Jay Quercia: That ‘Ah-ha’ Moment

New York-based ADC Member prefers software-free animation

We’ll admit it: August is a slow month. And so, with the lazy, hazy, dwindling days of summer upon us, we’ve decided to extend  Motion and Animation Month past July, all the way to Labor Day. But just because this time of year tends to be quiet doesn’t mean that the incredibly talented motion artists within the ADC community are. From traditional cel animation to 3D animation, from TV interstitials to web series, our featured ADC Members run the creative gamut in an industry whose output is as challenging and time consuming as it is rewarding.

It seems to be the ‘in thing’ for so many creatives to leave the hustle and bustle of the Big Apple and head out west to Portland, Oregon, Our next featured ADC Member, however, is an illustrator, art director and animator who made the reverse trip — and its full steam ahead for his opportunities!


Illustrator / Art Director
New York, NY / Portland, OR




Of course most people were first exposed to animation from after school and Saturday morning cartoons, but what’s your earliest memory of being interested in motion and animation as something that people actually made?

The first time I was able to peak behind the proverbial curtain was probably shortly after I pirated my first copy of Macromedia Flash. I remember creating a “short film” that took place in a bar with quite the crusty caste — think Cheers meets Ren & Stimpy. I hosted the film and all my other experiments on an Angelfire site I put together back in the day. If only I could get my hands on that archive…

Did you study formally, or were you consider yourself more self-taught?

I would say about half and half. I currently have a BFA in graphic design, but I was pursuing illustration / animation on the side.

How would you best describe your style? Do you fight against having a telltale style, or do you embrace it as your brand?

Ultimately, I’d like to think I’m aiming at creating a style that I can call my own, but at the same time I’m constantly trying to evolve and try new things. I realize the two aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive, but at times it sure feels like it.

What was your first big break, where this truly went from being an interest or pursuit to being an actual job?

Probably when I moved to New York after I graduated. Until then, this was all just a pipe dream.

Do you remember some of your early work? Comparing it to your latest work, the kind of projects you do now, what is the biggest change you’ve noticed? What about your work or your process has remained the same?

I’d have to say the biggest change has been the ability to see things as a gestalt, that forest-before-the-trees type of thing.

Very little of my process is the same from those days, to be honest. Although I’d say to this day I start each project about the same way — with an irreverent brain dump of anything and everything I can possibly think of.


Are you freelancer or are you part of a regular team? What do you consider to be the biggest pros and cons of your situation?

I just recently moved from NYC to Portland to join up with a group of Oddfellows. Freelancing can be incredibly rewarding, but after a few years of working in my undies, I decided I’d be happier in a place where I could grow alongside people who share my interests.

“Freelancing can be incredibly rewarding, but after a few years of working in my undies, I decided I’d be happier in a place where I could grow alongside people who share my interests.”

Secret weapon: what’s your favorite tool in your arsenal (pen and paper? Program? Plug-in?) and why do you love it so much?

To be honest, anything I can do that doesn’t involve software. As far as animation goes, I use Photoshop mostly out of simplicity, but I really grew to love TVPaint — the program does its best to simulate traditional pen and paper animation.

Snapshot! Take a photo of your desk/work set-up.


Do you experiment with software/tools/techniques, or do you tend to stick with what you know?

I’m all for experimentation, although I’ve recently been working on accepting the fact that there’s only so much time in the day. In order to properly learn every piece of software, you’d likely have to clone yourself a few times over. Take 3D, for example. It’s a great tool to use if you want to quickly previz something, but outside of that I have very little interest.


Of all the projects you’ve worked on, which one are you most proud of? Tell us about the project, and why it holds such a special place in your heart.

That’s a tough one. I’m not sure I’ve ever come out of a project thinking that I nailed it. It usually takes a few months for me to look back and see a project for what it actually is. Of the work currently in my portfolio I would say I’m probably most proud of this piece I worked on with Giant Ant.

Motion and animation is often accompanied by sound or music. How do you approach working with audio elements? Do they help form your visuals? Are you listening to them throughout? How involved are you in this part of the process?

I tend to listen to tracks that I feel are somewhere in the ballpark as I’m working.

Where do you go to get a much needed creative jolt, whether online or in the real world?

Travel, early mornings and showers usually do the trick.


What’s the biggest misconception people have about what you do?

In my experience, the time it takes to make something move properly is (not always) but often lost on clients. Or maybe I’m too much of a perfectionist…

What’s the last project you did for yourself, as opposed to for a client or a job? What do personal projects mean to you and your craft?

The last personal piece I worked on was Pup in Smoke, my contribution to Daniel Savage’s Yule Log. Personal work is important in order to develop a style outside of someone else’s direction.

Which of your peers, the people in your orbit, are making work that you are digging right now? What about them do you like?

At the moment I’m a huge fan of Chris SasakiBen OmmundsonAlexandre Diboine, and Jonathan Nkondo

What’s your favorite part of the entire creative process of motion and animation?

Collaborating with friends has probably been the most inspiring thing for me. I love those “Ah-ha” moments when someone contributes a solution you would have never come up with. Being open to those types of surprises help me grow as an artist.


Motion & Animation Month takes place from July through Labor Day, and is open exclusively to ADC Members. Not yet a Member? Join today!