Drawing in the Media – George Butler, adventurer and illustrator

"I believe that drawings have a wonderful capacity to engage an audience. Especially if they have witnessed and described the scene in action and from life."

“We seem to have lost the art of the observational reporter with a sketchbook to photography.
Butler’s memorable images show that a closely observed drawing is not just worth a thousand words
but hundreds of photographs.” A A Gill

Prosthetic limb clinic in Reyhanli, Turkey. Supported by Syria Relief, a UK-based charity, this is clinic is the only one of its kind.

Prosthetic limb clinic in Reyhanli, Turkey. Supported by Syria Relief, a UK-based charity, this clinic is the only one of its kind.

George Butler is an artist and illustrator specialising in travel and current affairs. His drawings are done in situ, often in areas of conflict, in pen, ink and watercolour.

He has worked as a reportage illustrator in both Syria and Afghanistan. In 2013 he won an International Media Award, as well as the prestigious V&A Illustration Award in two categories –Editorial and Overall — for his work in northern Syria for The Guardian’s G2 magazine.

In August 2012 George walked from Turkey across the border into Syria, where as an unofficial guest of the rebel Free Syrian Army he spent four days drawing the small abandoned town of Azaz, which was badly damaged in the civil war.

Bab al Hawa Hospital at the Syria - Turkey border

Bab al Hawa Hospital at the Syria – Turkey border

Six months later he made a similar trip back to Syria to record stories amongst the refugees and the field hospitals. These drawings were reproduced by the Times, the Guardian, the Evening Standard, Der Spiegel, ARD television in Germany and NPR in the USA, and reported on the BBC World News, BBC World Service, Al Arabiya, Monocle Radio and twice on CNN.

When it comes to reportage, in George’s view drawing offers “a trusted alternative” to photography and film. “The sense that someone was actually experiencing a situation first hand, offers a fresh and proven solution to capturing a viewer’s attention,” he says in Drawing the News, an article in the July 2013 issue of The Artist Magazine.  “I believe that drawings have a wonderful capacity to engage an audience. Especially if they have witnessed and described the scene in action and from life.”

Mali consulate - part of a journey from London to Libreville, Gabon. The drawings were published online with The Times and shown in a solo exhibition in Dover Street a year later.

One of a series of drawings during a journey from London to Libreville, Gabon that were  published online by The Times and shown in a solo exhibition in Dover Street the following year.

George’s sense of adventure took hold long before he carried his sketchbook to Syria. After he left Kingston University, drawing led George around the world: he has drawn oil fields in Azerbaijan, soldiers in Afghanistan, patients recovering from reconstructive plastic surgery, the G20 riots, the New York Fire Department and Asian elephants.

“Location drawing gives you a created confidence that you might not find in the safety of your studio,” George says. “A dip pen, a wet paint brush, a moving subject leave no room for self consciousness. Even the weather means that there really is no choice but to have some faith in your natural or learnt ability. The resulting painting may well be a pleasant surprise.”

George’s most recent solo exhibition took place at the Illustration Cupboard Gallery in London in the summer of 2013.  He has also exhibited in the Sunday Times Watercolour Competition and in the Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolours exhibition at the Mall Galleries in 2008, 2009, 2011 and 2013, when he won the June Stokes Roberts Bursary and the Winsor and Newton Young Artist’s Award.

“George Butler combines the curiosity and wanderlust of David Attenborough with the delicacy of brush of Audubon, travelling afar to bring back a subtle evocation of fauna and flora and the people he meets in far-flung places.”  Geordie Greig, Editor in Chief, The Mail on Sunday.

“George Butler’s extraordinarily sensitive pictures of life in all its forms tell us more about the world than most photography can.”  Robin Hanbury Tenison


The Bastille

The Bastille

Editor’s note: For more about George and his work, please visit his web site www.georgebutler.org and his Facebook page www.facebook.com/georgebutlerillustration

As luck would have it, on October 1st 2013, the same evening the Society launches DRAW 13, the SGFA Annual Open Exhibition at the Menier Gallery in London, George will be in conversation with Frank Gardner, BBC Security Correspondent, at Syria: Drawings from the Frontline. The subject will be his experience drawing refugees and children, field hospitals and old battle scenes in Syria, giving a different perspective on a horrific war through a once common, but now unusual, method of reporting.  For more about George’s event click here



The Artist magazine, written by artists for artists  www.painters-online.co.uk/Magazines/The-Artist/_mg13

The Illustration Cupboard is a unique central London art gallery representing the most distinguished contemporary book illustrators from around the world. Established in 1995, it has presented a continuous schedule of events including single artist’s exhibitions, themed events and the much-loved annual winter exhibition. www.illustrationcupboard.com

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About Cynthia Barlow Marrs SGFA

Artist: I draw. Land planner: I was. Urban Sketcher: I am. SocietyofGraphicFineArt - The Drawing Society: I belong.
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