Alison Garwood Jones

Visual Journaling

September 17, 2019

My Week in a Nutshell - Comic by Alison Garwood-Jones

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Art Helps

September 17, 2019

In ten seconds, the ticker tape of a woman’s mind can go from, “I need a snack,” “When do I pick up the kids?” to “What’s the root cause of misogyny?”

Most gals who pay attention to the way the world works are only two or three thoughts away from dystopian spirals.

Afternoon cheese and cracker plates and whistling kettles help.

Making art is ESSENTIAL.

Name what you see, then discuss.

Art Helps: A Comic By Alison Garwood-Jones
Art Helps: a comic by Alison Garwood-Jones
Art Helps: a comic by Alison Garwood-Jones
Art Helps: a comic by Alison Garwood-Jones
Art Helps: a comic by Alison Garwood-Jones
Art Helps: a comic by Alison Garwood-Jones
Art Helps: a comic by Alison Garwood-Jones
Art Helps: a comic by Alison Garwood-Jones
Art Helps: a comic by Alison Garwood-Jones
Art Helps: a comic by Alison Garwood-Jones

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Meeting my customers

August 9, 2019

The best part of owning and operating  Pen Jar Productions, my online store, is creating the product and meeting my customers. Here is my interview with Fernanda van der Laan, proud owner of my Jane Jacobs enamel pin.

This summer my Jane Jacobs pin (circled in blue) entered a special collection of over 300 pins, curated by Fernanda van der Laan. It features a selection of giants in civil rights, music, art, and architecture. Fernanda lives in Washington D.C. and is on staff at Sidwell Friends, the school where her daughter Sophia graduated this past June. Here is my conversation with Fernanda about her collection, and how and why she is using her voice and her pins.

Q: How many pins are in your collection?

A: About 300.

Fernanda van der Laan's Enamel Pin Collection

Q: Why did you start collecting, and who was your first pin?

A: I started collecting just before the Women’s March in January 2017. I was looking for something besides your basic t-shirt, something to make astatement in a subtle way that I could wear multiple times. I bought aHillary Clinton pin, and then the collection grew from there.

Q: How do you organize your pins?

A: I organize them bygroup: movies, fine arts, politics, music, architecture, etc. Whenever I go to book launches, protests or concerts, I select a few to wear.

Q: Which figure(s) do you admire the most in your pin collection, and why?

A: For music, it would be Aretha Franklin. From my art collection, it’smy Girl With A Pearl Earring by Vermeer.For politics, it’s Barack Obama and Nelson Mandela.

Fernanda van der Laan's Enamel Pin Collection

Q: Have you ever met one of your heroes/sheroes?

A: Yes, I have Michelle Obama, Diane Keaton, Malala, and Joe Biden…

Fernanda van der Laan's Enamel Pin Collection

Q: How did you first hear about Jane Jacobs?

Fernanda van der Laan's Enamel Pin Collection

My Jane Jacobs pin is circled in blue. She fits right in!

A: Learning more about architecture.

Q: Have you participated in a Jane’s Walk in your area? (they’re really fun!)

A: No, but would LOVE TO. And I could wear your pin!

Q: How did you find my Jane pin? You know, what key words brought it up? (ahem, this question is for my Digital Strategy students who learned about long-tail keywords and some SEO basics two weeks ago)

A: I put in a search for “architects/architecture pins” and you came up!

Q: Do your friends (female and male) share your commitment to social justice? Who is more vocal?

A: I am lucky enough to live in Washington D.C., so we are constantly surrounded by friends and colleagues who are involved in politics. But I have to say that not all my friends share my passion. The person who is with me in every social/political eventismy 18-year-old daughter, Sophia.

Q: What are your biggest causes right now? And why?

A: I am VERY worried about the right-wing extremists in power here in the US, Brazil, and in some parts of Europe. Everything I care about (gun control, racism, immigration, the environment, etc.) is being affected by crazy policies and people who don’t believe in science, in social justice, in income distribution, etc.

Fernanda van der Laan's Enamel Pin Collection

Fernanda van der Laan's Enamel Pin Collection

Q: Beyond collecting pins and posting to Instagram and Twitter, how are you trying to move the needle?

A: I sometimes blog to advocate for causes I believe in. I volunteer, donate money, and try to educate myself. And I go to the streets (March for our Lives, Women’s March, etc.). When I travel, I go to “difficult” places, such as concentration camps and plantations. Lots of people don’t understand why I choose to spend time doing these

Q: Where did you grow up?

I was born in Brazil and lived there until I was 20. I am Dutch by marriage and spent 10 years living in Belgium. I havebeen in the US since 2001.

Q: Does the political feel personal to you?

A: Yes. I don’t think we can afford it otherwise. I have no problem with different opinions. But nowadays I just can’t bring myself to tolerate the intolerable.

Q: What is the best thing your mom and dad taught you?

A: Empathy and compassion.

Q: Will women save the world?! (I couldn’t resist!)

A: I have high hopes for my son and daughter and their whole generation! I’m making sure to raisedecent human beings who will hopefully not only do well but do good!

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August 9, 2019

Toby the Dog - illustration by Alison Garwood-Jones

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Hi Tomato

July 31, 2019

Tomatoes by Alison Garwood-Jones

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A cure for homesickness

July 30, 2019

I got homesick at university. This is me on the left with my good friend, Kelly.

Alison Garwood-Jones and Kelly McKinley

Every time I went home, I would pinch something — a blanket, a framed photo, one of my dad’s sweatshirts, even a favourite soup spoon — and take it back to my dorm room. Technically-speaking, I was a thief as my brother Richard, now a lawyer, pointed out.

When a client asked me to draw their family home and put it on a throw pillow for her kids, who are heading back to university in September, it got me thinking about remedies for homesickness.

Seeing my own family home in photos still has a calming effect on me, even though I haven’t lived there for two decades.

Looking back, I would have loved these reminders of family:

• A pillow showing the family home for those melancholy Sunday nights before my first 8:30 class.

I draw custom pillows of your home by Alison Garwood-Jones

• A reminder of home on my laptop during midterms.

Put your family home on a laptop skin by Alison Garwood-Jones

• A shot of home on my phone reminding me to call mom.

Put your family home on a your phone cover by Alison Garwood-Jones

• A tote for those trips to the supermarket on my own:

Your home on a tote, custom tote bag by Alison Garwood-Jones







• Better yet, a pillow of mom I could hug!The Mom Pillow - custom portrait drawings by Alison Garwood-Jones


HOW IT WORKS: if you are interested in creating a memory on a pillow, the price includes my personalized, one-of-kind drawing plus the printing of the pillow(s) by Notion. You will also receive a high-resolution jpeg of the art to recreate however you wish (stationary, stand-alone prints, phone art, laptop skins, T-shirts, totes, etc.). prints all of that kind of stuff, and more! Contact:


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Pool People

July 26, 2019

Pool People Illustration by Alison Garwood-Jones

I move between many different tribes: writer people, illustrator people, and hotel pool people.



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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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