NECC Observer

The student news website of Northern Essex Community College, Haverhill and Lawrence, Mass.

A look into the mind and life of local artist Jay Tuccolo

When reaching the final steps leading to his third flood office, a bombardment of color and sound encircles you. Hundreds of CD’s line the walls and records are stacked all around. Paintings and artwork surround the room, in a wash of beautiful greens, lazy yellows and bright blues. A soft hum reaches you from the record player in the corner, the psychedelic sounds of the Grateful Dead and the tender voice of Gerry Garcia bring a warming relaxation. He sits on a desk chair in front of three monitors, a box of pencils to his left and a crisp white page in front of him. As he begins to draw, his hand moves with the sounds of the Dead, and swirling loops and zig zags emerge on the page. He looks up with a hearty smile, eyes aglow with joy.

Jay Tuccolo was born in 1968 and has lived in Haverhill, Massachusetts his whole life. He has always been a passionate lover of art.

“I see myself as an alchemist in art. They teach you in art to focus on one thing but I want to explore everything and I use art as a tool of exploration,” professed Jay.

As a young, budding student artist, he was always drawn to record artwork and posters, and his love of music is what helped him discover and get involved in the world of graphic design.

While in high school he came across commercial art, and thought “Hey, somebody makes a living doing this stuff. I want to do this. There’s actually money to be made there. Having such a strong passion for art, wow, I could make a living and do this.”

Jay has dabbled in many artistic forms including drawing, painting, photography, digital imaging, etc. He really liked photography in high school as well, but at the time it was an extremely expensive profession to try and get into. Once he discovered commercial art and graphic design, he decided it would be much easier.

One of his first jobs was designing t-shirts. “I did a Magic Johnson t-shirt that sold over 50,000 units but I only got paid by the hour and never saw any of the profit because I was just an hourly employee,” confessed Tuccolo

He attended Fitchburg State University, then Fitchburg College, and graduated in 1990 Cum Laude with a bachelor of science in communication media with a graphic design specialty. He found his way into signage mostly by luck, the work force during this time really declined and white collar jobs were extremely hard to find, especially with what he wanted to do.

“It was the worst time in 90 years to get out of college and get a job. Literally had nothing,” Jay recalled. At one point, he considered walking away from graphic design altogether.

“I looked around at all my friends and they were doing so well and hadn’t gone to college, and I was like what did I do? Did I waste my time for nothing? It was quite demoralizing. But I ended up finding a fulltime job. I was lucky to get what I got and fell into the sign industry. Signage wasn’t really what I wanted but it was all that was available,” he divulged.

Jay found what he describes as a crappy job, at a little sign shop in Pelham, NH, and so began his career in the design and sign industry. Fast forward to today, he now works as an art director at Viewpoint Sign and Awning in Northborough, Ma. He began working there in the company’s infancy and he had the opportunity to shape their system and make it more successful, helping coordinate the infrastructure within the company. He performs managerial tasks including assigning jobs, keeping schedules, and maintaining status of tasks and projects.

“I bring new light to weaknesses or maybe strengths that could be embellished,” explained Jay. In a fast-paced work environment, with deadlines, the designers have little time to revisit work and be creative. Jay is able to review his employees’ work and help them unleash their potential, offering critiques along the way.

Tuccolo has worked on many projects over the 15 years he has been at Viewpoint. Many of the signs in Haverhill have been designed by himself and his team, including Dunkin Donuts and Papa Gino’s.

Jay still practices art at home where he is able to express his true creativity, without having to meet deadlines or expectations. It is one of his most beloved hobbies.

“I am going on five years now, almost six, of drawing every day,” said Tuccolo. He has come to realize that the process is just as, if not more important than, the product.

“Art helps us grow and pushes our minds. It lets people see the world in a way they never did before and allows them to be expanded in their own way,’ he remarked. Jay finds the exploration of art as the most exciting part and finds that people tend to focus too much on the finished product. Art has helped him learn to liberate himself from some of his anxiety in life as well. It has taught him that shooting for a masterpiece at every moment will lead to getting stuck and nothing done.

“With drawing, some days it comes very comfortable and some days it is clunky. Sometimes things work, and sometimes they don’t,” explained Jay.

Some of his great stresses in life come from conflict within communication with others. He works hard to not get caught up in the anxiety and not let it slow him down and to keep moving forwards. He has learned to feel the stress, let it come and let it pass. One of his favorite quotes that came to mind was by Carl Jung, “Hell is a door locked from the insides.” He explained how everyone’s prison is something they create from themselves, and that everyone has the ability to just unlock the door and walk out any day.

“It’s like a storm, you can die in it or hunker down and wait for the blue skies,” professed Jay. “You have to accept the peaks and valleys. That’s why I love art and the ability to use it as a tool of exploration of those highs and lows.”