Search

Homeless Shoreditch artist John Dolan saved by pet dog releases book of his life

17:41 17 July 2014

John and George

John and George's new book.

Archant

The autobiography of a former homeless artist whose dog George saved him from a downward spiral of crime and alcoholism is released this week.

John and George with the Streetcat named Bob, and James Bowen.John and George with the Streetcat named Bob, and James Bowen.

John Dolan became an iconic figure in Shoreditch – sitting on the high street every day for three years sketching architecture and bull terrier George, selling the drawings to pay his rent.

Last year, thanks to curator Richard Howard-Griffin, the 43-year-old joined forces with more than 40 famous international street artists, such as ROA, Stik and Thierry Noir, who all drew their “graffiti” over separate prints of John’s sketch of Shoreditch High Street for a sell-out show.

Not only did the show reunite him with his family after 20 years, but it led to him signing a book deal with publisher Random House.

John, who grew up in City Road, Finsbury, is pleased with the book, John and George, which tells his life story and his 20-year stints in and out of prison since leaving school before finding salvation through his dog – which he was given in exchange for the price of a strong can of lager and became his loyal companion.

George at his exhibition.George at his exhibition.

John said: “I like it, it really is a nice book. It couldn’t have been done any better, and sometimes I have to pinch myself, it’s so surreal.

“It does talk about my early life but we skim through the homelessness, prison and the crime because where we want to take it to is the point where I’m sitting on the street doing my art.

“I was all for telling how it really was. When I was in jail there were some really grim stories.

“You witnessed things on a daily basis that were terrible, but when you get stuff like that out and go back to it, it doesn’t make a good read.”

The process of sitting down with ghost writer Rachel Murphy last September was a painful one, John said.

“I was really depressed, it was like pulling teeth. It was just after the show and I was having a bad couple of months,” he said.

“I was in a transition point – I’d been sitting out on the street and selling drawings because I had to and the next minute I no longer had to.

“I was trying to adjust my mind. I used to still go out and sit out on the street because I like to do it and I do it occasionally now. People come to Shoreditch expecting to see me.

“I did miss it in a way, I felt I was missing something. I used to watch the world go by and things would happen.”

But ultimately John is glad he does not have to live that life any longer.

“It was a hard life, really hard,” he said. “I can pay my rent now, last year that was all I thought about, losing my tenancy and being kicked out.”

The book launch coincides with an exhibition of 700 drawings of George at the Howard Griffin Gallery in Shoreditch High Street, which John believes “capture his essence”.

This is the last time he will sell drawings of George, so as not to “flood the market”.

Shoreditch High Street, complete with pavement, kerbs, telephone exchanges and pelican crossings has been recreated inside the gallery, and 20 per cent of the proceeds will go to The Big Issue Foundation and Battersea Dogs and Cats Home.

The exhibition launched last night and runs until August 17.

0 comments

Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files
Comments

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other Hackney Gazette visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by Hackney Gazette staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique Hackney Gazette account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

Latest Hackney News Stories

Fri, 17:21
Firefighters protesting before Kingsland Road fire station was axed

Staff shortages meant Shoreditch fire station was forced to close on one of its busiest nights of the week, brigade bosses have admitted.

Fri, 16:37
Theo Llewellyn on The Voice, photo from Wall to Wall, Guy Levy

A third contestant from Hackney has made it through to the blind auditions of the fifth series of BBC talent show The Voice.

Fri, 14:42
Lorna Downing in the Vagina Monologues (Picture:  Peter Jones)

A play bringing taboo female topics like menstruation and vaginal discharge out into the open, will raise money for East London women’s charity Nia, which works to end violence against women.

Fri, 09:44
Flowers at the scene of the crash where Lewis Johnson, 18, died on Tuesday (Picture: Ken Mears)

Tributes have continued to pour in for 18-year-old Lewis “lighty Lew” Johnson, who died on Tuesday after his motor scooter collided with a van following a police chase.

Fri, 08:38
Jarvis Cocker performing live at Koko in Camden Town, Photo PA Zak Hussein

Pulp frontman Jarvis Cocker will be spinning tunes along with Swing Out Sister’s Corinne Drewery, at a star-studded fundraiser to raise money to ensure refugees can access medical help.

Thu, 17:29
Police at a Reclaim the Streets and Liverpool Dockers March for Social Justice in 1997, the type of protest Jenner may have attended. Picture: David Hoffman/hoffmanphotos.com

‘Alison’ is one of seven women who received an apology from the Met after unknowingly becoming involved in long-term relationships with undercover officers.

Thu, 12:54
GV of Homerton University Hospital, of Homerton Row.

Homerton Hospital’s embattled maternity unit still requires improvement, a care inspectors’ report reveals today.

Police at a Reclaim the Streets and Liverpool Dockers March for Social Justice in 1997, the type of protest Jenner may have attended. Picture: David Hoffman/hoffmanphotos.com

The activist deceived by undercover police spy Mark Jenner, who embarked on a five-year relationship with her while married with children, has warned hundreds of women may have been affected by the Met’s infiltration of left-wing political groups.

Most read news

HOT JOBS

Show Job Lists

Competitions

Champagne experience

This Valentine’s Day, the Coca-Cola London Eye is the perfect destination for lovebirds, offering a range of romantic experiences from Friday 12th February - Sunday 14th February 2016.

Sony Smart Ultra HD 55'' LED TV

Enjoy the ultimate entertainment experience in your living room with the Sony Smart Ultra 55’’ LED TV. Be the envy of all your friends with this huge TV- you can change your living room into your own cinema! Get the boys around to watch the football or get the girls around to watch the DVD of 50 Shades.. this is a prize that everyone would enjoy! Stand a chance to upgrade your current entertainment system by wining this fantastic prize.

Digital Edition

cover

Enjoy the
Hackney Gazette
e-edition today

Subscribe