Rennie - wood engraving - Jenn White

Rennie – wood engraving

My first printmaking project for the year was to be an edition for the Baren Forum Woodblock Printing Group.  An un-themed exchange, I struggled with choosing a subject – too many ideas.  I had thought to do a reduction print, but with the weather playing silly buggers, one day cool and the next dumping a heatwave, drying layers of ink would be unpredictable.  Like all exchanges, there was a deadline. There was also a Christmas gift to think about.  Added to that was the daily awareness of the ageing process, not only for me, embarking on another round of medical tests, but also for my canine mate, Finn, and his sister Rennie. The mind works in convoluted ways…at least mine does!  My Muse is much like Victorian weather with her whims and sudden knocks to the side of the head that have me reeling.

In late 2008, seeking a new canine companion, I trawled the internet, not pedigree sites, but those providing second chances.  I also wanted a large breed, something I would actually see before tripping over it.  I’m a sucker for any creature huge and hairy, you know, gorillas, Chewbacca, Yetis.

I found my perfect mate.  A litter rescued from ill-treatment and the prospect of a life spent pig-hunting (something Wolfhounds and Wolfie crosses are easily trained for) and already four months old, the dogs’ chances of being homed were slim.  The scruffiest one snatched my heart on first sight.  I wanted them all, but…

Arrangements were made, money paid.  Finn duly arrived in Bendigo, after the long trip from New South Wales with a helpful and dog-loving greyhound owner.  A few weeks later, Finn was reunited with his sister, Rennie.  Pretty and appealing, she had caught the attention of a good friend and neighbour in Maldon, where I lived at the time.

After what had been a very rough start, they soon settled into their new homes.  From nervy toddlers they quickly grew to formidable teenagers – in size, but not temperament.  And, like human teenagers, they egged each other on, embarking on adventures never considered alone.  Seen often together around town, the pair, and their owners, became quite well-known.  Fortunate, on the day they escaped.  During a play date one of them sussed out how to slip the gate latch.  After a heads-up from a kind and concerned local, the pair were finally apprehended, frothing at the mouth from exertion.  They’d had a wonderful time, tear-arsing around the town.  It was hard to keep a straight face while reprimanding, seeing the ecstatic grins and lolling tongues.  And probably a touch of pride in their derring-do at having crossed the busy road, twice, and avoided being skittled by any one of the numerous passing trucks.

Ten years later, Finn and Rennie’s days of escapades are over, insecurities and failing bodies slowing them down.  Though, boys will be boys, whatever the age.  There are still nights, usually when the moon is either new or full, when my boy worms his way under the fence and takes off across the paddocks, his bark fading as he chases an invader.  For a short time he’s a kid again, forgetting his age and infirmities.  He pays for it later, but aren’t all the young-at-heart a bit like that?

The subject chosen, with both exchange and Christmas gift in mind, I decided on a wood engraving.  It’s been a while.  Plus, I’d promised myself to try out the disks of wood, sold as drink coasters and bought with engraving in mind during a trip to Bali.  I only have one engraving tool, a scorper, and had no idea until I started how it would work with an unknown wood.  It was a bit crumbly in spots, and I had to incorporate a hole in the centre into Rennie’s tongue.  Yes, there are things I would change, if given a second chance, but overall I’m pleased enough with the engraving, and the portrait of a younger, much loved and now elderly companion of a good friend.

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