CF professionals share common threads of hard work, passion, ambition to climb

Artist Gary Kelley

Freelance artist Gary Kelley started drawing at age four and hasn’t quit since. “There’s this thing that happens. All of us start out drawing and coloring. But then in grade school, our mind grows ahead of our hand skills. In sixth grade when you are trying to draw a motorcycle, you know what it looks like, but you cannot draw it that way. And so, you quit,” Kelley said. “It is too bad. Artists always wish they could go back and draw with the innocence of a child again. Art is about interpretation, not a realistic copy.”

Kelley started out as a graphic designer when he graduated from the University of Northern Iowa (UNI). It took him only three years, though, to discover that his real love was illustration, and he made the switch. Kelley said that his keys to success include passion, curiosity, always looking for ways to solve visual problems and being married to someone who understands his work. “It is so important to have somebody that supports you, someone that shares your passion and understanding,” Kelley said. “Maybe the reason for my success is that I’ve never looked at this as a job; it is my passion and my hobby.”

Kelley is an internationally known artist. However, he said the process he took is backward compared to most artists. Kelley’s first challenge was getting his work out for people to see. “Most people would go to New York and move once they establish a reputation there. However, I worked here, in Cedar Falls, Iowa, and then got established in New York,” Kelley said. He now has an agent in New York who has been with him for about 25 years. He has galleries in Iowa City, Cedar Falls and Cincinnati, and takes on assignments from all over the country, and even internationally.

His most recent challenge has been technology. “[It] dumbs down the culture. Attention spans are much shorter than those of 15 years ago. My work was built on subtlety and layers of storytelling. Nobody has time for that anymore. The audience isn’t as visually educated,” Kelley said.

He has no interest in digital art. “I like using my hands and getting them dirty. I like to be able to feel different surfaces and materials,” Kelley said. He cited that when Picasso, his favorite artist, was asked about computers, he said, “Computers? I’m not interested in them. They can only give answers.” Kelley said this is a big problem because technology doesn’t allow for critical thinking to take place.

An artist’s portfolio is everything, according to Kelley. “People want to see what you’ve done, not read about it. Your art should speak for itself. That makes [art] different from other fields,” Kelley said. To build up his own portfolio, Kelley took good assignments and won awards early on. I wasn’t afraid to work for freebies. The first award I ever got was for a UNI play’s poster, and it was for no pay,” Kelley said.

Kelley has done illustrating work for the publication of CD cover art, concert posters and magazines including the Rolling Stone, Playboy and Entertainment Weekly. “Illustration used to be for publication. Everything was made by hand in here. That has been largely challenged by stuff that isn’t organic,” said Kelley, indicating to his studio. When he teaches at advanced summer workshops, he has the challenge of helping younger artists succeed in a world where technology now plays a big role in artists’ jobs. “[But you] still need to start the thinking process by drawing. Video games and animation start with a drawing. Even live action movies start with story boards. An artist draws the plan,” Kelley said.

Now, artists in these positions translate the story they are portraying, digitally. “They still have to start with a piece of paper and pencil. The best work starts that way,” Kelley said.

Kelley also illustrates picture books. He likes them because the original art usually comes back to him. The only things publishers purchase is the right to use the pictures and the right to reproduce them, but they do not own them.

“I like working on picture books because I am in charge. I get to be the production designer, set person and costume designer,” Kelley said. “I love making pictures that let the reader read between the lines. I want my pictures to go along with the words, fitting them like a glove.”

He enjoys gallery work as well but insists it is more commercial. “The biggest challenge in gallery work is making a painting that you want to make, can enjoy the process of and can feel personal, that will also find an audience in the gallery. They have to have a broad enough appeal that someone might buy them. It is a tightrope you have to walk,” Kelley said.

Kelley said his advice for aspiring artists is to go to college or art school. “You have to have the discipline to do a lot of art. It’s not something you do for a couple hours a day in your spare time. You need the structure of a learning situation,” Kelley said.

Kelley also emphasized the need to be a good listener, have confidence and not limit yourself. “Sell yourself. You have to try to find a project that you want to do and offer your skills and be proud of it. You’ve got to be ready and get yourself around people who [are doing these things]. There is no formula. The main things are to be curious, learn how to draw well, have broad interests and be able to express yourself verbally and on paper.”

Attorney Joe Sevcik

Attorney Joe Sevcik is in the association of sole practitioners, Snow, Knock, Sevcik & Hinze, and has been since right out of law school. He did his undergraduate work at Iowa State University before going to the University of Iowa for law school. His keys to success are hard work, supportive staff and his wonderful wife. “If you have good secretaries, practicing the law is easy,” Sevcik said.

A recent change in the court room is the changing of the guard. “From the old crowd to the new crowd, people are changing through retirement and replacement,” Sevcik said.

Technology has modified his profession because currently all legal research can be done electronically. “Nobody uses law books anymore. They’re just for show,” Sevcik said. He also uses technology to communicate with clients, such as by email, rather than by mail. The Iowa court system has already started using a paperless file to record motions and responses electronically, and Black Hawk County will be joining this process in a few years.

Judges can also email attorneys their order and ruling. “I’ve still got files that are 10 inches thick and a foot wide, and those will all be on flash-drives. Instead of carrying that folder in your brief case, your brief case will be full of flash-drives or some other medium that comes along in the mean time,” Sevcik said.

Getting a job as a lawyer is achievable through a few steps according to Sevcik. “The secret to a job is working very studiously in law school, getting good grades and being involved in a wide range of activities.”

When going to a job interview after law school, certain aspects of a resume will look most impressive. “They want to know what your grade point average is, were you involved in a variety of things and were you a hard worker.”

Overall, Sevcik recommends his job to others because he enjoys it. “It’s not on the top of my list of activities. I’d rather be a soccer coach, but it is a wonderful job, and I would recommend it to anybody because it has given me the chance to be a soccer coach and be involved in my kids’ lives,” Sevcik said. “I get to do all those activities that I love so much including band concerts, cross country meets and track meets. I get to be involved with my family.”

There are a few characteristics that good attorneys must exhibit in the work place according to Sevcik. “You need to have compassion. You need to be able to communicate whether you’re representing a bank president, a farmer or a murder defendant,” Sevcik said. “If you want to be a good attorney, you have to have empathy with your clients.”

Businessman Dan Deery

Dan Deery, business owner of Dan Deery Toyota in Cedar Falls and Dan Deery Motor Company in Waterloo, has known since high school he would follow in his father’s and brother’s footsteps by working for and expanding the Deery business. Deery had the rare advantage to step into an already booming business. His key to success is enjoying work. “You’ve got to like what you do, and I do. I think that is important,” Deery said. He also said to make a successful business, it is important to hire well-trained employees.

Although Deery advertises his business, he doesn’t rely on those advertisements independently to bring in customers. “We’ve been here long enough that we just need to take care of our customers. Word of mouth is our best advertisement. If we take care of them, we will be in good shape,” Deery said.

Technology has allowed Deery’s business to expand. “We get a lot of business over the Internet from all over the country,” Deery said. With new gadgets coming out every year, the car industry is ever-changing. “Cars are a lot more sophisticated than they once were. Mechanics need more training. Cars are built better, but these features add a level of complication to a mechanic’s job,” Deery said.

His advice for high school students is to get involved early so that they can work their way up. “For this job, the best position to get experience in is a hands-on one.”

He also encourages high school students to reach high and dream big. “Everyone should have a dream and go for it. You have to try and go after your dreams; otherwise, you’ll never know if you succeed or not. The economy should not hold you back,” Deery said.

Working with his dad and brother, Deery learned all he needed to about the business without furthering his education in college. However, he said that if he could do it all over again, he would have gone to college. “I recommend everyone to go to college. Back when I was that age it wasn’t as important as it is now,” Deery said.

Deery has a few tips from an employer’s perspective. “What I look for is people who have the desire to succeed and really want to work. They will find a job and be successful at it.”

Dr. Neil McMahon

General surgeon Dr. Neil McMahon works at both Covenent Medical Center and Sartori Memorial Hospital. “I went into medical school thinking I wanted to be a family practitioner, (I always knew I wanted to be a doctor) but it wasn’t until an anatomy lab that I realized my fascination with anatomy and the human body,” McMahon said. It was a school report in the ninth grade, which involved interviewing a doctor, that confirmed McMahon’s interest in medicine.

The path he took to become a general surgeon is a unique one. When he didn’t get accepted into medical school right after college, he decided to go to graduate school and received his masters degree in medical genetics. He worked as a genetic counselor in Ohio before going back to school at Ohio State University College of Medicine. “I found that the desire to be a surgeon was still there,” McMahon said. After graduating, he got a scholarship with the Air Force at Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, and during his payback time he moved to Anchorage.

“When it was time to get out of the Air Force, I looked for a practice that would allow medical missions, and I found one here. That is how I got to Cedar Falls,” McMahon said.

McMahon was also mentored by Dr. Neil Williams who was previously a surgeon in Cedar Falls and also did medical missions work.

McMahon said one of the difficult things about his profession is the amount of time it takes up, and having enough professional and personal time. “[There were] competing demands on my time with my family. If I wasn’t sure that this was my calling, I’m not sure I would have followed through with it. It was difficult through medical school and residency,” McMahon said.

McMahon has no doubt there will be a continued demand for general surgeons, especially in rural areas. “There aren’t as many going into general surgeon as the sub specialty anymore. As a general surgeon, you are trained in a lot of different parts of surgery,” McMahon said. Because of all the specialty areas, the job of a general surgeon is becoming more and more narrow. “There is an immunity to this in somewhat rural Iowa, but in larger cities that is more and more the case,” McMahon said.

McMahon’s advice to students interested in becoming general surgeons is to shadow and spend time with a surgeon. “Make sure it is what you actually want to do. That is the biggest thing,” McMahon said. According to McMahon, it is also important to explore motives for wanting to be a surgeon. “This helps as opposed to reasons such as the job is open or that it makes money,” McMahon said.

Advancements in technology directly affect the work McMahon does. “This is changing drastically over time. We have much more ability with making diagnoses. The visual aids are improved, including MRIs and specialized CAT scans,” McMahon said. There are also technological advancements in the operating room such as Laparoscopic operation which is voice activated. Hand-eye coordination is more important than ever when dealing with new devices. “[It is a] minimally invasive approach to surgery; doing the surgery, but looking at a monitor; your hands are moving but not directing where you are looking,” McMahon said.

For McMahon, however, the technology is not all glamorous. On one of his medical missions in Africa, there wasn’t the ability to produce X-rays. “It takes you back to when there wasn’t technology. It reminds you of the importance of the basics along the way,” McMahon said. He saw first-hand the difficulties in countries that do not have the abundance of technology the United States has when he visited Jamaica on a medical mission.

Speaking of a patient he operated on, he said, “He walked 15 miles to get to the emergency room. He had severe abdominal pain, and they asked in the emergency room if they should give an abdominal X-ray.” This procedure would be very routine in the United States; however, if McMahon gave the go-ahead in Jamaica, the patient would have to have walked 40 miles to a hospital to get the X-ray and then walk back.

“On physical examination I could tell the patient needed surgery, so I took him to the operating room. It turned out he had a perforated ulcer and two days after surgery, he walked home the 15 miles,” McMahon said. “It reminded me of physical exams and communication without the need for technology. We sometimes rely too heavily on technology in the U.S.,” McMahon said.

He has traveled to Zimbabwe, Mozambique, the Philippines and Thailand for other medical missions.

McMahon had one last piece of advice for all students, regardless of what their future plans are. “Follow your dreams. Don’t give up on them. I knew I wanted to be a doctor, but it took me until [age] 27 to go to medical school,” McMahon said.

Class of 2014

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