The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp attends the Class of 1972 50-year reunion in Kyle Field on April 20, 2022.
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Nicholas Gutteridge, Managing Editor • May 23, 2024
Texas A&M starting pitcher/relief pitcher Emiley Kennedy (11) hands the ball to starting pitcher/relief pitcher Brooke Vestal (19) during Texas A&M’s game against Texas at the Austin Super Regional at Red and Charline McCombs Field in Austin, Texas, on Saturday, May 25, 2024. (CJ Smith/The Battalion)
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Luke White, Sports Editor • May 25, 2024

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Texas A&M utility Gavin Grahovac (9) throws the ball during A&Ms game against Georgia on Friday, April 26, 2024, at Olsen Field. (CJ Smith/The Battalion)
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Beekeeper Shelby Dittman scoops bees back into their hive during a visit on Friday, April 5, 2024. (Kyle Heise/The Battalion)
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The speakers turn on. Static clicks. And a voice reads “Your starting lineup for the Texas A&M Aggies is …” Spectators hear that...

Kennedy White, 19, sits for a portrait in the sweats she wore the night of her alleged assault inside the Y.M.C.A building that holds Texas A&M’s Title IX offices in College Station, Texas on Feb. 16, 2024 (Ishika Samant/The Battalion).
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April 25, 2024
Scenes from 74
Scenes from '74
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Farewell from the graduating Battalion staff of 2024
Farewell from the graduating Battalion staff of 2024
The Battalion May 4, 2024

ESSENCE: A lesson in leaps of faith

Photo by Ishika Samant

Trey Stephens sits in his studio, which was his former guest room. Stephens, who specializes in Aggie art, had paintings of Reveille and Santa in progress for Christmas.

Following one’s passion isn’t a linear pursuit and not a journey for the faint-hearted. It demands time, deliberation and an immunity to uncertainty. People often concede without trying because uncertainty is daunting, but that deprives the world of a plethora of innovation.

It took a moment of trust for Trey Stephens, Class of 2008, to transition into being a full-time professional artist while raising four daughters. Despite his passion for art, Stephens said he failed art class in high school.
“I’ve always loved art, but I finally found my footing in it after I was diagnosed with cancer in 2008,” Stephens said. “The treatment ended up meaning a lot of sleepless nights. In those moments of quiet, I had the time and the desire to make a lot of commissioned artworks.”

After years of making commissions, Stephens said he stumbled into the Aggie art world last year after creating a humorous piece titled “Outside the Commissioner’s Office” portraying A&M’s football coach, Jimbo Fisher, and Alabama’s football coach, Nick Saban, being sent to the SEC Commissioner’s office after a public feud.

“I believe that humor in art can create a natural platform for great conversations,” Stephens said. “I modeled this painting after Norman Rockwell’s masterpiece called ‘Outside the Principal’s Office.’ Originally, I had created that piece to make my friends laugh, but the viral press coverage the painting got made me realize that I could start timing my art pieces better to gain traction in the community.”

Stephens worked a full time job for 15 years after getting his degree in agricultural leadership and development from A&M. Three months ago, he said he decided it was time for him to make the shift into being a professional artist.

“For the longest time, I lacked the boldness, but knowing that I could rely on the Aggie Network to support my art career gave me the nudge I needed to start making art for a living,” Stephens said. “About three months ago, I decided to take a leap of faith when I handed in my [resignation] to my former employer. At the time, only my wife and my boss knew about this news. Within the hour, I got a call from the Texas Aggie Association commissioning an Aggie Park painting. At that moment, I felt like I had been rewarded for my boldness.”

Stephens sold over 400 prints of the painting in the last few months, he said. Stephens said his daily work now consists of five hours of painting with administrative tasks interspersed.

He said he transformed the guest bedroom of his home into a personal art studio with several paintings adorning every wall and a large painting easel commanding the attention of any spectator, for example.

“Making art everyday is exhilarating,” Stephens said. “However, when art is the way you make a living, you have to be deliberate and disciplined in your work. What new artists need to realize is that to be a professional artist, you have to first be willing to become an entrepreneur. Sure, I am the artist, but I’m also the marketing team, the administrative team and the printing team all rolled into one.”

Stephens said he loves the flexibility of working for himself. Working out of his home studio grants him more time to participate in more Aggie events and to nurture the artistic side of his daughters.

“I think my earliest influences in art came from my mother and grandma,” Stephens said.  “They were artistic in their own right with a knack for crafts. They had an innovative mindset and I was able to absorb some of it. Now, I hope I am able to pass it onto my daughters which will allow them to see the world around them with a creative eye.”

Coming from different parts of Texas, Stephens and his wife are both first-generation Aggies. Stephens said he chose to build a life in College Station because it instantly felt like home. Stephens is currently working on creating Christmas cards for the Jingle Bell Market which promotes local businesses and charities providing a festive shopping experience in the Bryan-College Station area. He said he wants to continue making art that cultivates good humor, invigorates the Aggie spirit and allows him to serve the local community.

“I would simply advise new artists to be bold,” Stephens said. “I would also ask them to focus on the relationships around them because they really matter. Finally, connect yourself with the Aggie Network and allow it to take care of you. But remember that you are [the] Aggie Network, so always find ways to pay that kindness forward.”

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