Alison Garwood Jones

Consciousness Raising

December 6, 2014

Then and now

Consciousness Raising

This post is dedicated to #RememberThe14,#December6, #MontrealMassacre, #ABetterMan, @EngineersCanada

Twitter eggshell image via @CompDealerNews

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Move over

December 3, 2014

New technology has always been forcing us to change. Here is a priceless vignette by Doris Lessing about the introduction of the television set to the row houses of post-war London.

It was the summer of 1950. Before I left Denbigh Road I saw the end of an era, the death of a culture: television arrived. Before, when the men came back from work, the tea was already on the table, a fire was roaring, the radio emitted words or music softly in a corner, they washed and sat down at their places, with the woman, the child, and whoever else in the house could be inveigled downstairs. Food began emerging from the oven, dish after dish, tea was brewed, beer appeared, off went the jerseys or jackets, the men sat in their shirtsleeves, glistening with well-being. They all talked, they sang, they told what had happened in their day, they talked dirty — a ritual; they quarrelled, they shouted, they kissed and made up and went to bed at twelve or one, after six or so hours of energetic conviviality. I suppose that this level of emotional intensity was not unusual in the households of Britain: I was witnessing an extreme. And then, from one day to the next — but literally from one evening to the next — came the end of good times, for television had arrived and sat like a toad in the corner of the kitchen. Soon the big kitchen table had been pushed along the wall, chairs were installed in a semi-circle, and on the chair arms, the swivelling supper trays. It was the end of an exuberant verbal culture.

Walking the Shade 1949-1962, pp. 17-18

It makes me want to write a paragraph about Netflix, “The Before and After” …

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How to deal with mean girls

November 26, 2014

I wasn’t a mean girl in school. That automatically made me a target. I didn’t solve this by auditioning to join the girls on their power trips. Rather, I tried to exist in the world despite them. My refuge was drawing.

Trays of rainbow markers thrilled and distracted me most of the time. But sometimes the girls’ full court press of taunts knocked me right over: “You can fit a popsicle stick through that gap.” “Look at those hairy arms.” “What did you get on the test?” And the brilliant, “You smell.” I did occasionally lift an arm to confirm whether or not that was true. I also spent years stroking the dark down on my arms wondering what was to be done about it. My dad’s razor felt too drastic. Finally, my mother brought home a box of Jolen and every two months, or so, we’d make a date to paint my down from brown to baby-chick yellow.

Jolen Creme Bleach

This is a tale as old as time. All kids just want to be liked. But I wanted something that felt harder to achieve: I wanted to exist on my own terms and still have friends. The idea of being a follower and having fake friendships felt worse to me than going to math class. But I stuck to my plan. That meant having to occupy a kind of No Man’s Land for a while. I was individualistic, but not a weirdo, and, yet, I wasn’t what the students would have considered “popular.” I was There.

All that changed as I ascended to my senior year of high school. Because I was popular with my teachers, eventually everyone else just followed their lead. What the adults liked about me, I liked about me: I was focused, intelligent eager to learn, and full of laughter. With the support of my parents, I held out and gave those qualities the attention they deserved. Those choices early on have helped me navigate through all kinds of unpredictable and confounding behaviour. As the mean girls and I headed towards graduation, they still went about alternately courting and ignoring people, but now that I had no emotional investment in them they lost interest in me.

Fake Likes

A few years ago, I discovered that a photograph of me being that girl I just described to you had been turned into a work of art. The photo, taken by my dad, shows me drawing on the back of an architectural blue print (see below left). Decades later the Winnipeg art collective, The Royal Art Lodge, ran across my photo and turned it into a silk screen called “Poster Making.” Click here for the full story of how this happened.

Poster Maker Inspiration

Lodge members Neil Farber, Michael Dumontier and Marcel Dzama saw something in me that they recognized in themselves, and all kids. Innocence. Focus. Determination. Click here and  find out more from my interview with Neil Farber. Like all creatives, the artists borrowed my likeness and made it their own. Most notably, they added the words “FUCK OFF” to the blueprint I was working on. It’s not something I would have ever written or said back then. The result is funny, existential, idiosyncratic and became an instant cult hit. The print has been sold out for years, but, from time to time, it pops up on the secondary market at considerably higher prices.

It wasn’t long before writer and publisher Dave Eggers saw the print and featured it in McSweeney’s. Readers loved it and the print was turned into a McSweeney’s Post Card Set. But the story doesn’t end there. Eggers hand-picked “Poster Making” to be in a salon-style art exhibition called “Lots of Things Like This.” It travelled to New York and Amsterdam where it appeared next to the  drawings and paintings of Leonard Cohen, David Mamet, Andy Warhol, Art Spiegelman, Kurt Vonnegut, David Shrigley, and others. Since then, I have seen framed copies of the print show up on Facebook in shots of people’s living rooms, kitchens and home offices from Toronto to Cincinatti. This month’s issue of Design Lines (p. 77) shows the print in the Toronto home of an ad agency exec and his family (below).

Design Lines magazineMy friend Grady spotted this and sent it to me.

The print has also been written about in dozens of blogs, as this screen grab of a Google image search shows:

Viral Poster Making

Being the inspiration for something creative is hands-down the best way to go viral.

Of all the blog posts that write about and feature the image, my favourite, so far, is  “The Post of Bad Swears” by It places Royal Art Lodge’s likeness of me next to the famous picture of Johnny Cash giving photographer Jim Marshall the middle finger salute. Frank Zappa’s famous nose pick and a stream of other art works are also pulled in for comparison (see below).

I have to laugh at the careful and sincere little girl in the red blouse who started it all. Who knew she would  go on a journey with a band of artists and became the standard bearer of a message that resonates with so many of us in this age of digital creativity and reinvention. It turns out, I’ve always been a believer and a dissident. So get out there, people, and create! You know what to tell the naysayers and the bullies.

Massive Collage

Images from left to right: “Poster Making,” by The Royal Art Lodge; Johnny Cash, San Quentin Prison, February 24, 1969 by Jim Marshall; ”fuck” by daveisdrawing on Flickr (as cited by, although not found by  the author); Frank Zappa, Nasal Birdflip (origin unknown – please forward if you find); “Fuck You Is The New Thank You” by beejay at, according to (To the author’s chagrin, original still not found); The Swear Box by Gilbert + George, 2007 (available for purchase here); “Be Polite” billboard (origin unknown); FUCK YOU / a magazine of the arts, 5.2, 1963, Published by Ed Sanders and Fuck You Press.


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New world order

November 21, 2014


Hanging Out To Dry





Feeling small in this world

Comet of change

 ”The imagination of change has to always precede the reality of change.” ~ Gloria Steinem

Words and illustrations by Alison Garwood-Jones - ©2014


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Copy cat

November 20, 2014

As a teen, I spent hours making hyper-realist drawings from magazine ads, Old Master works (some Old Mistresses too, like M. Cassatt and C. Claudel), and anything else I could get my hungry hands on. Despite a few interruptions (jobs, diminished metabolism, rattled teacups), the plundering continues.

#PlayTime #WaysOfSeeing #PlunderCulture

Clinique pencilsMy 17-year old self did this.     Photo: Trevor Garwood-Jones

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Kidd Stuff

November 3, 2014

My favourite quotes from Chip Kidd’s most recent book, Go: A Kidd’s Guide to Graphic Design. He’ll get you thinking. Thanks Chip!


Blog Graphic-2






Chipp Colour

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October 27, 2014

For most of my career, I’ve had this feeling of just starting out.

To wit: grad school took me forever (don’t ask), and no sooner had I earned my degree in art history when I hit the road in search of something beyond the four walls of a museum. Journalism felt vital and risky, so I decided to abandon my Rolodex of contacts in painting and seek out my first new contact in print. I was back to square one. (Hat tip to Stephen Strauss, my first print contact).

Several years later, my Roladex was stuffed anew with the names and numbers of magazine editors, but this time I didn’t change, journalism did. And I was back to square one. Again.

At this stage of my life and career, I should probably be more settled, but I’ve come to realize that I prefer feeling like a newbie. The pressure to master a new skill — especially intense in digital media — means I probably won’t become a veteran in anything. ”Veteran” implies several things: a well-oiled machine, skills on the verge of atrophying, honorary degrees, and paths so well trodden that no new grass or flowers grow. Nor will I be asked to give the same talk again and again to different audiences, what I like to call “The Ted Baxter It All Started in a 5,000 Watt Radio Station in Fresno, California” speech. That’s ok.

Being a newbie is an endless cycle of experimentation and financial risk-taking. And while the latter is sometimes exhausting and  pretty consistently upsetting, experimentation is exactly what I wanted when I set out on this journey two decades ago. I can’t deal with monotony, but I can deal with upsetting.  I got up early this morning to write this, after all. And now I’m not upset anymore.

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You think?

October 10, 2014


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October 3, 2014

Trees and sky pattern by Alison Garwood-Jones

Pattern is a way of re-ordering the world and your emotions into something more beautiful and understandable. It’s why we make art.

It’s why standing under a maple tree and looking up feels so good. I’m looking for a blazing red one this weekend.

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Your reading brain ~ part deux

September 28, 2014

Drawing of Marcel Proust


Marcel Proust (above) defined deep reading as the moment when,

“That which is the end of [the author's] wisdom appears to us as the beginning of ours.” (1906)

Book editor Peter Dimock took it one step further, calling deep reading,

“A time of internal solitary consciousness.” (2010)

Neuroscientist Maryanne Wolf, author of Proust & The Squid, pulled these quotes together in an article for “Nieman Reports” on reading in the digital age.

My friend Jonathan Menon, a fellow writer and loyal reader of this blog, kindly pointed me to this and several key sources I couldn’t find during the writing of my last blog post. Thanks Jonathan!

To recap: in my last blog post, Warp Speed, I tried to describe why I thought a balanced diet of breathless internet search and solitary deep reading (on paper) was essential to my happiness, sanity and the continued good health of my intellectual curiosity. If you feel the same way, I recommend printing out and studying the following articles:

“Your paper brain and your Kindle brain aren’t the same thing”

(This article is based on a radio interview by Manoush Zomorodi, managing editor and host of WNYC’s New Tech City, with the Washington Post’s Mike Rosenwald. The podcast is embedded in the article)

“Paper beats computer screens”

“The Reading Brain in the Digital Age: The Science of Paper versus Screens”

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