and he sometimes gets a bit confused. I don't really leave him alone much nowadays as he needs plenty of daily care - eye drops every couple of hours, several small meals a day (due to previous pancreatitis), potty breaks and of course, lots of cuddles in between.
Old Portuguese Water Dog
Old Dog Buggy Stroller
He still loves his food and short walks -though not in the rain… and no steep hills or stony tracks for him! He doesn't play as much as he used to and whilst he might engage in a short tug of war, he generally seems to have forgotten what to do with the toys in his basket, though old "Mousey" is still a favourite. If I want to walk further than he is able, he has a dog 'buggy' which he loves to ride in, looking like royalty as he surveys the route, while I puff and pant pushing him up the hills!

Those of you who are familiar with my work will know that I like to combine words and pictures in my art to celebrate the love of our dogs. Many of my prints incorporate little poems (or ditties) and this piece is no exception. I like to write from the dog's perspective so I wrote this poem about what I think it means to be an old dog.

I'm not sure where the imagery came from but, for me, the thought of an old dog in a favourite armchair asleep by the fire perfectly represents the life of a cherished old dog - so that's the visual idea that the print is founded on. It's always a challenge to figure out how the poem will fit in with the illustrative parts of the print however the mirror over the fireplace was a nice solution in this case.

I like to plan my prints in detail before I start carving the lino and I do this in Procreate on my iPad Pro. I work in layers - as each colour on a multi-block print will need a separate lino block. Once I'm happy with the design I print off each layer and transfer them to separate pieces of lino. They are transferred in reverse so that they are the right way round when printed.
Linoprint carved lettering
carved lino plate
The letters in this print were the smallest that I have ever carved! I wore my super strong glasses plus a tabletop magnifying lens and my Pfeil gouge no.12 to painstakingly carve away the lino around each letter leaving the letters themselves in relief ready to be inked. Many people ask me how I get my head around carving letters in reverse. The solution for me is not to think of them as letters, but just shapes, when I'm carving around them.

Below is the carved lino plate and the resulting print for the first layer - printed in yellow ink. The lino is stained red with ink so that it is easier to see where you are carving. All the red areas are left to be inked and the grey areas are those that have been carved away.
Linoprint carved block
linoprint first printed layer
Below is the carved lino block for the second sepia black layer and the final resulting print.
Linoprint carved block with lettering
carved lino plate
I used Zerkall Extra Smooth 145 gsm paper for this print and produced a limited-edition of 104 prints - each one is a hand-printed, signed & numbered original.

I raise money from the sale of my Christmas cards for Hearing Dogs and The Cinnamon Trust and I wanted to do something similar with this print. It must be so unsettling for dogs to be rehomed at any stage in their life, but especially so for an old dog, as they need their routine and the security of familiar people and places so much more. I found a wonderful UK charity called The Oldies Club - a dog rescue that specialises in rescuing and rehoming older dogs in the UK - so £5 from the sale of each print will be donated to them.