Alison Garwood Jones

Say No to racism

July 15, 2019

I grew up in a multiracial family. It was the norm for me right from day one.
The Garwood-Jones Family (from left to right): Catherine, Alison, Richard, Trevor, Peter and the orange Volvo that took us up to Southampton every summer.

The Garwood-Jones Family (from left to right): Catherine, Alison, Richard, Trevor, Peter and the orange Volvo that took us up to Southampton every summer.

When heads of state spout racist beliefs, silence is not an option. And so I speak up.
I encourage my fellow humans not to tolerate such inhumanity and to scale that message online. Whether you are protecting your healthy bank account or your fragile sense of self, we need to sit down and talk about that, gently not aggressively.
As Oprah always asks, “What happened?” There is something way back when that shut down a part of your heart. Compassion and empathy first, now and always, for you and the people you feel the need to reject. 
PS: This is not the first blog post I have written with this title. Pushing back against racism is constant work. Take your vitamins.

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Live illustration in Toronto

July 2, 2019

It’s always my goal to work with good people.

Teaching provides me with that in spades thanks to the University of Toronto’s School of Continuing Studies where I teach the ever-morphing topic of Digital Communications Strategy and Social Media.

In essence, this course is about storytelling and the best way to digitally distribute your stories, regardless of their format (take your pick: written, drawn, recorded for video, for podcast, and formats yet to be invented).

In my experience, folks who sign up for higher education always come with open hearts and a sense of their own vulnerability, which I take seriously. Handle with care is my personal motto. I hope to inspire every student I meet to come into contact with their true voice. I cultivate that in myself through writing and drawing. It’s hard. Hanging on to your sense of self is a daily excavation through the noise of the world and the curve balls life throws at us.

When someone sits with me for their portrait, we chat about life. I aim to capture their true essence so that we both feel seen and heard. It builds such a strong sense of human connection. I am getting more of this kind of work now, thanks in large part to social media.

Alison Garwood-Jones-Jones, Toronto illustrator, by Jamii Esplanade

Late last month, Isorine Marc DM’ed me on Instagram. One or more of my illustrations had flashed by in her feed. Just when I thought social media had become this irreparable pit of despair, something wonderful and constructive happens proving that true connection can still happen. And it will happen again, despite all.

Isorine is the founder and Executive and Artistic Director of Jamii Esplanade (Jamii is Swahili for “community”), a charitable organization that produces free and accessible arts programming for the residents of Toronto’s St. Lawrence neighbourhood. Isorine is always looking for ways to bring together Torontonians from diverse backgrounds and income levels, and art is the glue. She and her team believe that offering free access to and engagement opportunities in the arts contributes to a more cohesive, united and supportive community where intercultural understanding prevails and economical disparity does not build walls between families. Nor does age or intellectual ability. At Jamii events, people with special needs as well as seniors feel as engaged and connected as kids and parents and everyone, young and old, comes with an open heart.

Alison Garwood-Jones-Jones, Toronto illustrator, by Jamii Esplanade

I got to be a part of this vision this week. Isorine (pictured above holding her daughter) invited me to participate in Multicultural Day on The Esplanade last Thursday in David Crombie Park. When passers-by caught a break from the sun under our cool tent, Alicia Herbert, Andrew Patterson (@visiblenoise) and I drew them! As our pens and brushes were flying across the page, each model was treated to a story or a song from a rotating line-up of amazing talent: Iman Abdul Razzak on violin (Bach anyone?) and Valérie Descheneux on accordion and violin )Edith Piaf, watch out)! When Djennie Laguerre took to the stage, she mesmerized us with her movements and winding stories in French and English. Meanwhile, Indrit Kasapi scared the heck out of us with his Albanian folk tales (his roars could be heard across the park). Jim Adams took us across time and space with his beautiful broad narratives from Anishinaabe folklore. Half the time I had little kids leaning into my left side while I drew with my right arm. They took turns asking, “Which pen are you going to use next?” I let them choose. Here are some shots from the day and from the Canada Day Picnic and Parade that took place a few days later in St. James Park. We had so much fun we said, “Let’s work together again.”

Multicultural Day by Jamii Esplanade

I tried painting on the ground, but scrapped that after a while. Photo by Theatre Francais de Toronto.

In this video roundup, I took a few shots and I borrowed a few more from Sharon McMillan, Diana Yoon and the St. Lawrence Neighbourhood Association.

Toronto Illustrator Alison Garwood-Jones at St. Lawrence Neighbourhood Canada Day


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Multicultural Day on The Esplanade

June 25, 2019

Multicultural Day on The Esplanade by Jamii Esplanade


If you are near Crombie Park this Thursday, June 27, please come and say hi. I’ll be working as one of the artists at Jamii Esplanade’s Multicultural Day, along with Andrew Patterson and Alicia Herbert. There will be live performances by dancers, musicians and poets from around the world.

Stroll by Jarvis and Esplanade between 11am and 1pm, and 4pm and 7pm and get your portrait done while a musician, poet or dancer serenades you.

By having the three of us create portraits of you, the festival hopes to explore our own and other people’s perceptions and interpretations of “self”, all the while embarking on a journey through childhood memories and culture revival.

Poster artwork: @visiblenoise

Featuring artists  Alison Garwood-Jones, Alicia Herbert, Andrew Patterson, @indritk @imanabdulrazzak@djennielaguerre, @jimadams51, Valérie Descheneaux

In partnership with @corpusdanceprojects and @theatrefrancais

With the support of Canada Council for the Arts and Canadian Heritage.

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June 11, 2019

My Art Desk is My True North Strong and Free - illustration by Alison Garwood-Jones

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May 15, 2019




I’m fundraising because it’s time to do more than just shake my head at the news.

Women’s reproductive freedoms are eroding around the world, wiping out decadesof hard-won human rights gains.

I designed this T-shirt* to say that the female body should never be subject to government control.

#NotHere Tee by Alison Garwood-Jones

#NotHere Tee by Alison Garwood-Jones

#NotHere stands for Canada, the United States, Poland, and beyond.

For every T-shirt sold, I will donate $10 (all profits) to Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights(@ActionCanadashr), a progressive, pro-choice charitable organization committed to advancing and upholding sexual and reproductive health and rights in Canada and globally.

To make your contribution, go to:

Please take note of the hashtags and spread the world.

And I’ll see you on July 20th for the cross-Canada Pro-Choice rally organized by Women’s March Canada (Women’s March Canada).

*Tees are from JERICO, the Canadian-made, socially-conscious apparel company.

Remember, women are the majority that’s treated like a minority.

“Your silence will not save you. Speak up!”  to quote Ava DuVernay (@Ava)

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Humanity with a brush pen

May 14, 2019

Brush Pen Sketches by Alison Garwood-Jones

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May 13, 2019

Shock, illustration by Alison Garwood-Jones

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Sunday sketch

May 12, 2019

Women of the world

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Sakura in High Park

May 11, 2019

This weekend Toronto is heading to High Park to take in the cherry blossom trees (“Sakura” in Japanese) at their peak.

I painted this delicate pattern last spring while I was sitting on a streetcar in downtown traffic.

The design is available in my Shopify store, Just search the term “cherry” and you’ll see how it looks on pillows, phone cases, laptop skins, and, new this Spring, a scarf!

Music credit: “Ishikari Love” by Kevin MacLeod, YouTube Audio Library

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Jane’s Walk Toronto

April 27, 2019

Another Story Bookshop teams up with Pen Jar Productions

A full circle moment for me: several springs ago, I bought a copy of Jane Jacobs’ groundbreaking book, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, at my favourite shop around the corner, Another Story Bookshop.

This week, to drum up interest in next weekend’s Jane’s Walk Toronto, Laura and Eric, the owners, have kindly put up a display of my Pen Jar Productions line of Jane Jacobs merch (a tote, a tee and an enamel pin). At the front of the store no less!

I’m proud to be teaming up with a neighbourhood retailer that makes social justice, equity (gender, race and class) and diversity the guiding force of their existence.

Jane’s Walk Toronto is happening May 3-5. For a list of walks you can join, go to and check out their Instgram feed at @JanesWalkTo.

Let’s celebrate our city and our stories next weekend and all year round!

Another Story Bookshop painters with

The staff at Another Story Bookshop were thinking that my tote bag would be a nice way to transport this copy of Walking in the City with Jane Jacobs by Susan Hughes.


A week after I teamed with with Another Story, I put on my party shoes and headed to the opening bash for Jane’s Walk Toronto. The Urban Space Gallery hosted the event. My illustration studio, Pen Jar Productions, was a sponsor.

Jane's Walk Toronto 2019 Sponsors

It felt good donating my Jane Jacobs enamel pins to all 130 Walk Leaders, each of them committed storytellers and determined community activists who are working towards a more diverse and equitable world. Here’s how they responded:


The next morning, Juan, one of the festival organizers, went on the CBC’s Metro Morning to share details about this year’s Jane’s Walk with host, Matt Galloway.

I missed it. I was at my desk journaling in silence during their interview. By the time I emerged and let myself check my phone notifications, I saw from a friend’s text that my little pin had caught Galloway’s eye.


The best thing we can do with our ideas and talents is to catch someone else’s eye and make them think or take a more positive action.

Ever since it hit us that technology has gained control of our weaknesses, we’ve been asking ourselves, how do we fix this?

The hundreds of Jane’s Walks that took place this past weekend in Toronto (and 250 cities around the world) are a grassroots, citizen-led effort to improve the physical and emotional habitat we live in, be it cities or online communities. It puts our shared humanity ahead of individual interests.

Let’s keep looking for more ways to stop the spread of human downgrading. (Tristan Harris’s term).

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