A Quick Hello

I just wanted to drop in and apologise for the lack of posts lately. I will be back shortly. I haven’t had a chance to do much of anything around London in the last six weeks or so. The last month in particular has gone by in a completely blur. I’ve been on eight different planes in the last 32 days (which was all very fun and exciting, but I’m happy to be in London for a while)! On top of the travel (and wedding planning and my regular job) I’ve been attempting to organise my exhibition which is really coming together now.

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From the back of one of my postcards

Thanks for tweeting and sharing to all of you who have! I really appreciate it. I’m looking forward to meeting those of you coming to the launch party on Monday night and anyone else stopping by the gallery throughout next week. There’s been 97 RSVPs with a yes for the opening so it should be a full house!

Anyway, these are my excuses for not blogging in a few weeks. Hope you will accept them and stick with me for probably another week and a bit and I shall be back! I did manage to pop a few posts up on the new blog, Little Observationist, so check it out if you haven’t yet. Hope all’s well with everyone!

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Street Art: Clet in London

It looks like the clever French street artist Clet Abraham was at work in West London recently – perhaps he was in town for the bank holiday weekend?

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Wandering through Chelsea on Monday with my parents who are over from New York, we spotted a few stickered signs in typical Clet style (Oakley Street and King’s Road). Then I found another two on my way home  last night (Sumner Place) in South Kensington.

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It’s great to see some street art on my side of the city for a change.

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Clet and Ben Wilson’s recent chewing gum art trail down King’s Road may be some of the subtler styles (I’ve also spotted  few Christiaan Nagel mushrooms perched on Chelsea rooftops), but it makes me hope for some colourful murals popping up around here eventually! Or at least a few small Pablo Delgado pieces please?

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I’m positive there are plenty more Clet pieces hiding nearby and perhaps further afield. Have you spotted any recently?

London Art Spot: John Dolan

John and George

If you’re a Shoreditch regular, you’ll recognise John Dolan and his dog George. They’re out on the streets of London every day, John drawing, George keeping him company and watching the world go by. John’s been chronicling the changing cityscape of this area in his sketchpad for three years now and is a Londoner through and through.

As the Hackney Citizen points out, John’s had a bit of a rough past, in and out of Pentonville Prison over the years for petty crime and often homeless. His drawings have since been sold for as much as £15,000. He has recently collaborated with some of the biggest names in street art to produce a series of work for an exhibition at the Howard Griffin Gallery next month.

Below he tells us a bit about some of the artists he’s been working with, shares a story about George the dog and leaves us with a thought to carry through the rest of the day.

Shoreditch High Street (photo - Rob Weir)

LLO: Start by telling us a bit about yourself, your background and your interests.
JD: My name is John Dolan. I was born in Hackney Hospital on June 8th 1971. I grew up in Islington. I love art. I’m a big fan of Gilbert and George, Jackson Pollock, Robert Crumb, and I love Stik’s work. I’m a big music fan; I love Springsteen. I’m a big boxing fan. I’m a Gemini and I’m 42 years of age.

Thierry Noir & ROA collaboration with John Dolan

LLO: For the past few years, you’ve been hanging out around Shoreditch drawing this area of London. What do you hope to communicate through your work?
JD: Basically what I want to communicate through my work is London. I like the grimy look of London (in parts) and especially the street art you have in London, which is on the grimy parts.

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LLO: You’ve collaborated with some of the best street artists around for your exhibition at the Howard Griffin Gallery. Who are they? Who have you most enjoyed working with on this project? Why?
JD: For the collaborations I’ve done I’ve worked with more than 30 artists. ROA was the first one. Thierry Noir, RUN, Stik, Zomby, MadC (the best lady graffiti artist), BRK, Dscreet, Malarky; there’s loads to name. The best one for me, the most technical artist out of the lot of them is probably ROA, who I admire and respect hugely.

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LLO: Why should we stop in to check out your exhibition?
JD: Well some of the best street artists in the world have checked me out and got on board with this project. Surely that answers your question! The theme is Shoreditch, the regeneration of the city and the incredible street art that’s going on around here. There’s around 50 of my street pieces, of George and the buildings on Shoreditch High Street, and about 25 of the big pieces with collaborations by the street artists. Then there’s about 4 or 5 big originals of different buildings on the street and around the area.

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LLO: Tell us a bit about your drawing technique.
JD: I use pilot pen, blind drawing. I take the pen straight to the paper; I rarely use pencil. I like the grimy looking and old buildings. I spend up to six weeks drawing the big pieces, and the small building drawings that I sell on the High Street take up to two hours.

Shoreditch High Street 1

LLO: We want to know more about George. How long have you had him? What’s his personality like? Tell us a little story about something he did that was memorable.
JD: I was living in temporary accommodation in the Tower Hill area, and at Christmas I always put homeless people up because of the cold weather conditions and because Christmas is a really depressing time of the year for them guys. I was putting up a couple one particular year and they already had a dog. These two guys were beggars, and whilst they were out on the street some mad Scotsman sold them George for the price of a strong can of lager. They then came to my house with George.  In the meantime they were offered a place in a hostel. They couldn’t take two dogs, so they offered me George, who I took on.

I’ve had George for six years. I’ve trained him to the max. I have arthritis in my ankle and in the winter I’m on crutches and I can’t walk. George is a Staffordshire Bull Terrier, he’s got that fighting instinct and he can be a bit of a little git at times. So I’ve trained him to the extent that he listens to every command and obeys every word. I sit on Shoreditch High Street Friday and Saturday nights when people have got drink inside them. They can be quite abusive, and when people that are quite abusive come walking towards me I’ve only got to raise my hand and point towards them and George will start to bark at them. I don’t even have to give him a command, I just point in their direction and he’ll start to bark. That generally keeps the nutters away from me and the people that have had too much to drink.

George’s personality, well he’s a very wise dog; he’s got great wisdom in his eyes. He looks like he’s been around for longer than he actually has. Me and George are meant to be together, I can’t explain it but its kind of destiny that has brought us together. The dog has brought me incredibly good luck. He’s become a part of Shoreditch, everyone knows him. They know his name before they know my name. George is engrained on Shoreditch just as much as I am. George has become a legend in the past few years since I’ve been around Shoreditch. I love him to bits, and he’s my universe. What more can I say? 

ROA detail

LLO: As a born and bred Londoner, what changes have you seen in the city in general over the years?
JD: I’ve lived in London all my life. I grew up in Islington and saw the changes there. Years ago, Shoreditch used to have a very big Bangladeshi community. They’re moving out now as the area regenerates itself and becomes very middle class. I’m very working class, but the middle classes are bringing a great vibe to the area. It’s great round Shoreditch now, as opposed to twenty years ago.

John Dolan x Malarky

LLO: When you think of Shoreditch, what’s the first thing that comes to mind in each of the following categories:
JD:
Sight:
The beauty of the people, the fashion, the street art and the street life.
Smell: The different restaurants with their excellent smells of food beaming out of them.
Taste: I like Dishoom and the Argentinian steak sandwiches across the road.
Texture: The texture for me is my big fat arse sat up on the hard concrete pavement of Shoreditch High Street.
Sound: The music wafting out of the clubs and the laughter and happiness of people enjoying their nights out.

Noir, Zomby, BRK, RUN

LLO: Tell us about one or two random but memorable interactions you’ve had while working on your drawings.
JD: There are two amazing things that happened to me on the street. One was being published in Shoreditch Unbound alongside Tracy Emin and Gilbert and George, the first two months of me sitting on Shoreditch High Street. I was sat there drawing one Saturday afternoon when two guys approached me and commissioned me for the book.

The other is when the rock band Heavens Basement bought a piece and took it onto Lauren Laverne’s Radio 1 show. I got a big shout out.

John Dolan with Stik

LLO: If you could leave Londoners with one thought to carry through the rest of the day, what would it be?
JD: Treat others how you expect to be treated yourselves, bastards!

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You can see John’s work at the Howard Griffin Gallery from 19-26 September (10am-6pm), 189-190 Shoreditch High Street E1 6HU.

Car Boot Sales of London

When it comes to the chic, debonair treasures of the world and unearthing actual pieces of history from beneath tresses and tarpaulins, all roads lead to London. Forget everything you know about car boot sales and prepare yourself for vintage artefacts, forgotten treasures and beautifully priced antiques. Gone are the cuddly toys! Gone are the broken pieces of electrical equipment! Find the right car boot in London and you’ll find an Aladdin’s cave of bohemian opportunities.

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From the ‘Fete Worse Than Death’ extravaganza almost 20 years ago to the Vauxhall Art Car Boot Fair that took place in Brick Lane in June this year, London has been a focal point for the gathering not just of antique dealers and vintage fashion sellers, but also of contemporary artists longing for the convivial bonhomie of the traditional market. The Vauxhall fair attracted notables such as Billy Childish and Sir Peter Blake, the renowned artist of the Sergeant Pepper cover sleeve, and gave contemporary artists a chance to showcase their work amid entertainment and a loyal recreation of the Soho Colony Room.

You needn’t wait for these special events, however, to enjoy some of London’s finest wares. A trip to the Wimbledon car boot, with its 200 sellers and 7am opening time, regularly see’s the discerning and tasteful return with such prizes as a chic dresser for a couple of notes, liberty upholstered furniture for a tenner, or a truly rare find. If you’re looking for chandeliers, luxurious furniture and vintage ornaments, this is the place to go. The only thing they won’t provide is a man and van service to take your wealth of artefacts back home with you, but – if you’re on a mission to renovate, refurbish or redesign – you can pick up a good deal fairly easily.

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With a populace fleshed-out with diverse, multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, multi-national artists and creators, it’s never long before an entrepreneurial visionary creates yet another unique car boot. The Capital Car Boot, in Pimlico, is a good example, and was set-up by stylists Faye Marriott to attract a younger crowd with a penchant for vintage fashion, while the truly discerning, those looking for a real deal on real treasure, will find a wealth of tantalising wares at the Battersea car boot – more expensive, but specialises in upper-end antiques.

Note: This is a sponsored post. 

Taking the Boris Bikes for a Spin

London’s not nearly as bike friendly as Amsterdam or Copenhagen, in the States where I grow up they drive on the opposite side of the road and I once saw a cyclist slip under a truck on the way to work, so I’ve been skeptical about venturing through the streets of this city with a Boris bike.

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But that incident (which was the main reason) was quite a few years ago, so when Dimple suggested taking them for a spin to Kensington Gardens on our lunch break it sounded like a fabulous idea.

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It was straightforward. We found the nearest rack of bikes and selected Hire a Cycle from the screen.

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It will show you some prices and make you agree to a long statement that you probably won’t read.

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Then you stick in your card.

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It spits out a ticket with a code.

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And then the fun begins. So we walked over to the bike racks, chose bikes, entered the code, pulled… and nothing. Again. And then we thought we were doing something wrong. So I did what I always do in times of difficulty and turned to Google where a forum told me the bikes are difficult to undock and “You might not be strong enough”. Apparently we weren’t strong enough because when we yanked on one together, it came straight out. We rolled our eyes and felt like weaklings but at least we had our bikes!

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We didn’t have too much time, it being lunch break, so we simply cycled up to the nearest end of Hyde Park.

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We settled in near the lake with the sandwiches we packed and watched the swans dive for food.

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It was fun, a little spurt of exercise and something a bit different to do. I’d definitely take them out again for a longer amount of time to go exploring as long as it didn’t involve too many busy roads!

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Have you tried the Boris Bikes yet? What did you think? If not, would you? Why or why not? 

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