Photography by Connie Chornuk for Nashville Interiors

When Julia Martin works on a piece, she doesn’t ever sketch or plan ahead. “I very much work intuitively,” she says. “To ‘finish’ is very much a visual balance that I have to reach, where I can put it down and walk away.”

She has to reach a personal satisfaction with a piece — not that she has had too much time to create since she opened Julia Martin Gallery. But in honor of her gallery’s four-year anniversary in December, Martin will be putting on a solo show — her first in two years.

“Each one seems to be a little lesson,” she says of her art. “My work has always been about relationships, and I always realize it on the back end. Coming to terms with some broken relationships, paying tribute to really joyful relationships, but always maintaining a little ambiguity.”

As she is about to turn 40, Martin recognizes her own personal growth in her work.

“I feel like I’ve shed a lot of emotional weight in this last decade of my life, and the most important paintings and pieces in my personal collection are the pieces that act like mirrors for whatever I’m going through emotionally in that day or in that moment. They almost become confidants, and when I’m having a really exciting, wonderful, joyful day I can glance at them and they’re rooting for me.”

Martin invited us into her studio and shared a bit about where she finds inspiration, her evolution as an artist and what she looks for when building her own collection.

How has your art evolved over time?
In the last couple years my palette has gotten so vibrant. It’s a lot more colorful. And the subject matter … I’ve been so narrow on the faces. Now I’m really trying to zoom out a little bit and not be quite so myopic.

Is it hard to branch out when you are so known for a specific thing?
Not really, because my stink is still on it. It still very much has my hand … very evident in everything that I make. I think incrementally over the last three years I’ve been taking steps toward a little more extraction, a little bolder strokes, and not being quite so concerned with rendering. I feel like I’m even pushing off the deep end with some of these pieces, really sort of basking in color and brush strokes.

What was the first piece of art you purchased?
The very first piece of art I purchased for myself was a small paper piece by a San Francisco-based artist named Michael McConnell, from his first solo at TAG (now Tinney Contemporary). It’s a very delicately rendered drawing of a young boy with the antlers of a six-point buck and a flurry of color, sort of smoking up from a tiny tear in his shirt. Even now I can’t quite put into words why, but it moved me to my core. Still does. It was incredibly empowering, the act of falling in love with a piece and being able to purchase it on the spot. That was in my late 20s and a moment that marked a new chapter in my life, both personally and professionally.

Any tips for new collectors?
Never count yourself out. If you fall in love with a piece that is outside of your budget, there’s always a way. I apply this to every aspect of life, and there’s no exception when it comes to buying art. Many of the pieces in my personal collection were acquired as a result of the gallery allowing me to break the purchase up into payments. Most galleries and dealers are happy to do this in a way that works with your individual budget. I certainly am. I know what a life-enriching privilege it is to live with original works of art, and there isn’t a soul on this planet that doesn’t deserve that privilege.

Julia Martin’s solo opening is at 6:30 p.m., Dec. 1, 2017, at the Julia Martin Gallery, 444 Humphreys St., Nashville. Composer Larissa Maestro will perform a score inspired by her work, creating a multi-sensory immersion that will require silence for the first 30 minutes. Champagne and refreshments will follow.