John and George: A Man Battles Demons With Drawings and a Dog.

dog inspires homeless artist

A sweet black and white Staffordshire Bull Terrier inspires homeless artist John Dolan. George serves as a faithful canine companion, muse and a savior for the 42 year old homeless, ex-con in Shoreditch.

Staffordshire Bull Terrier Inspires Homeless Artist

dog inspires homeless artist
The Muse and the art he inspires
george and john in shoreditch IIHIH
George and John in Shoreditch

the dog who changed my life

John Dolan and his staffy George are a fixture on the streets of Shoreditch. Their story is one of companionship and hope. Dolan was living on the streets after being in and out of prison when he was given George in exchange for the price of a strong can of lager. A dog for a beer.

staffordshire bull terrier
George is a sweet and loyal Staffordshire Bull Terrier, typical of the breed.

Since that time, George has been Dolan’s most loyal companion, ultimately enabling him to change his life. With George at his side, Dolan managed to escape a twenty year cycle of homelessness, drug abuse and prison, establishing himself as one of east London’s most recognizable artists.

homeless man and his dog
George sat by patiently as John drew and sold his ink drawings on the street
George staffy photo and inset
George was one of John’s most drawn subjects.

Dolan’s ink citiscapes were first shown in a sold-out debut exhibition in September 2013 at the Howard Griffin Gallery.

John Dolan pen and ink drawing
above: John Dolan Shoreditch from the Air, 2014, 74.3cm x 62.1cm, Pen and ink on paper
John Dolan, Skyscrapers, 2014
above: John Dolan, Skyscrapers, 2014, 84.1 cm x 59.4cm, Pen and ink on paper

Dolan’s second show at the gallery which runs through September, John and George, features hundreds of original ink drawings in homage to his four-legged companion.

staffordshire bull terrier homeless artist
George in front of an exhibit of John’s works
drawings of staffies
George The Dog, Shoreditch, London by John Dolan

The artful drawings simply entitled ‘George the Dog, Shoreditch London’ stand as a testament to a special relationship between artist and dog.


george the dog
John and George

Before sharing several of the drawings from the show with you, here’s a nice short by filmmaker Will Robson-Scott in which he captured John and George – and their special relationship – prior to John’s first art show at the Howard Griffin Gallery.

Most of the photos in this post are screen grabs from this short film:

Dolan would draw portraits of George as he sat beside him, and began to sell these drawings to the people he saw walk up and down Shoreditch High Street every day.

george the dog and homeless artist

John and George at the Howard Griffin Gallery presents viewers with an immersive microcosm of the street in which viewers are surrounded by hundreds of drawings of George. The repetition in Dolan’s work stems from the years of working on the street where each drawing he made of George marked the passing of another day and George’s presence was the one thing in Dolan’s life which he could rely on totally. In the chaotic world in which we live, Dolan uses repetition to encourage viewers to take a moment and see things in a different way. The subtle variations in each drawing tell a story and document a quiet and unassuming friendship that for one month will be shared with visitors to the gallery.

drawings of george the dog

george staffy shoreditch london

dog sketches john dolan

drawings of george the dog

london staffy drawing

john dolan drawings of george

staffordshire bull terrier story

homeless artist and staffy

drawings of george the dog

Inquire about PRINTS & DRAWINGS:
• John Dolan’s original classic drawings of George the Dog are available to buy online from Howard Griffin Gallery here.
• John Dolan screen print editions are available to buy from Howard Griffin Prints here

John Dolan – John and George
17 Jul 2014 to 21 Sep 2014
Howard Griffin Gallery
189 Shoreditch High St, London, E1 6HU

book front and back covers IIHIH

In addition to presenting new original works and prints, the exhibition marks the publication of Dolan’s autobiography by Random House. The book, John and George: The Dog Who Changed My Life, chronicles his inspiring story of survival and redemption through art. Proceeds from the exhibition were donated to The Big Issue Foundation and Battersea Dogs and Cats Home.

UPDATE: It appears there is another version of the book, published by Overlook Press in 2015, also available for purchase here:

george the dog john the artist

all the drawings in this post are courtesy of the Howard Griffin Gallery, photos are stills I grabbed from the short film on John Dolan by filmmaker and photographer Will Robson-Scott

John and George at the Howard Griffin Gallery