For 20 years, artist John Dolan was homeless, then he was given a dog named George and everything changed. In order to feed George, John began selling sketches on the streets of London, hoping to make enough change to provide for his new companion.
Those sketches are now selling for thousands of dollars at galleries near and far, and bringing John to the forefront of the art community.
“What I have learned is, if you put your mind to it, anything is possible,” John, 43, tells Ellen’s Good News.
John’s story of tragedy and triumph began decades ago. While he says it would take a book to document everything he’s been through, he recalls his lowest point being at the end of his youth.
“I was kicked out of my grandparents' house at the age of 19,” John says. “That was the start of my 20-year period of homelessness.”
Living on the street, John spiraled into poverty and crime, and found himself addicted to drugs. He also suffers from bipolar disorder, which made it that much more difficult to overcome life’s many setbacks.
More recently, John decided to trade a can of beer with a homeless woman to get George, and began to draw pictures of the dog, a Staffordshire Bull Terrier, with a pencil and paper. His focus shifted to a love he hadn't felt in awhile.
“I soon became very attached to him,” John remembers. “It was about keeping the roof over his head, that was what made me change. Dogs are like children to their owners.”
In addition to images of George, John created portraits displaying the various sites of his city. John begged and sold the art for a few dollars until he met Richard Howard-Griffin, who runs street art tours in East London and also owns a gallery there. Richard arranged the first showing of Dolan's work, and it was an immediate success.
The success led to a second show in London and another in Los Angeles, which is currently running until Sept. 21st. The value of the sketches skyrocketed to around $5,000 - $6,000. John also wrote a book titled, "John and George: The Dog Who Changed My Life."
“My process is similar to meditation,” John notes. “I zone out while I am drawing. I go to a far off place and I try and stay there for as long as possible. I am known for the amount of time and detail that go into my landscape drawings of London.”
Life has certainly improved for John financially, given his unusual success story, but he says he still faces challenges. He aims to continue producing art and raise money for charities.
He describes his overnight success as “insane.”
“The change in fortune has been so quick,” John adds. “I am still trying to get my head around it.”
You can find out more on John's work here.