In 2011, I graduated from Otterbein University with a B.A. in Art Education. From my perspective, this meant I was a free spirited, rule bending artist, applying for jobs in a field full of ultra organized, Type A perfectionists. When I failed over and over again to be offered a position, I decided that I had made a huge mistake and the life of a teacher wasn’t for me.
After a few years self employed as an artist and a nanny, I began craving some of that structure that had at one time seemed so off putting. So I once again, began applying for jobs, this time, actually wanting to be hired... and I was.
In the last four years, I have seen how beautifully my career as a teacher, fuels my career as an artist, and vice versa. Each time I find success in one career, it’s because of a skill I practiced in the other. At this point, I can’t imagine doing either job, without also doing the other in some format. For this reason, I think it’s crucial that whatever you choose as a hobby or side hustle, it has to balance what you do in your 9-5. This how we avoid burnout, and promote new ideas. More specifically, here’s some ways I let my two careers fuel each other’s fires.
I Practice What I Preach
This year, I have been really pushing my students to add layers to their artwork. I explain that this adds depth and value and texture to their work. As a result, my student’s work has improved GREATLY... but so has mine! When I’m in my studio, I try to look at my work the way I would look at my student’s. I give myself the same feedback I would give them... including, telling myself to add layers!
I Implement Systems for Maintaining Productivity
The children I teach NEED structure to be successful. Often times, this looks like rubrics, check lists, timelines, etc. Adults need this structure too! So, I have begun to use every single one of these strategies in my own art studio, to keep myself on track.
I Take Breaks
In education, we use something called brain breaks. They are usually a game or a video that involves some type of movement to help kids get the wiggles out while we transition into our next activity. As I work in my studio, my Brain Breaks are not always as fun, but I might use 5 minutes to fold some laundry, do a quick yoga flow, or scroll the Instagram without guilt.
Having created this balance between structured systems, and freedom to create has propelled my artistic practice to a very new level in the past year. I was not expecting these ideas to have this huge of an impact, but I am so grateful they have.
I have been making and creating, this and that my entire life. When I was little, my parents didn’t punish me by hiding the remote, or sending me to my room. All they had to do was take away my art supplies and I was devastated!
So the motivation behind why I love to create, never came up. It's just always been an innate part of who I am.
However, as I’ve begun to turn this creative energy into a business, I’ve had to do a lot of thinking and really pinpoint why I make the what I make.
This meant journaling, reflecting, brainstorming, and honestly, soul searching. For a long time, it felt like there couldn’t possibly being an underlying theme connecting all of my artwork. But then, it hit me. Every time I created something new, the true meaning behind it was balance.
Sometimes that meant I was struggling with my feminine, girly side, and my masculine, tomboy side. Other times it meant finding a balance between being the role model school teacher, and the free spirited artist. In college, I was often challenged with being both an athlete and an art major, (the two rarely seemed to go hand in hand).
Once I noticed this theme, I realized even my more superficial artwork carried a similar theme. The landscapes I was painting showed soft, feminine skies, with rough, masculine land beneath. When I started paying closer attention, all of nature thrives on this balance. Night and day; winter & summer; land and sea.
I couldn’t ignore it anymore and I realized the motivation behind all of my artwork was simple; to show the balance found in people and nature.
I think the people who know me best would say this is a perfect sentiment to who I am, too. I’ve never been very much of one “type” of person, but rather a swirling cocktail of this personality type and that. For me, it’s often been frustrating to not fit in any of the boxes I saw offered by society. But as I get older, and learn to appreciate the beautiful opportunity this offers me, I’ve come to appreciate it and embrace it.
I’m glad you found your way here! So let me invite you to put your feet up, while I introduce myself.
My full name is Nadine April Bower. I love every part of my name, so in order to keep “regular” me slightly separate from “artist” me, I made the “A” part of my artist and business signature.
I grew up Northern, Ohio, in a small rural town just outside of Toledo. When I was a kid, my backyard was farmland. Very flat, and perfect for sunsets. Watching these beautiful swirling colors sit on top of rough rugged dirt built the foundation for my artistic voice. Throughout my life, I found this same metaphor represented over and over again. Whether I was playing in the dirt with bows in my hair, or working out with my team before heading to choir practice, it felt like my life always had two opposing sides to it. I never quite fit into any one stereotype.
Most people would say that made me “well rounded”. While that might be true, as I got older, it made it more and more difficult to make choices for my life. After I received my degree in art education, I felt like I needed to be the perfect role model for my students. But my creative, free spirited side wanted to take risks and go on adventures.
Throughout all of this, I was always making art. Painting, drawing, sewing, sculpting, creating in any way possible. It wasn’t until I started looking deeper into the subconscious meaning behind my artwork that it finally all started making sense. I realized that I wasn’t just making shallow, surface level art like I had always thought. Rather, I was making art driven by a deep need to find balance between all the opposing parts of myself. The feminine and masculine; professional and wild; structured and messy. The clearer this became, the more I started seeing similar opposing ideas in nature; day and night, winter and summer, even life and death.
I've realized, a balance between opposing ideas is what makes each of us who we are. If we try to shut out one part because it doesn’t fit into the singular stereotype we’ve tried to make ourselves fit into, then it becomes impossible to truly appreciate who we are as a whole.
I’ve since realized plenty of other people feel the same way, especially women. The struggle to be a caring mother and a stoic boss, or a respectable citizen and a sexual partner is very real. Without celebrating a balance between all of these pieces, just existing can feel exhausting.
The art I make now is purposeful. Making art that symbolizes this balances is no longer an accident, but rather, a choice. My hope is that when you find a piece of my art that speaks to you, it can serve as a constant reminder to celebrate the balance within you.