Alison Garwood Jones

Packing List

September 14, 2017


This is what I managed to capture right before our trip to Vancouver this week.

I did some en plein air pencil sketches of Port Moody, but now I’d like to capture a couple of our day trip activities,  including our visit to a glacial lake, renting a canoe, and eating salmon jerky on a friend’s back porch.

I didn’t want to sketch during the trip. I was having too much fun experiencing it. But I have pics in my phone, so I’ll capture those here in Toronto at my drawing table.

Watercolored line drawings by Alison Garwood-Jones




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Student Success Stories

September 1, 2017

Do what you love - Illustration by Alison Garwood-Jones

Illustration by Alison Garwood-Jones

If you are on this page because you’re thinking of enrolling in my U of T  Digital Strategy course this fall, I can see you! Hehe. Seriously. I’m glad you stopped by.

Whenever I take a course — which is pretty often — I always Google the instructor. I want to know who they are, what they are accomplishing outside of class, and if they have an original spark before I commit to spending several months with them.

I’ve been teaching Digital Strategy and Communications Management since the fall of 2014 — an eternity in digital years.

In that time, digital communications has evolved by leaps and bounds. My course has adapted with every twist and turn social media has taken, and it provides up-to-the-minute strategies on how to build and market your blog, vlog or podcast.

As a digital journalist, illustrator and web series host, I know a thing or two about combining creativity with an entrepreneurial spirit, and how key digital tools are to showing your work.

U of T Learn More Illustration by Alison Garwood-Jones

Illustration by Alison Garwood-Jones

Let me share a couple of success stories so you can see how some of my former students have leveraged the course learnings to start new projects, or to land some really cool gigs in digital, marketing and PR:

Andy: Andreanne was already an established beauty blogger at  A Certain Romance  when she signed up for my class last summer. Her goal was clear: she wanted to increase her visibility and get her first paid gig as a blogger/influencer. By week 2 of the course, she had crafted a focused SMART goal (take the course and I’ll explain what that means). By week 12, she had organically increased her subscribers by 54% and her pageviews by 140%.  Shortly after the course was over, Andy was offered an unpaid community management internship with a natural beauty company (which she declined). She also interviewed for a paid position as a community manager/content creator for a beauty distributor. She decided it wasn’t a right fit, so she kept looking. In the meantime, an offer to do her first sponsored post came in. This past spring, she hit the jackpot when she was picked to be the new Web and Social Media Editor at Canadian House and Home‘s French Edition, Maison & Demeure. This week, she got her business cards! Fun fact: for Andy’s first assignment, she was tasked with translating into French one of my feature articles from Canadian House & Home, then promoting it on social. The way I see it, we’re all in this together.

Photo of Andreanne Dion, beauty blogger

Photo: Andreanne by Nick Reynolds

Kamini: Kamini signed up for my class hoping to gain some new digital skills during her job search. She created a WordPress blog about her cat Hewitt. Do we really need another cat or cupcake blog. Yes, if it’s funny and well-produced. Last spring, when Kamini was preparing for a  job interview with Portable Intelligence, she was  used her blog as her portfolio, and reviewed all 12 class decks so she felt prepared. Things went well and she ended up showed her blog and some of her cat videos during her interview.  Last June Kamini said yes to Portable Intelligence and became their Digital Marketing Specialist. It was her very first job in Canada since moving to Toronto from India. Go Kamini! PS: She has since retired her blog URL. Hewitt has moved on.

hewitt the cat

Hewitt by Kamini

Julian: Julian was the first student I had who chose to use the course to set up a podcast. The idea of creating a series of  fun and plain-speaking interviews for young gays who were new to big city living had been percolating in his mind for some time. In the fall of 2016, Julian debuted The Sassy Gay. Since then, he has kept a regular posting schedule and the show has become a recognized source of support in the LGBT community. Posts include: The Epidemic of Gay Loneliness and Coming out to your mom. He has also branched out and created a web series called Process where he interviews artists. Julian told me he was inspired by the class to challenge himself in the audio and video storytelling spaces. I’m proud of this guy.

Since I started teaching, I have witnessed many similar success stories. One more pops to mind. A lot of people who come to my class are fleeing dying industries.  David was a copy editor at The Hamilton Spectator who felt confident enough with the new digital smarts he acquired in class to land a job as a Communications Associate at the MaRS Centre for Impact Investing. Before the newspaper cut him loose, he abandoned print media in favour of a communications job with more growth potential and stability.

Join me this fall is you want to learn how to adapt to the new digital economy, or apply a strategic mindset to an idea you have for a written blog, web series or podcast. Here is the link. I’m teaching section 068.

I hope to see you soon,


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Freelance life

August 10, 2017

Freelance Achievement Sticker based on series by Jeremy Nguyen

When there’s no watercooler, just silence, you have to rely on discipline and humor to beat back the latest news on #genderwars, #Trump and our pooched #environment. Did I miss anything?

Another freelance achievement sticker to add to Jeremy Nguyen’s fun series for the The New Yorker. (Bushwick Daily) #DailyShouts

I’ve rolled these into my daily PhotoShop assignments. I’m making progress.  #GetBusy #LearnMore

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Freelance Achievement Stickers

August 9, 2017

Freelance Achievement Sticker by Alison Garwood-Jones, inspired by Jeremy Nguyen


My addition to Jeremy Nguyen’s brilliantly spot-on series of #FreelanceAchievementStickers for the The New Yorker.

(Bushwick Daily) #DailyShouts

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Jessie Tait, designer

August 2, 2017

Jessie Tait's classic Sienna pattern for dishes from the early 1960s

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When in doubt

July 29, 2017

I love this quote by Shadi Petosky from Grace Bonney’s book, In The Company of Women. I was determined to visualize it in PhotoShop, which I’m finally learning.

It’s easier to learn a new tool when you have something you actually want or need to make. Have you noticed that too?

I learned iMovie because I needed to teach it. And then I started a web series called Willful with my friend Yann Yap, a masterful film editor, and once again I was  forced to up my game.

I’m learning watercolour because I like chasing magic.

Learning is life’s best therapy because it allows you to expand, and then share everything you’ve gained.

Everybody wins.

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A star is born

July 19, 2017

Girls on the Bus illustration by Alison Garwood-Jones

TORONTO, JULY 2017: Filmmaker Maureen Judge‘s next documentary, Girls on the Bus, in development with TVO Docs, explores the challenges faced by teenage girls whose expectations of success and sexual equality are not being met.

Maureen will follow four to five subjects during their final year of high school, and look at how the perception of a glass ceiling, and their place in the world affect the teenage girls’ attitudes, actions and goals.

I got out my black Uniball pen to create this drawing for their flyer and social media accounts. I’m a huge fan of how Maureen gets inside the lives of her subjects. Check out her work at

Here is what Maureen is looking for in her own words: “While it seems like future possibilities for girls across North America are limitless, and more girls graduate high school than boys, a recent Gallup poll found 77% of teens still believe there’s a glass ceiling. Girls continue to encounter overt and shameless sexism. And, as they become aware of the disappointing job statistics for women, they begin to wonder about their goals and dreams. For instance, in two years Canada has fallen from 19th to 35th place globally in the gender wage gap ratings. And there is still a gap of close to 20% between full-time male and female wages.

Throughout the film, we observe the subjects dreaming about their futures and, despite the odds, see one believing she can achieve anything she wants, while another feels isolated, insecure and defeated. We relate to their passions, anxieties, sexual awareness, and frustrations as they navigate the social landscape of school, their families, and the digital world; fall in and out of teen love; and struggle to assert themselves in a male-centric world, amid a myriad of challenges and growing pains.”

Maureen’s last film, My Millennial Life won BEST DOCUMENTARY at the Canadian Screen Awards (Canadian Screen Awards).

Age Range: Girls going into grade 12 or senior year of high school
Profile: Full of personality, sense of humour, witty…and eager to be on camera!

If you or anyone you know is interested in participating, please get in touch via email: info(at)

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Coney Island

July 16, 2017

Coney Island Cyclone Coaster Illustration by Alison Garwood-Jones

In the summer of 1927, New Yorkers flooded to The Cyclone, Coney Island’s newest ride engineered by inventor Harry C. Baker. “Let’s go for a wild ride,” they told their friends and family members. A giant chain slowly pulled the three-car train up the wooden tracks to the zenith — it was a rattly, herky jerky preview — before it quickly dropped at speeds of 68 miles an hour over nine more drops and six curves. New Yorkers stepped off the ride windswept and unsteady on their feet from the speed.

Drawing by Alison Garwood-Jones using a black Uniball pen.

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We eat with our eyes

July 5, 2017

For some gigs, I will make hyper-realist prep sketches to help establish the colours and boundaries for my final illustration.  To wit:

Eggplant lasagna sketch by Alison Garwood-Jones


I prefer the suggestiveness of gestural sketches, but I think for this job — menu illustrations for The Merchant Tavern) — realism helps. We eat with our eyes. This is The Merchant’s popular Eggplant Stack (a lasagna, if you can’t tell). Here’s the second version in watercolour first, then lightly defined in parts with waterproof ink:

Eggplant Lasagna drawing by Alison Garwood-Jones


Then there’s the Seafood Pot (same deal: watercolour lighly outlined in parts with ink):

Seafood Pot Illustration by Alison Garwood-Jones

The challenge here was making all the items in the pot legible. Most of the problem solving happens in the prep sketch, usually done in watercolour pencil.  Here you have to prove you know what you are doing. In the sketch you establish your colour scheme and the placement of the elements. The fewer the colours, the more harmonious the composition.

Seafood Pot Sketch by Alison Garwood-Jones


The watercolour sketch for the Merchant’s Traveller’s Salad was my idea of less is more. Even the buckling of the cheap paper I did this on worked in its favour. After all, lettuce ripples:

Traveller's Salad Sketch by Alison Garwood-Jones

For the final, I inked the shapes so the salad would be legible for people reading the menu and trying to choose a starter. I prefer the sketch, but there you go:

Traveller's Salad Sketch by Alison Garwood-Jones

Studying process is fun, isn’t it? For these sketches, I just stared at the wine glass in front of me and went for it:

Two wine glasses - drawing by Alison Garwood-Jones

Bottoms up:

High Ball sketch by Alison Garwood-Jones

Let’s finish with a cripsy fish sandwich and a side of fries:

Fish burger sketch by Alison Garwood-Jones

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The swimmer

June 29, 2017

Man Swimming by Alison Garwood-Jones

I met a man at my local pool the other day.

He could shoot himself 25 metres under water in one breath.

When he came up for air, I removed my goggles and asked him, “Are you a pearl diver?”

“No,” he smiled, water dripping from his afro.

“Are you training for a competition?” I persisted. “Or setting yourself a personal challenge?”

He paused. “I do this to control my anger.”

Back under he went, all silence and grace.

Here is the original ink and water colour drawing before I swirled it up in PhotoShop.

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