The portrait style allows for a vertical panorama of color from the ground beneath my feet to the sky above my head.
George sits patiently while John draws portraits of him and the buildings opposite. In this in depth interview we find out exactly how John became the artist he is today.
Where are you from? Goswell Road in Islington. How old is George and how were you brought together? He is six years old. I was living in shared accommodation at the time and a couple of rough sleepers bought him for the price of a strong can of lager off a mad Scotsman.
They had him for about a week and then gave him to me.
How did you train George? I got him when he was one year old and he was one of those dogs who would nearly bite your hand off when you tried to pick up his ball.
He was a cat chaser; he chased foxes. I just have an authoritative voice if Thesis graffiti art could say that. I had dogs growing up. You need eyes in the back of your head with dogs like these, especially when it comes to food. How long have you been drawing?
I spent many years in and out of jail and came out one day and I was homeless. I climbed into a building site, slept there and would get out in the morning before the builders came.
I had to jump over a wall — I landed okay but my ankle gave way and arthritis kicked in. I had to literally walk up to people in the street and ask them for money. I would never have dreamt of doing something like that but I had no choice.
From there I started sitting down and when I got George I started sitting down with him. In the summer time I made a fortune but then the winter kicked in. I had to wrap George up because he was cold and it actually made for a good picture. I found it embarrassing just sitting there watching people throw money into his hat so I started drawing again.
I started drawing just to get over the embarrassment and my drawings got better and better. The idea was to teach myself watercolour and I started drawing buildings.
What happened was I was sitting opposite the buildings that are on the other side of the road from where I usually sit, the old decrepit buildings, and I started drawing them to practice and get it right. Do the drawings of George sell well? People started asking me for drawings of him and I would walk out of the house with four or five — they take me about 20 minutes to knock up — and I take them out and they sell.
Who or what would you say inspires you? I like Gilbert and George — they walk past me every night and George always says hello to me.
Jackson Pollock blows me away. And of course some of the old masters. When I was 13 I lost an art contract. My grandmother worked as a cleaner and took one of my drawings in to show her friends. It was a fantastic picture, I copied it out of an old comic book — my grandfather used to buy me comic books.
Would you say that you are a street artist? If you asked me now what I am, I would say a street artist. Have you ever sat anywhere else? I pretty much always sit in the same spot on Shoreditch High Street.
I can draw them with my eyes closed. People know me and if they want a drawing they buy it.Mar 01, · Scroll through this list of questions that touch on every aspect of contemporary life — from social media to sports, politics and school — and see which ones most inspire you to take a stand.
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