CASTINE — At the edge of woods on The Shore Road, Juliane Gardner lights the fireplace in her one-room studio, a few paces from the home her mother lives in.
An artist by nature and craft, Gardner interprets the natural beauty surrounding her in this small, picturesque town with dramatic views of the Penobscot Bay. Look the other way and the Bagaduce River reaches out like a welcoming arm. Open fields offer a quieter but no less authentic glimpse of the how wide the sky can be as land touches shoreline.
Gardner’s oil paintings capture both the splendor and quiet in nature.
A photographer, silversmith, singer and musician, Garden picked up a paintbrush three years ago. Her paintings at the Small Works Show at Gallery B. in Castine are nearly sold out, a testament to how her seemingly simple paintings are actually complex, with depth. She also does commission-based work.
“I started seriously painting during the pandemic,” she said, “because we were home a lot and I had extra time on my hands. I had done a lot of sketching with my dad. He taught me the basics of composition.”
John Gardner, who died in 2019, was a sailor, model boat builder and an artist. His sketches, photographs, and other artistic memorabilia fill one studio wall, a nod to the decades he spent there.
“Before he passed — I don’t know if I was asking for permission,” she begins. “I had this desire to paint clouds. He said, you do what you want to do. I don’t know if I needed to hear that, but I think it helped.”
Apart from her father’s wall, the studio gleams with fresh paint from ceiling to floor, and it is set up to share with her musician husband, Chris Poulin. The two perform as New Shades of Blue throughout Maine but curtailed shows the last two years apart from the summer months.
“One of the reasons I was painting last year was it was bringing me joy,” she said. “I could surround myself with color and feel better instantly.”
As a silversmith, Gardner studied with Fred Woell in Deer Isle. This indirectly led her to a paintbrush. She started with tiny canvases that served as backdrops for her jewelry.
But she also lost her studio space during the pandemic, which forced her painting hand.
“I leaned more heavily into painting, because it was something I could at my kitchen table, literally,” Gardner said.
Apart from a workshop she took with Sullivan artist Phil Frey, she is self-taught. But just growing up around her father’s studio helped bring out her artist self.
“My primary influence and teacher was my father,” she said, adding, “When you have access to supplies, it’s easy to explore.”
She cites later influences like N.C. Wyeth, Vincent Van Gogh and Castine artist Josh Adam and Frey.
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., Gardner moved to Castine at age three, where her father’s family had lived for six generations. She attended the University of Maine in Augusta for music and voice, which is where she met Poulin.
And while Gardner first began painting her small panel backdrops three years ago, a spiritual change occurred for her in 2020.
“Sometime last year I made the decision that I wanted to do everything I wanted to do. I needed to express myself in more ways than musically,” she said.
She continued, “I felt a need to produce something with my hands. Music isn’t a tangible object. I just love making objects, the physical holding of them. Then I realized I really love to paint. I discovered it by mistake.”
“I think it helps being a photographer. It’s kind of a natural progression to want to draw or paint. They’re connected,” she concluded.
Like most creative spirits, her goal is to make her living through her art. “I’ve been longing for that. Time and space is the ultimate.”
She looks around the studio, an easel and artist’s long worktable on one side, a mixing board and amplifiers on the other.
“To have the space to do what we want to do,” she finally said. “That’s what this place represents for us.”
Contact Gardner at [email protected] or P.O. Box 1, Castine, ME 04421. Find her handcrafted jewelry designs at her Etsy shop, Shore Road Creations, and on Instagram: Shore Creations. To learn more about New Shades of Blue, visit newshadesofblue.com.