Powerful street art

On July 10, 2014, in Artists, by John Ellis

Companionship, hope and art

One of my favourite days in London included two hours hiking through Shoreditch, observing the ever-changing gallery of graffiti art. My guide was a member of the tour group Street Art London. Here is its tribute to the street artist John Dolan (reprinted with the hope that they won’t mind because this post is solely intended to inform my readers and promote this fabulous tour in London).

Street Art London is pleased to be supporting notorious Shoreditch artist John Dolan’s return to Howard Griffin Gallery with a landmark exhibition entitled John and George. John Dolan is east London’s most notorious artist. For three years, he sat every day with his dog George on Shoreditch High Street. In the past, Dolan had been in and out of prison and often found himself homeless. Sitting on the street every day and watching the world go by, he became part of the community, speaking to passers by about his life, his experiences and George. Dolan began to draw the buildings on the street to document his day, elevating the old, decrepit buildings that are so often ignored and under appreciated. He also drew portraits of George as he sat beside him, and began to sell his drawings to the people he saw walk up and down Shoreditch High Street every day.

Howard Griffin Gallery met John Dolan a year ago. His debut exhibition in September 2013 focused on his unique cityscapes, and saw Dolan collaborate with some of the world’s biggest street artists, including ROA, Thierry Noir, RUN, Steve ESPO Powers, Know Hope, Pablo Delgado and many others. His next exhibition, John and George, moves away from his documentation of the street and turns inward, centring on the unique relationship between the artist and George.

The story of John and George is one of companionship and hope. Dolan was on the streets when he was given George in exchange for the price of a strong can of lager. 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 and prison, establishing himself as one of east London’s most recognisable artists.

John and George will present viewers with an immersive microcosm of the street in which visitors will be 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.


Born Weird – not a confession

On February 28, 2014, in Good reads, by John Ellis

If you have siblings, this won’t seem so Weird

Andrew Kaufman’s novel “Born Weird” was nominated for the Steven Leacock Award in 2013. It’s the most recent book selection at the Wheatsheaf Literary Society – the oldest, established, permanently floating, men’s book club in Toronto. I’m one of 7 children and I found the sibling relationships well developed, pretty indicative of life in a large family and a little familiar in places.

I recommend this novel as a highly entertaining work of fiction with a happy ending although it has been dogged by a few lukewarm reviews. The Quill & Quire offers a nicely balanced review that shouldn’t prevent you from supporting Mr. Kaufman and his weirdness. He seems like a funny and talented guy. You can read the Quill & Quire review or just buy the book. The Wheatsheaf Literary Society will be interrogating this work on humour in mid-March. I may revisit this post with an update.

Totally compelling content

On February 2, 2014, in Branding, by John Ellis

How often do you thank a brand?

Thank you GoPro for making this kind of content available. Watch this on a big, hi-def screen and imagine yourself making this kind of leap.

The meaning of happiness – for busy people

On January 10, 2014, in Good reads, by John Ellis

Too busy to read? Flickr to the rescue.

You could read all of ‘The Cossacks‘ by Leo Tolstoy or you could  just search the Web for the book’s real meaning. If you opt for the second, easier, lazier alternative, you could end up on this dude’s Flickr page. He’s scanned the one page that sums up the nature of happiness for Olenin, the “wealthy, disaffected Muscovite who joins the Russian army and travels to the untamed frontier of the Caucasus in search of a more authentic life.” Let’s hear it for the Internet!

What’s really funny is that this dude (in a rush to wisdom) was in too big of a hurry to generate a decent scan.

Now – what to do with all the time you’ll save by not reading all those old Russian novels?

BTW – Anna throws herself in front of a train. You can skip that one too.

Pretend you read it.

Amazing tech at the Cleveland Museum of Art

On December 26, 2013, in Great design, by John Ellis

So long bicep cramps

If you’ve suffered from the bicep cramp that sets in after you’ve wandered through a gallery or museum while holding an old-fashioned audio guide, you’ll love what the cats at the Cleveland Museum of Art – Gallery One – are doing with fantastic interactive technology. Having just toured the new Toronto aquarium with kids in tow in Toronto, I’m convinced that interaction is the key to getting kids turned on to art.

Branded content works for Dupont

On March 19, 2013, in Branded content, Uncategorized, by John Ellis

When I get briefed on branded content it’s usually because a client has little money. Here’s what Dupont was able to do with its enormous budget. Hey, why not create a television series?

Inspirational space

On January 4, 2013, in Great design, by John Ellis

I’m always looking for new ways to make my workspace more inspirational.


Then I came across these lucky bastards. What a buzz kill. Now I want to enclose the back yard.

This is the beautifully inspired office of Selgas Cano Architects in Madrid. You can view more images here.

Holiday video reco. The Queen of Versailles.

On December 6, 2012, in Great writing, by John Ellis

“Life on the thin, fragile, sugarcoated top layer of the upper crust.”

You’ve probably heard of The Queen of Versailles by now. But maybe you need a nudge to download it and have a look. So, I am endorsing this as a first-rate Christmas Classic. It will make you grateful for what you have.

From NYT: It has been said that we live in a new gilded age, in which the rich take it as their sovereign right and civic duty to get richer, while the rest of us look on in envy, simmer with resentment or dream of rebellion. “The Queen of Versailles,” a new documentary by Lauren Greenfield about life on the thin, fragile, sugarcoated top layer of the upper crust, captures the tone of the times with a clear, surprisingly compassionate eye. Read the full review.

Guaranteed conversation starter. The 1% of 1%.

On December 5, 2012, in Great writing, by John Ellis

It’s Christmas Party Season. Here’s a great anecdote when you’re stuck for small talk.

This documentary is 70-minutes long but you can digest the main idea in snippets on YouTube. Of course, it would be best to pay for it and watch it all at once.

Colorado wants men to get real. And they’re serious (sort of).

According to the site, created by Cactus, the goal of ManTherapy.org is to show working age men that talking about their problems, getting help and fixing themselves is masculine.


“The campaign strength is its innovative and humorous approach through a fictional “therapist” named Dr. Rich Mahogany, who is a no-‐nonsense man’s man that let’s men know honest talk about life’s problems is how they will start to solve their problems. At the center of the campaign is a web portal that allows men to interact with Dr. Mahogany, do a “head inspection” (self-‐assessment), and get “manly mental health tips.” When men indicate their level of distress is high, Dr. Mahogany refers them to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline or “the Pros” (a vetted list of professional mental health service providers).”

Thanks to loyal reader Christopher Webber for pointing us in the direction of this campaign.