Alison Garwood Jones

Edie Sedgwick

December 9, 2017

Edie Sedgwick drawing by Alison Garwood-Jones


She came bursting out of the gate, with no limits and no inhibitions.
Then the moment passed.
She changed, we changed.
She forced her exit in the most banal and predictable way.
In 2018, she would have been an Instagram star,
A sought-after brand influencer.
But she would have burnt out faster on the internet.
Another delicate beauty eaten up by our machines.

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Andy Warhol’s Wig

December 4, 2017

Andy Warhol's Wig, 1970

What started out as a patch for male pattern baldness turned into a fashion accessory before culminating in a full-on exploration of drag.

My dad and I visited the Warhol Museum in Pittsburg in the fall of 2008. We took in the displays in our Obama T-shirts.

Good times.

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I want to be alone

December 4, 2017

Greta Garbo sketch by Alison Garwood-Jones

I can’t transcribe magazine interviews ALL day.

So I thought, What would Warhol do?

He’d put on some soup and draw a Hollywood star.

Greta Garbo’s modern reaction to our prying eyes.

#Garbo @Campbells #IWantToBeAlone #Illustration #Watercolor #AndyWarhol @thewarholmuseum

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Making art

November 26, 2017

Daniel Smith Swatch CardsDon’t plan to make art (writing, painting, photography). Just fill in the cracks with it.

@danielsmithartistsmaterials#illustration #watercolorpainting (h/t @gwartzmans, my fav art depot)

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Social Media Week Toronto #SMWTO

November 26, 2017

Michelle Pinchev, Founder of Pinch Social

This post was first published on the Applied Arts Blog during Social Media Week Toronto 2017.

Michelle Pinchev is the executive director of Social Media Week Toronto, an independently organized event that is part of a global network of Social Media Week conferences. Pinchev is also the founder of Pinch Social, a boutique social media agency working with a variety of clients in media, tech and finance. Writer Alison Garwood-Jones sits down with Pinchev to talk about the conference and social media marketing trends brands need to be aware of in 2018.

Alison Garwood-Jones: Toronto is having this amazing moment on the world stage, both from a cultural and a tech standpoint. How did this shape your vision for Social Media Week Toronto 2017 (SMWi)?

Michelle Pinchev: It was absolutely central to our vision of Social Media Week 2017 to take into account all of the incredible things that are happening in the social media and digital landscape in Toronto and across Canada. Being Canada’s only Social Media Week, we certainly felt a sense of responsibility to really capture what’s happening in the city. At least 95 per cent of our speakers are Toronto-based or Canadian-based success stories. The first example that comes to mind is Diply, a social entertainment publisher. They are growing by leaps and bounds and we wanted to sit down with them and understand how they are targeting millennials so effectively, and what they are learning from all the rigorous testing that they are putting their content through. Wattpad, a Toronto-based free online storytelling community, and Shopify have both been on our radar for some time, so we look forward to interviewing them. We also have a lot of smaller stories that are so uniquely Canadian, and the one that comes to mind was a 2016 campaign called #TellAmericaItsGreat by a group called The Garden Collective. They did this really neat user-generated content video that was meant as a response to the volatile politics during the 2016 presidential race. It went viral and became one of the biggest social media campaigns in Canadian history, garnering the attention of some of the biggest media outlets around the world, including Jimmy Kimmel. It said a lot about who we are as a nation.

AGJ: What are some of the key social media marketing trends for 2018?

MP: We will be talking about video extensively and the conversation will span all of the platforms, whether it’s YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, SnapChat or Instagram Stories. We like to talk about the medium agnostically from the platform because one of the key trends I’m observing for social media in 2018 is this idea of convergence. There was a time when social media platforms were very different, and, [to some extent] they still are. They still have different audiences and we still need to think about multi-platform strategies, but, more and more, you’re seeing [companies like] Twitter expanding their character count to 280 and Instagram [copying SnapChat] by adding Instagram Stories. When SnapChat came out, it offered a very different user experience and called for very unique content development. But now we’re seeing that exact same experience in another major platform. So, our conversations this year will be more about storytelling and [producing] content agnostic of where you are pushing it. If you’re a brand, a thought leader or an influencer and you’ve got this exceptional content that’s been optimized for one specific platform, you have to think about how you can you leverage that story across different platforms to different audiences.

This year’s speakers include: (Top row) Claudia Oshry, Michael Landsberg, Bruce Croxon. (Bottom row) David Beebe, Matt Galloway, Kirstine Stewart. Photo courtesy @SMWiToronto

AGJ: One of the overarching themes I’ve noticed in this year’s programming is an emphasis on brands as entertainers instead of advertisers.

MP: Yeah [she chuckles]. Interesting. “Entertainers” is a good term, but the term I might use is “publisher.” Every brand is becoming media—its own television program or its own radio program. We’re hosting a session on branded podcasts and Shopify will be on that panel. They’ve worked with agencies to create branded podcasts that have done exceptionally well. This idea of the brand as media/publisher blurs the lines between media and content, between content for the sake of content versus branded content. We’re really seeing a lot more fluidity between those two worlds. That creates a lot of opportunities for brands to create value-added content, instead of traditional ads.

AGJ: You’ve also organized a panel on laws and regulations, including compliance for influencers, transparency, disclosure and CASL. Why is this important?

MP: This is a very timely topic from whether it’s intellectual property and privacy or the ethics around political advertising and targeting. We’re hearing a lot about privacy concerns. Facebook, for example, is doing spectacular work with targeting, but it’s really pushing the boundaries in terms of what we’re used to with private information access. Then you’ve got other issues like online harassment and bullying. Alt-right groups have leveraged social platforms to spread their messages. We’re seeing social media being utilized in a way that it wasn’t intended. From a legal perspective, we are at a critical juncture where we’re going to see some major changes in governance and policy. I think marketers need to look out for that. But I think overall that’s going to make social media a safer and more positive space for everyone. It’s about being respectful of people’s intellectual property and being respectful of their privacy, but also ensuring marketers can be equipped with data that can make advertising more relevant to consumers. When things are more personalized and more relevant in terms of how you engage with brands, it’s a win-win for everyone.

AGJ: This year you chose to highlight McDonalds Canada as a brand who is killing it with their social media marketing strategy. Why do they stand out for you?

MP: If you look at my Twitter bio, I joke that I’m a recovering fast-food addict. The recovery is not going very well! The truth is, I love [McDonalds Canada] as a brand. One thing that has always impressed me is how fearlessly they reacted on social with negative sentiment and confusion around their products, their farming, how their food is produced, and the nutritional value of their products. They responded head on with a huge social and digital-integrated campaign that addressed comments and frequently asked questions with real stories of where their products come from. They are a great model, not just for the longevity of the brand—they’re a huge player so obviously they have a lot of resources to experiment in social—but they create really great content.

Social Media Week photo courtesy SMWiToronto

AGJ: Do you have some key social media marketing tactics to reach millennials?

MP: It’s becoming increasingly difficult to advertise to millennials. They’re so aware of the game and how it works. [It’s why they’ve installed] ad blocks on their browsers. But I also think a lot of us have mental ad blocks as well. Diply is such a great case study because they create content that captivates millennials, and they achieved this through rigorous testing—by throwing a lot of things at the wall to see what sticks. That is very core to how we do social at my agency. We often hear marketers talk about AB testing in the context of paid social. We AB test everything. We are constantly gathering these insights and reinvigorating our strategies to incorporate these insights. It’s a never-ending cycle of test and learn, and test again. That is one of the core things I have learned. It’s the ability to almost scientifically test social campaigns, social content, social creative and execution, including things like best times to publish and various tactical day-to-day things around execution and what works and what doesn’t.

The other thing that pertains specifically to millennials is that you have to be always on. Millennials are all about what’s trending today, what is the language today, the lingo of the day, the joke of the day. Whatever the meme was last week is already stale. Marketers need to look at what’s trending in the moment. It’s not a matter of building out your content plan ahead of time and just executing that, as many agencies do. Something is happening today. Last week, for instance, #FirstSnowfall was trending. We’ve got a client that’s in the food and coffee space, so how can weave that in? You know, #FirstSnowfall: come into our coffee shop to warm up with a cup of hot chocolate, with a really great photo. With millennials, it’s more essential to be super reactive, always on and on top of the trends as they happen.

AGJ: With social media marketing to Gen X and and boomers, do you find you can still use some more traditional tactics?

MP: To some extent, but we really see that the millennial population is driving the trends and driving innovation and driving a lot of our learning. We certainly expand that philosophy to all the populations. But of course we do have clients that are B2B. We have several consulting clients who target more senior-level professionals, executives, C-suite. We certainly look to some of these tried-and-tested tactics and play within those parameters when we’re speaking to that type of audience. We’re very aware of how to speak and market to the various audiences and how to optimize content to get the best results from them.

AGJ: What is the biggest benefit of attending Social Media Week?

MP: Events like this help us adapt collectively. Every single day, platforms are announcing new features, new functionalities and changes to their algorithms, so keeping pace is key. But one of the objectives for us putting on this event is the opportunity to make lifelong career-changing connections. I like to think of social media agencies and professionals as a community, not competitors. I’ve got colleagues I can phone or email and ask, have you experimented with Twitter’s new streaming platform? Have you tried this new audience targeting in Facebook? Any tips? Any advice? That is really essential. I feel like so many industries have that, whether it’s HR, engineering, health care. The older the industry, the more well established those networks are. A lot of these networks started in school, in academic institutions where you’re part of a cohort of people all studying the same thing. If you are my age and have been doing social media for 10-plus years, you never went to school for social and you don’t necessarily have that peer network. Above all things, the networking is what is so essential about Social Media Week.

*To take part in the SMWi programming on Tuesday November 14, Wednesday, November 15 and Thursday, November 16, purchase an All-Access Pass. Those who can’t make the daytime programming can still network after work with an evening pass. Register here:


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Beard Farmer

November 22, 2017

What’s going on in there? The full report.

Beard Farmer drawing


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When process smothers stories

November 16, 2017

At some point, anguish over process overtook the focus on stories in the online world.

Tina Brown made this observation this week on Alec Baldwin’s podcast, Here’s The Thing.

Tina Brown, illustration by Alison Garwood-Jones

Tina Brown. Watercolor sketch by Alison Garwood-Jones

What Brown said was, “It’s no longer about stories and pictures and captions and words, which is what I love to do. Now it’s: How am I going to get the revenue stream? What’s the digital platform? [There’s so much] anguish about process as opposed to stories.”

But this was not about a legacy media legend scrambling to understand swipe on SnapChat. Brown’s instincts about the future of media and storytelling are as sharp as ever.

What Brown meant was that when the terms set by our digital landlords (Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn) are in constant flux, our jobs become figuring out how to keep our stuff in front of the audience we thought we had.

When you spend all of your time and creative energy plotting distribution, the quality of what you are making will inevitably suffer.

And yet we continue to extoll content, with the oft-used phrase, “Content Is King. Distribution is Queen.” Before long, the queen will force her king to abdicate.

Our scrambling sense of panic over changing algorithms is best illustrated by comment pods. This summer, the tech media outlined what happened after Instagram shuttered chronological posting. Influencers immediately started gaming the system in comment pods. Digiday’s Shareen Pathak explains how the pods work:

“Groups of up to 30 Instagrammers work with each other to comment on each other’s posts on a daily basis. The idea is to hack Instagram by increasing engagement. Because of the way Instagram’s algorithm works, this leads to Instagram “favoring” pods, which means influencers in pods often appear in the Explore tab, leading to more visibility.”

Content Distribution quote

Creative freelancers see comment pods as a matter of survival. Closed Facebook Groups allow them to learn the ins and outs of joining comment pods and making them a part of their digital strategy. “Many rules govern pod behavior,” says Pathak. “Comments should be at least four or five words. Emojis aren’t good enough. Avoid language that is too generic, like “love it.” Don’t post in the pod — just direct people to your account because a “like” inside a comment thread doesn’t count toward total engagement.” It’s a lot of work.


Pathak included a screen grab from the comment section of one of these Facebook Groups, where a food blogger credited her media friends (not engagement from her actual target audience) with artificially boosting her followers.


It’s called “engagement farming.” None of this behaviour is new. Remember content farms?

But back to Tina Brown. She has always believed in distribution and spinning-off brands into other media formats. When she was editor of The New Yorker, she said: “I had this fantasy of an extended media laterally: I wanted to do radio, books, TV shows all out of the The New Yorker brand.  And Si Newhouse for all of his wonderfulness, did not get that. That’s where he stumbled. He didn’t understand where we were headed and Condé Nast missed the trick when it came to getting ahead of that curve. I saw it, but probably too early. I sounded nuts [to him]. It was like, “Settle down and do your magazine and go have lunch with Updike.”

Brown left The New Yorker when Harvey Weinstein promised to help make her vision a reality with Talk Magazine. It was a disastrous partnership, and Talk failed after two years.

Today, Brown has returned to telling stories, but not with pictures, captions and words. She’s a big believer in streaming live events.

In 2010, Brown started the Women In the World (#WITW), an annual summit which “convenes women leaders, activists, and change-makers to share stories and offer solutions for a better life for women and girls.” It now operates in association with The New York Times. In this #WITW interview, Brown talks to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau about his feminist agenda.

When Brown looks at the lateral moves of The New Yorker today, she applauds her successor David Remnick for putting as much creative energy into his podcast as he does in print. “They should do more [podcasts]. All of these brands are being rethought against the clock.”

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Food art

November 6, 2017

Pizza painting by Alison Garwood-Jones

Today’s artistic challenge was pizza. I wanted to capture the effect of baked crust, and I think watercolour does it better than any other medium. Can you smell the warm carbs in this picture?

I used rubber cement like masking fluid to preserve the layers as I loaded on each of the colours. I like that was able to capture my subject without falling back on my Uniball pen to outline everything. It’s more painterly, less illustrative.

Maybe your menu needs some illustrations? I can help.


Daniel Smith watercolour tube paints:
• New Gamboge
• Hansa Yellow Light
• Quinacridone Rose
• Pyrrol Scarlet
• Phthalo Green
• Burnt Sienna

Windsor & Newton (Cotman Series)
• Sap Green

I used a Chinese-style eyeshadow brush from Elegant Faces (now defunct). This natural squirrel-hair brush is great for painting.

• Canson Watercolor Paper, Cold Press, 140 lb


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Bill Cunningham, you are missed

November 4, 2017

Bill Cunningham watercolour by Alison Garwood-Jones

Crossing the heavens to capture the stars.

#BillCunningham #WatercolorPencil @nytimes

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Canada takes the lead

November 3, 2017

What the world needs now is Canada — and some love, sweet love.

Last night I got the best history lesson I’ve had in years when I watched former PM, Joe Clark, Barbara McDougall, Bill Graham, Lloyd Axworthy and Chrystia Freeland get up and talk about Canada’s impressive record of speaking truth to power.

“Pearson’s Four Faces of Peace: Power, Policy, Prosperity and People” was hosted by Pearson College UWC and Massey College.From left to right: Chrystia Freeland at the lecturn, Lloyd Axworthy, Barbara McDougall, Bill Graham and Joe Clark.

The panel gathered at the Isabel Bader Theatre at the University of Toronto to mark the 60th anniversary of Lester B. “Mike” Pearson’s Nobel Peace Prize for resolving the 1956 Suez Crisis. At the time, the Nobel selection committee credited Pearson with “saving the world” through his work with the United Nations.

Everyone on last night’s panel agreed that there was no better time to think out loud about the significant role Canada must continue to play in resolving and reshaping the current global disorder.

What became clear pretty fast is that the “big swinging dicks” vying for power right now are the kind who delight in pumping toxins into democracies. None of the distinguished panel used the term “BSDs” (thank you Michael Lewis), but all of them, as former and current Ministers of Foreign Affairs, were very blunt about what is at stake, and how Canada must step up and assume our historic role as Chief Architect of multilateralism.

Multilateralism — or collaboration around a common good — is the Canadian ideology that Pearson espoused as Canada’s Secretary of State for External Affairs, and, later, as Prime Minister. Empathy, bridge-building and peacekeeping were the great hallmarks of Pearsonian diplomacy and they became the agreed upon values the West adapted after World War II, said McDougall. Pearson understood that democracy depended on our ability to manage our different opinions.

But Mike was a realist, and no lap dog to U.S. foreign policy (a common slight thrown our way). Pearson knew that diplomacy without arms was like an orchestra without instruments, but war as an instrument of policy would no longer work in a nuclear age. We cannot defend our values by war, he said, because war has come to mean total destruction. His exact words from his Nobel acceptance speech were: “We have ensured by our achievements in the science and technology of destruction that a third act in this tragedy of war will result in the peace of extinction.”

Pierre Trudeau understood that too. “I don’t think I’m speaking out of school if I share this anecdote,” said Axworthy. He recalled a moment in the early 1980s when he came to a cabinet meeting one morning and Trudeau announced that he wanted to lead a mission to go from capital to capital around the world and “suffocate nuclear weapons.” “He wanted to be the voice of clarity and courage, and to say things that other leaders were afraid to say.”

Axworthy brought up other seminal (albeit lost) moments in history when Canada spoke her mind. “We were the first country to declare ourselves a non-nuclear nation in 1945,” he said. “We had the fuel and the delivery systems, but what was the trigger for that? There were no nuclear protests in the streets.” It was decided in confines of cabinet, he discovered in his readings of history. The way we made our country come together through public policy shaped who we became.

“We were also the first nation to tell the Americans that they or the Soviets would destroy the world,” said Axworthy, “and that they had to put their nuclear weapons under international control.” Mike Pearson looked Harry Truman and McGeorge Bundy in the eye when he delivered that message. On American soil, Pearson later spoke out against Lyndon Johnson’s participation in the Vietnam War.

Axworthy, who got back last week from a six-week trip to the Balkan Peninsula, said that “the degree of animosity in Europe right now is a Brexit-style anguish. It’s everybody for themselves. The system is broken.” What was clear in his rounds of talks with the Balkans is that they believe that Canada will be the leader the world needs.

But as former Defense Minister, Bill Graham pointed out, “there is no peacekeeping in the traditional sense anymore,” not in a digital age, a nuclear age and with the rise of drones. We need to address peace by removing the causes of war and by looking at the international organizations we belong to and strengthening then.

The evening ended with Clark saying, “We have even more influence today than we did in the 1950s. No one has our reconciling competence, and we don’t have to sit at the head of the table to do the work.”

When fellow Albertan Chrystia Freeland arrived on stage, she got right down to business. “We have another Pearsonian moment before us,” she told the crowd. “Canadians feel a national connection for oppressed people around the world. It’s up to us, the next generation, to modernize, renew and shore up those multilateral institutions that Pearson built. As Lloyd pointed out, people around the world think Canada can do this. The hard part is we have to deliver ”

“Pearson’s Four Faces of Peace: Power, Policy, Prosperity and People” was hosted by Pearson College UWC and Massey College.

But as Freeland recently tweeted in her dealings with the U.S. over NAFTA: “Capitulation is not a negotiating strategy.” She has arranged to have T-shirts emblazoned with that tweet made up for Trudeau’s cabinet. How about some loud socks too?

“Pearson’s Four Faces of Peace: Power, Policy, Prosperity and People” was hosted by Pearson College UWC and Massey College. #LBP60th

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