About Me

Who is Joe Clay?

I am a motion graphics artist and graphic designer living in hot as hell Tampa, FL. I stay for the winters. Seriously. I also grew up here so that helps.

If there's one thing you should know about me it's that I like to make cool work and I'm rarely completely satisfied with my work. That's my guiding philosophy. I always want to make my work better.

My art career began when I was a kid but I didn't know it then. Unlike most kids who wanted to be a fireman or doctor, I wanted to be a lawyer because I liked arguing and I wanted money. Obviously that didn't pan out.

I used to draw a lot when I was a kid. In fact, I got in trouble for it many times. As I went through school, I had a few great teachers that encouraged me to keep at it.

In 2002 I started at the University of South Florida. After my first semester, I said screw it, I'm doing art. That's my passion, and if I can't make money out of that, I'll figure out something else later. I'd rather make a little money doing what I love than a lot of money doing something that I hate. I very nearly went to the University of Florida to study architecture but I changed my mind.

In college, as in high school, I tried to learn as much stuff outside of my general area as possible. The USF Art Department is very concerned with the ideas behind the work and not so much with the process. That's probably why I enjoyed my time there. They didn't believe in producing robot software wranglers. Instead we received about a day or two of actual instruction about the programs we were using. I learned the rest of it on my own. Those who didn't, didn't.

During that time, I also expanded my knowledge of web design from simple HTML with some CSS to full XHTML, CSS, Javascript, and PHP. I learned HTML in 1998 and have had a website of some form or another since then.

I first saw After Effects in an electronic media class. I had never considered that I'd end up doing animation, except maybe by hand. I had always liked Photoshop since I started using it in high school. I quickly realized that After Effects was like Photoshop for the moving image—and in some ways it's a lot better than Photoshop at Photoshop! Needless to say, I was hooked.

At the time, tutorials were hard to come by for After Effects. Then I found Creative Cow. Like many motion graphics artists, I really started to learn everything I could about After Effects from people like Aaron Rabinowitz and Andrew Kramer.

During my last year or so at USF, I interned at the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center. That gig was ideal for me. Because it wasn't too stressful, I could easily go to school and work. Even more importantly I could learn more about my craft in the down time.

I got my first big job a few weeks after I graduated in the summer of 2007. I worked at Tampa Digital Studios. I cut my teeth as a Final Cut Pro editor for the first few weeks while waiting on some graphics work to come in. I worked with some amazing people who were not satisfied with less than stellar work. This made quite the impression on me and I continue to see that as a driving force behind my work.

Then 2008 happened. The economy crashed and I lost my job. I toyed with the idea of freelancing. Unbeknownst to me, a friend heard of a job opening somewhere else and recommended me for it. I was out of work for about two months. Then the economy tanked further and I lost my second job after about 5 months.

That's when I started to freelance. I was then rehired by that same company when things improved for them, but I didn't stop freelancing. Now I'm on my own again, and I'm enjoying it.

Hitting such a recession at the beginning of my career has left me a bit jaded, like many people from my generation. The rest of the story has yet to be written.

What is gra-phix?

Gra-phix was originally conceived as a possible company name. Not too long after I acquired the domain, I realized that it's a pretty horrible name. It sounds like I came up with it in high school. The reality is that I came up with it about a year later. I've since purchased Yellow Dog Party for my company.

This site is hand coded by me. Yep, I use both sides of my brain. I use TextWrangler in case you're interested. Though I generally like to make my own custom version of existing solutions, I use cool projects like jQuery when it really helps. I have a few reasons for coding my own stuff. For one thing, it helps me to learn to be a better programmer. For another, it allows me to tailor the solution to me and the way that I work. There's also a sense of self-satisfaction, even if all I'm doing is reworking someone else's code. It's much easier to edit something than to start fresh—working on my own custom solutions helps me do both.

For the other design nerds in the world, the header text is set in League Gothic—which I wish I had better kern control over with CSS—and the body copy is Aller. Both can be found through Font Squirrel.

Anything else?

I like all sorts of music, but country is my least favorite genre.

I like design work that is crisp and clean. That doesn't mean it has to be sterile. I think that grungy work and textured work can also be clean. I am in love with the work of Scott Hansen. James White is also up there on the list. I am big on retro print work and posters.

I took a screenprinting class in college and I loved it. It was a summer course and I'd routinely stay in the studio until midnight. There's just something so great about being able to create an image with a computer and realizing it with your hands and some ink.

Obviously I also love motion work and cinematography. There's an enormous amount of good work out there, so it'd be impossible to list them all. What can I say? I'm a motion connoisseur. I like anything that's well executed—anything that looks like some thought and love was put into it.

That's about it.