Contributing Author

The Jams (Jessica Carmen and Augie WK), CWC Artists-in-Residence

The Jams are embedded with CWC for a year-long artist residency supported by the Central Coast Creative Corps to communicate about flooding and emergency preparedness through public art. 

While our expertise is murals and we’re planning various public art projects with CWC surrounding our beloved San Lorenzo River and flooding resiliency, we also wanted to use the Artists-in-Residence to explore other artistic outlets. With Jessica Carmen’s experience in arts education and Augie WK’s love of reading and collecting comics, we have created a comic book that functions as a visual Emergency Preparedness Kit resource. 

The first thing you or I see when we pick up a fresh comic is the cover art. Augie wanted to pay homage to the San Lorenzo River, as well as reference a well-recognized painting by Georges Seurat entitled “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte.” Many will recognize this as the painting featured in a scene in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” while others may recognize the artist’s immortal style often described as “thousands of dots of color.” We’re hoping to grab people’s attention here with the colorful imagery and give different crowds a reason to pick up our humble comic. We also encourage a side-by-side comparison of the cover art to the Seurat painting to see “what we did there.” 

The next part of the comic reading experience is opening the comic and learning where the story takes place and the characters involved. For the opening scene, we selected a view of Santa Cruz that shows the Giant Dipper and Logger’s Revenge (or the Log Ride, as Jessica grew up calling it) attractions in the background. We focus in on Mario & Jane, two youth living in the Beach Flats neighborhood near the San Lorenzo River and the world-famous “Boooardwaaaalk!” This “world building,” including drawing up what these two look like, act like, and the room that they read comics in, came first when crafting the comic overall. For a comic-type story, you want a character that you can draw relatively easily in your own style, while having identifiable traits so the reader can keep track of who’s who. We also wanted to make sure that the main characters and their names were representative of the Beach Flats neighborhood. This cultural representation is also visible in other areas of the comic book, like the tiger “cobija” that most Mexicans know and utilize during the cold winter months instead of duvet covers, or the “junk drawer” that most families have in their kitchens.  

The story told in any comic must have a satisfying beginning and conclusion. Ours is the excitement that Mario and Jane feel in getting to create an Emergency Kit for Mario’s family – and succeeding with items that were already in the home. The information for the items included in the comic book was taken from the Beach Flats and Lower Ocean Emergency Preparedness Fact Sheet developed in partnership with CWC and The City of Santa Cruz. The list is also visually represented and reworked so that items found in the home are grouped together. While the comic is a great resource for kids, we firmly believe that visual language is sometimes easier to process and is a great equalizer. Anyone can use our visual list to create their own Emergency Kits and have the same sense of accomplishment that Mario and Jane have! 

It was also important to us that this resource was bilingual. The printed comic will have one side in English and the other in Spanish. That way, both language options are available while also using the least carbon footprint with printing. From Jessica’s experiences growing up, there was often a choice between English or Spanish for certain resources, not both, so we wanted to remove that barrier and ensure that community members had both options without having to ask!  

We also created an insert including helpful tips for after a flooding emergency, as that is a focus of our grant awarded by Central Coast Creative Corps. This insert can be useful as, more often than not, preparedness for emergencies seems to be the focus but rarely are there tools for after floods happen. 

Comic books taught Augie a lot about drawing the human figure and conveying all the information you want to share with the reader, while Jessica loved the colorful visuals and dynamic designs that comics offer, which differs from the novels she loves. It’s only fitting that The Jams can now use comics and artwork as fun new educational tools that can do some good for families when emergencies arise. 

The Jams artist residency is supported by a grant from the Central Coast Creative Corps, a project of the Arts Councils of Monterey, Santa Cruz, San Luis Obispo, Ventura and San Benito Counties, as well as the Santa Barbara Office of Arts and Culture, which is funded by the California Arts Council. 

Facebook Comments