The work of Jay Collins is some of the most iconic art of Santa Cruz and California of its time. All the images were created by hand, many as lithographs or silkscreens, before computers were utilized for such tasks. When this is taken into consideration, one can appreciate the skill and precision required to complete these masterpieces. This set him apart as one of the most talented graphic artists in the community. He was commissioned to do several pieces that are recognizable as symbols of Santa Cruz, such as the logo for the Santa Cruz Surfing Museum and the logo for the Santa Cruz Longboard Union.
Jay Graffin Collins was born in Vancouver BC, on December 25, 1947, where his family lived at the time. The family returned to California when he was 3. As a young teenager, he started body surfing at China Beach and soon went to board surfing at Kelly’s Cove, part of Ocean Beach in San Francisco. He also made his own skateboards and was skateboarding constantly. Beginning at around the age of 11 and continuing on after his graduation from George Washington High School, Jay worked various jobs in San Francisco before moving to Santa Cruz and attending Cabrillo College to study art. He worked part time at Palace Stationary, where he learned the art of picture framing. He became so prolific at picture framing that he won international competitions for his work. Jay had a variety of art shows throughout his career displaying acrylic paintings, color pencil drawings, and eventually silk screen print posters. He eventually opened his own business operating from his home doing both picture framing and commissioned poster art work. Several works were commissioned by the cities of Santa Cruz and Capitola for events such as the Wharf to Wharf, and Capitola Art and Wine as well as Begonia Festivals. He was also commissioned to do artwork for the anniversaries of the boardwalk and the merry-go-round in Santa Cruz. Some of his work was displayed at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and includes a piece that was entered in the California State Fair, which is still on display in the Santa Cruz County Building.
Jay loved raising his family in Santa Cruz and was very involved in the Santa Cruz surfing community. He was working with others on the Santa Cruz Surfing Museum at the time of his death in 1986. He died of a heart attack at the age of 38. Part of Cowell’s Beach has been named Collins Cove in memory of Jay Collins. Jay was a devoted father and husband, and was survived by his wife Nancy and four sons, one from a previous marriage. Nancy was faced with the challenge of raising three sons; Jason, Matthew, and Mark. Their dad had shared his love of the ocean and surfing with his sons. Now, with the ocean as their alternate caregiver, they grew up surfing, fishing, and being boys of Santa Cruz. Their father’s artwork was stashed away for many years. Grateful for the legacy that has been left them, the family now wishes to reintroduce the art to the world so that it can be celebrated as the gift to the community that it is.