Alison Garwood Jones

Say no to racism

July 11, 2018

I grew up in a multi-racial family.

The Garwood-Jones family at the Huron Haven in Southampton

From left to right: Catherine, Alison, Richard, Trevor, Peter, and our 1972 orange Volvo wagon.

My brothers and I were born at time when Martin Luther King Jr. was doing his most important work, standing up to segregationists in Georgia and organizing non-violent protests in Alabama. Meanwhile, a young couple in Dundas, Ontario — he from London, England, she from Cape Town, South Africa — offered up their bungalow to three babies whose DNA pointed them to Holland, Ireland and Jamaica.

By the time Dr. King’s message became a national, then an international movement, Catherine and Trevor Garwood-Jones were already aligned with the Civil Rights Movement. Mum had travelled between Cape Town and London as a child in the 1930s and forties, but stayed away from South Africa as an adult because of her opposition to Apartheid. She was dead set against ever setting foot in South Africa again until it embraced racial equality — so much so, that when her mother died in 1974, her brothers had to talk her into flying down for the funeral.

I didn’t know this about her until my cousin told me last year. But it made sense. Mum’s opposition to racism played out in the choices she made and the life she lived and the behaviour she spoke up against. Her heart was big and her voice was stern. We all listened and aspired to live up to her standards and expectations for the human race.

In 1960, nine years into their marriage, Trevor set out for Africa and applied his knowledge of construction to some community building projects in Ghana. He was gone for a year — during which time mum became a chain smoker — but he came back with a renewed sense of the harmony and good work human beings were capable of.

Africa wasn’t our parents’ only focus. Dad had an intense connection to the voice and message of Anne Frank and Elie Wiesel. Every Christmas, he sat at the kitchen table and re-read Wiesel’s Night. Dad wasn’t a crier, and he knew what effect this book would have on him, but he waded in anyway. He seemed to make a point of re-reading Wiesel every December so as to renew his strength in opposing the forces that, when the time is right, sink many into a state of utter contempt for humanity. We’re in that time again.

An anecdote: Back in the late 1980s, my brother Richard and I took one of our many trips on the Go Train to Toronto. On a window-shopping stroll down Yonge St., I convinced Richard that we had to go into Stollery’s at the corner of Yonge and Bloor. “They’re having a sale on Lacoste socks!” (I wore alligators on my socks back then). While I was gleefully going through the rainbow assortment of socks, a sales associate had taken Richard aside and told him, “You don’t belong here. Go shop down the alley.” Here we were, two kids who had sat at the same breakfast table that morning and poured our cereal from the same box being treated as polar opposites. Apparently, I was good for business. Richard was not. “Let’s get out of here,” my brother said. We left the store in stunned silence. Or, at least I did. I would slowly learn that this was one of a thousand cuts and arrows Richard had taken (probably to heart). When Stollery’s was demolished in 2015, I privately cheered. But too many old walls are going up again.

I didn’t have the words for my brother outside the store back then, but I do now. Say no to racism: to all the throwaway comments in our daily interactions that some people think are true or funny or OK. Correct them and speak up as you move along. Canadian actor, Andrew Phung, did the right thing this week when he called out a Toronto police officer for mocking a citizen’s driving abilities and yelling at them to “go back to your country.” Phung didn’t out the officer on social media by posting his photo. He showed restraint. Instead, he made a point of describing the incorrect behaviour (and it’s ability to scale) and explaining why it was wrong. He then sent a photo of the officer to Toronto Police Services, and called for disciplinary action.

I grew up in a multi-racial family. But I would later learn that our experience with diversity went beyond my brother Richard. In the early Noughties, my mum’s brother paid us visit from South Africa. On that same kitchen table where I shovelled down cereal with my brothers Peter and Richard, and dad cried over Wiesel’s experiences at Auschwitz and Buchenwald, my uncle laid out documentation and a hard-cover biography from the Cape Town Archives that showed how my mother and he were descendants from a black woman living on Robben Island in the 1700s. The same Robben Island where Nelson Mandela was incarcerated before the fall of Apartheid.

My first reaction was joy for Richard. My second reaction was joy for our family. We really are the world.



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Creative Entrepreneurs: a mutual support society

June 27, 2018

Pen Jar Productions is the print-to-order design studio of Alison Garwood-Jones. Imagine her one-of-a-kind drawings on your throw pillows or tech accessories.

The nice thing about being a creative entrepreneur, other than the creative freedom, the distance from office politics, and the casual wardrobe (I also like to randomly drop and do sit-ups, which I wouldn’t do in an office setting) is the sense of camaraderie with fellow freelancers.

We hire each other, and pay with cash or barter for food and beer, or services. When I started my new Shopify store, Pen Jar Productions, I brought my longtime friend and web designer, Kathryn Barlow on board to perform some CSS surgery on my template.

This morning, this dropped on Facebook.

Kathryn, you can invoice me! I like to pay fast for good work.

Thank you,


“I’ve had the pleasure of working with Alison for years on her blog, which showcases her writing and illustrative talents. I was so thrilled when she launched her Shopify store, Pen Jar Productions to let others bring home a piece of that talent! From pillows to tech accessories, her unique illustrative style injects colour and whimsy to any room!

Alison is hands down one of my favourite people to work with. She’s bright, friendly, funny, and always excited to learn something new.

Check out her shop here: and be sure to give her a follow on Facebook


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Milton Glaser

June 12, 2018

Illustration and quotes by Milton Glaser by Alison Garwood-Jones

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Celebrity Body Parts

May 24, 2018


Inspired by back issues of Rolling Stone Magazine.

#GoldenAgeOfMagazines #PopCulture #Illustration #SocialChange #WatercolorArt


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An LA Sense of Time

May 7, 2018

How humans deal with time in Los Angeles. My latest Instagram book.

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June Callwood

May 1, 2018

June Callwood illustration by Alison Garwood-JonesPeople I admire who happen to be female: June Callwood. She lived and breathed social justice and civil liberty. June was also one of the first journalists in Canada to write about the physical and emotional toll AIDS was taking on a generation of gay men in Toronto in the early 1980s. Her book, Jim: A Life With AIDS (1988, Lester & Orpen Dennys), still pops up occasionally in used bookstores around the city as a reminder of how we need to listen to and take care of each other. I think of June every time I pass down Isabella St. and Casey House, the hospice she founded that embraces and cares for patients dying of AIDS.



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In the beginning …

April 19, 2018

Watercolour drawing of a round brush by Alison Garwood-Jones

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Deepa Mehta

April 14, 2018

People I admire, who happen to be women: film director Deepa Mehta. I remember coming back from a press trip in Stuttgart and waiting forever at YYZ for a taxi. Deepa was waiting too and we gave each other the nod.

#IndoCanadianFilm #elementstrilogy #CanadianFilm #TIFF #fiercewomen

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Why I draw

April 7, 2018

Back in 2012, when I was leafing through the book, More Things Like This, an anthology about the intersection of art, writing and humour, I didn’t expect to find a painting of me scattered amongst the works of Art Spiegelman, Andy Warhol, Shel Silverstein, Kurt Vonnegut, and Leanne Shapton.

I later found out my likeness was featured in this anthology because Michael Dumontier and Neil Farber of The Royal Art Lodge (the now defunct art collective out of Winnipeg) had contributed their painting, “Poster Maker,” to the book.

Royal Art Lodge, Poster Maker, and its inspiration

Michael had found a kid pic of me drawing in a back issue of Elle Canada (where I was an editor) and reinterpreted my “little girl sincerity and focus” with an alter ego who pens big “Fuck Off” signs for her bedroom door. “It kind of mirrors the comedy of a dry journalist reporting on a funny situation,” Neil told me in an email when I followed up to get the story of how I ended up in this book. You can read the whole interview here.

I’ve told this story on my new Facebook brand page because I’ve come full circle. After a dozen years of chasing magazine writing assignments, I’m back to drawing, with all its visceral and subversive delights.

Words aren’t doing it for me during this cultural moment. Or rather, I’d say digital distractedness and the rise of fake news have conspired to turn me off language, and my only solace has been to reignite my ancient interest in mark-making and colour.

After I started posting my drawings and paintings on Instagram two years ago, wouldn’t you know it, offers to buy my art started to stream in. Can I just say, I really appreciate that many of you are feeling a connection to my work. Thank you.

When the world tells you what it wants from you, sometimes it’s best to listen. An Etsy shop will follow.

Finally, if you feel so inclined, please like or follow my new brand page.

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New grads need jobs

April 6, 2018

Watercolor painting of a coffee cup promoting Summer Professional Edge Program for new grads at the University of Toronto's SCS


Dear recent university grads:

Please join me this summer if you want to earn an in-demand certificate in Digital Strategy from the University of Toronto’s School of Continuing Studies (@UofTSCS).

In just four weeks, you’ll develop essential job-ready employment skills, and lay the foundation for career success to last a lifetime. Learn how to:

• Understand the key trends and considerations in fast-changing digital and social media communications landscape.
• Use key digital tools, channels, and platforms in a strategic way aimed at maximizing the power of your message.

It’s immersive, intensive, and designed to develop your skills and prepare you for professional success. @UofT grads can use their $550 U of T SCS Alumni Benefit.

Register right here.

My fellow instructors are Donna Papacosta, Martin Waxman and Andrew Jenkins

Digitally yours,

Alison                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Illustration by Alison Garwood-Jones

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