Allison Garwood combines art and poetry
Allison Garwood is compelled to draw. In school this got her into trouble with teachers, most notably a philosophy professor who shared her sketch portrait of him with the entire class. But this compulsion, which began as a way to avoid boredom, led to a studio art degree and turned into a career.
Garwood (AB ’96) is now a professional cartoonist and illustrator whose strip, “Haiku Ewe,” has run in papers such as the Kansas City Star and in syndication online. She started drawing comics for her high school newspaper and continued at UGA with a strip in The Red and Black called “Roar Shock Test.” After graduation she drew for the strip “Moo” and eventually began drawing and writing her own strip, “NEUROTICA.”
It was after “NEUROTICA” that Garwood began thinking of new ideas for a comic strip and decided to arbitrarily combine two things she enjoys.
“Drawing sheep is really fun and everyone likes writing in haiku, and I thought, ‘Maybe this could work,’” she says.
And much to her delight, it did.
“Haiku Ewe” started as a single frame, “thought of the day” cartoon, which Garwood likens to a Facebook status update. Over time, she began to develop story lines and at some point surrendered her creative control to an animated sheep.
“Eventually the characters take on their own identity and the strip becomes character driven,” Garwood says.
And no one knows the characters better than her readers, who are quick to correct mistakes and let Big Al the Gal (her pen name) know if a character isn’t acting…well, in character.
“I love the viewer interaction…it’s a strip that gets people’s juices going,” she says.
“Haiku Ewe” is now in re-prints while Garwood works on her next project, but she hopes to pick the strip back up in the future.
Garwood, who lives in Los Angeles with her husband, stays busy for now raising her 2-year-old son Luc and drawing for her collaborative project, “Extra Special Books,” a series of e-books for children. The books chronicle the lives of children on the autism spectrum, with titles such as Timmy Tastes Textures.
While she now enjoys drawing with an electronic tablet, she is grateful for her training in more traditional mediums. A figure drawing class, where she spent three months drawing a skeleton, was one of many “cool experiences… that opened my eyes to being a curious artist.”
This curiosity now helps her develop ideas for her stories, which she gets not only from her own life—she used “Haiku Ewe” to write about the long and complicated process she underwent to adopt her son from Haiti—but also from reading and observing everything around her.
“I live in downtown L.A. You can’t imagine the things I’ve seen. People take themselves super, super seriously in Los Angeles, so they come across as silly and are great food for thought for comics.”
While Los Angeles has good food for thought, Garwood hasn’t been able to find good pizza there and makes it a point to stop by Mellow Mushroom when she’s visiting her parents, who now live in Athens. This is a step up from her college days when the former Mean Bean—“the nastiest, dive-iest, dirtiest place ever”—was her restaurant of choice. And while she may frequent better restaurants and use computers to color her cartoons now, her enthusiasm and love of drawing is the same as it was when she was an undergrad, doodling professors in the margins of notebooks.