George Butler is an award-winning illustrator but has reinvented the role of the Artist Reporter drawing conflict zones, climate issues, humanitarian crisis and social issues for the news. His drawings are done in situ - in pen, ink and watercolour.
In August 2012 George walked from Turkey across the border into Syria, where as a guest of the rebel Free Syrian Army, he drew the Civil War-damaged, small and empty town of Azaz. A decade later he spent several days in the Metro in Kharkiv, Ukraine recording the lives of those that lived underground to avoid the Russian bombardment. These drawings can be seen in the National Archive at V&A Museum. (London).
Over the last 15 years George has been commissioned to offer a deliberately slow alternative to the headlines. He attaches his drawings to the personal testimonies of those that he meets and records their resolve and resilience alongside the vulnerability of their situations. This has included in a Leprosy Clinic in Nepal, a militia in Yemen, the Mass Graves in Bucha, a caesarean-section in Afghanistan, the artisanal oil fields of Myanmar and most recently for the Guardian documenting the aftermath of the Earthquake in Turkey and Syria. (22/2/23)
“In Ukraine I learnt that the stories of those I was trying to draw, were in fact, far more significant than my attempts at figurative likeness on the page. The drawings became an introduction to something and someone more meaningful that we would have otherwise never known”.
His drawings have been published by The Times (London), Monocle, New York Times, the Guardian, SZ Magazin, VQR, BBC, CNN, Der Spiegel, ARD television (Germany) and NPR. His work has been shown in the Imperial War Museum North, Lambeth Palace and is in collection at the V&A Museum and the National Army Museum. His book Drawn Across Borders was shortlisted for the Kate Greenaway Award in 2022.
George's recent trip to Ukraine, supported by the Pultizer Centre, was published in the Observer, on the BBC and in SZ Magazin in Germany, as well as VQR in the USA. It described life in the Metro Stations, the hospital wards and tragically the mass graves scenes that flooded our frontpages. This work won Best Illustrated Story at the ASME Awards (USA) in 2023.
In 2014, with three friends, George set up the Hands Up Foundation. The aim was to remind the people they had met in Syria that they had not been forgotten. The Hands Up Foundation supports salaries of professionals inside Syria and has to date raised £7.8 million.
What others have said...
"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.
‘The humanity of this artist shines out from every stroke of his brush.’
Mishal Husain, journalist
‘The Paul Nash of our era. No one has captured in art the destruction and suffering of modern warfare as powerfully as George Butler,’
"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
“While photography is good in what it can reveal; drawing has that ability to have a considered approach of a different kind - simply because it is less instant and more reflective. Stories emerge from such drawings. George Butler is keeping reportage drawing alive” John Vernon Lord
"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