It took a painstaking 270 hours of engraving to make this woodcut
THOMASTON — How many thousands of artistic paintings, photographs and depictions of the Camden and Rockport harbors have been created in the last century? Two of Julie Crane’s woodcuts, “Hibernating Home” and “Rockport Harbor” are like no other art form and have to be seen up close to fully appreciate the phenomenal amount of detail that goes into each piece.
Each ripple in the harbor and stroke of grass in the treeline is a precise woodcut that took more 200 hours of meditative engraving in order to be a fully realized scene.
As a child, Julie Crane used to spend hours in the woods, observing animals, collecting insects, bits of feathers.
“I was an odd kid,” she said.
Having grown up in Rockport, all of the inspiration was right here. However, as an adult she moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico, and fell in with a thriving printmaking community there.
“Eventually the realization that what was motivating me was superficial and ‘career-driven,’ as opposed to an earnest exploration, which caused me to came back to Maine in the late 1990s,” she said. “I thought I wasn’t going to be doing artwork anymore. It took a few years before I started to dabble in it again.”
Crane, who works a day job in a custom framing shop, does her artwork in the morning her attic studio, which affords a view of trees and meadow in her backyard.
“Hibernating Home” is a tribute to Camden with crows flying by the harbor giving a bird’s eye perspective to the woodcut. The piece required a drone to take in all of that detail of Mount Battie and all of the buildings surrounding the harbor from that perspective. As it took so long to make every wood cut, she found herself editing mentally while in the simultaneous mindset of creating.
“Sometimes, I do that, knowing I’ve got 20 or 30 hours of carving ahead of me.”
As if that weren’t laborious enough, Crane had to work out the kinks to print the giant color woodcut. This required five passes on the press, each time inked with different colors. Out of 20 attempts there were only eight that made the edition. All of that time just making, fine tuning, and never knowing whether it would resonate with a buyer — that is the life of an artist.
Most of her woodcuts, monoprints, sculptures and encaustics are portraits of animals. Her birds, seals, hares and sea horses all have an ephemeral quality to them, as if her brain and her hand are working together to produce some sort of human Photoshop soft focus lens effect.
“I think on some level, the depiction of of every animal that I’m creating is a self-portrait, not just for me but for anyone viewing it,” she said. “Lately, I’ve been working on magpies and thinking about black and white with blue feathers shining clean and bright. Magpies are fascinating in what they’re curious about, how they communicate and imitate. People are peculiar like that too.”
On December 7, her work will be part of an opening reception at a holiday art show at High Mountain Hall in Camden from 5 to 8 p.m. The gallery will be open on Saturday from 11 p.m. to 5 p.m. For more information visit: https://juliecrane.com/ and High Mountain Hall.
Kay Stephens can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org