It’s always easier when you quit

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By Steven Overturf, Bachelor of Art, Graphic Design Emphasis 2014 »

It’s always easier when you quit

Steven Overturf, University of Central Arkansas 2010-2014, B.A. Fine Arts, Minor: Marketing

I walked into UCA in 2010 with a mindset, like most college students, to give everything I did my all — whatever that means. To say that I did would be a lie. Did I put a lot of energy into a lot of things? Yes, I did, but then there were other areas where I slacked off and was lazy, and it showed. Unfortunately, some of that lazy attitude showed up while I was taking classes in the Art department.

I declared my major on day one, freshman year: BA in Fine Arts with a minor in Marketing. There was hope to play soccer at the collegiate level so I wanted to fit my schedule around that. Well guess what…the soccer thing didn’t work out. Ya boy was not good enough.

But I soon started to really enjoy the decision I made. However, those first few semesters came with a number of hardships. I joined a fraternity and started getting really involved in other student organizations. That in itself isn’t a bad thing it’s great to get involved in other interests while in college. As a result, a few of my major classes took a backseat: my 3D classes in particular. But hey, I was going to be a graphic designer, why did I need to put that much effort into the classes I knew I wasn’t going to pursue. What a dumb mindset to have. For any student reading this, that train of thought led to me going through the Sophomore Art Review (aka SMAI) three times. All my other work was solid and I passed conditionally, but the area I slacked off in kept me from advancing in my major.

The BAD thing about that… I didn’t even show 3D projects in that first review. I knew I had nothing of quality to show. I could’ve quit then. I could’ve told myself, “you’re not good enough to be in this department, and you might as well change your major now.” — These are things students battle with every day. And not just in the Art department. I’m not sure what it’s like these days, but we heard horror stories of students crying in these interviews and never continuing their career. BUT, I knew I was a pretty good artist; I knew I had more to give. So eventually I approached some professors that I trusted. One in particular that I had not had yet was professor Holly Laws. What a wonderful person and amazing teacher. I enrolled in her contemporary media class and found a new love for 3D, contemporary art, and materials. I ended up passing the SMAI because of the projects in Laws class as well as her and other professors’ guidance.

I knew after finally passing the SMAI I was never going to let myself stumble down that road again. I was never going to slack off on what I love. Not just art classes, but life goals and dreams as well. If anything is worth doing it’s worth doing well, I told myself.

My experience eventually led me to diving deep with what I knew I wanted to study full time: graphic design. And thus, throwing myself at the art form and profession. I next stepped into Ray Ogar’s class and who I thought was just another professor became the most influential person in my graphic design career to this day.

If you’ve had the chance to take a class by Professor Ogar, or Ray, then you know he is an encyclopedia of wisdom and knowledge not just about design but about the art world in general. And he is someone who is always making design and art to some extent. Ray introduced me to a part of the design process that was very hands on, more fine art in nature and less digital like we typically think. At this point I knew I had found a mentor that would be long lasting and invaluable. This idea of a mentor then overflowed into my personal life. I had this desire to become a sponge and do everything I can to grow.

Ray started to throw design at me like paint on a wall. I found an interest in design books and researching all sorts of design related content, things that weren’t taught in any class I had taken, but also design conferences. I became a seeker of design and the design community at large. Which I recommend for any designer wanting to be in the industry full time. I wanted to do everything I could to succeed as an artist and designer in my post college experience. The first step was not something common most students would take on themselves. I signed up for more studio classes. I took 2 independent studies with Jennifer Rospert and Ogar while taking upper-level studio classes that I didn’t need for my BA. Later I realized that the majority of the students taking these types of courses were BFA students.

Conway Bike Share

Eventually I started to see my hard work pay off. My senior show rolled around. There were a handful of BA students, me being one of them, and a few BFA students. In the department there is an award  given to seniors whose work is deemed excellent by full faculty vote. This isn’t something that is advertised and you almost wouldn’t know about. At the gallery show opening there were 3 given out. Fortunately, I was one of them, the only BA student that semester. This was something that was shocking to me, a student who took the SMAI 3 times and could’ve quit. On paper I was not a student who you would’ve thought to get an honor like that.

During my senior year I also started to apply to local internships, getting two of them. One was doing something I had done in high school. Working for a screen-printing company. The largest in Arkansas to be exact. The other was with a church in town where I serve at.

Campfire Coffee Badge

With graduation soon approaching, I had to find a job. Luckily, I landed a part time gig with the church I once interned with but within 6 months I was searching for a full-time job for various reasons. I found an opening with Kanga Studio in Conway, AR. This was October of 2015. This position brought on many challenges very quickly. Challenges that I was not used to. These issues weren’t the same struggles I found in college. Again, I could’ve quit. It would’ve been easy. However, I stuck it out. I kept on trucking. I then began to present solutions to some of these speed bumps I was experiencing and later stepped into a director position, leading a multitude of projects and cultivating trust with the clientele.

The Baller Teacher

There came a time in my five and a half years at Kanga where I wanted to take my career a step further. I understood that Kanga was a great first job where I grew a ton but wasn’t where I wanted to be for years to come. I also knew I liked sports; I grew up playing soccer and dabbled in a few athletic branding projects while at Kanga and I enjoyed it more than any other project I had worked on during my time there.

I began applying to athletic design related jobs all over the country. Applying to easily 65+ jobs in professional sports and collegiate athletics. Getting rejection email after rejection email, saying the same thing. That they were “exploring other candidates with more experience.” I’m thinking to myself what do I not have that the next person has. Oh, that’s right, a portfolio that reflected the jobs I was applying to. Now, that’s not to say I didn’t get good emails. A professional baseball team called wanting to interview me because of the various projects I showed in my portfolio. They were less concerned that I was not a sports designer. However, I ended up not getting an offer because of my lack of experience in the industry. Very confusing day. I was upset, not because I didn’t get the job, but because I felt led on. I could’ve quit, could’ve given up from applying. But that would’ve been too easy.

More job openings meant more applications put in. Summer of 2020 rolls around and I had another opportunity for a job that was very close to my heart, in athletics of course. I was a finalist just like in the baseball job. Unfortunately, again, I did not get the news I was looking for. I could’ve quit applying to sports jobs. I wanted to, this time I felt broken. I didn’t think I was ever going to get the job I was seeking after putting in so much time and energy. But few weeks went by and I was ready to start applying again and put myself out there.

On a random November morning I received an email from a job I forgot I had applied to. (That goes to show you how many jobs I was applying for.) Eager to get a foot in the door of an industry that honestly felt pretty lucrative: the Los Angeles Galaxy, a Major League Soccer team that I grew up rooting for. This was a position that I honestly never thought I would hear from: I mean, a designer from Arkansas? What would a global organization in one of the biggest cities in the world want with a designer from Arkansas? But in that moment, you can’t second guess, because that doubt will creep in just like it did before, and then the moment becomes overwhelming, the anxiety grows and you will want to quit. It’s easy.

A few weeks later I received an offer from the LA Galaxy. On January 26, 2021 — I started my first job as a designer in sports full time.

I could’ve quit, it would have been the easiest decision to make, and failing makes quitting that much easier. But the hard decision is to grind it out. To always be a student. I say, know that success isn’t promised, nor is it guaranteed, but hard work will never return void. You can go through your time in college and skate by. Do the bare minimum and graduate. But I think if you want to be a successful designer, artist, maker, and more, you’ve got to strive to be great, you’ve gotta want it. No one else is going to do that for you, nothing will be handed to you. People may encourage you and push you along the way, but you have to decide for yourself if you want to quit… or not.

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