Drawn Across Borders: True Stories of Migration

by | Apr 12, 2022 | Book Review, Non-Fiction, Picture Book

Drawn across borders (cover)

Book Details

Drawn Across Borders: True Stories of Migration
George Butler. London, Walker Studio, hb, 978 1 4063 9216 6, 2021, £15, 53pp.
Picture book, non-fiction, 11+ years

George Butler is an award-winning artist specialising in current affairs. Here he draws on his experiences in Africa, Europe and Asia to explore the stories of individuals who have been forced to move from their homes.

His ink and watercolour reportage drawings are made in situ and give a real sense of place and of context. Many illustrations are unfinished because of the pressures of the situation, and all work as snapshots of a moment, focusing on the part of the scene that has attracted Butler’s attention. Within this framework, significant details are captured: the street sign, the advertisement hoarding, children playing, the child’s toy, the colours of tents in the refugee camp, a green jumper. All bring life and poignancy to what are often unbearably sad situations. The endpapers are moving pen and ink drawings on very white backgrounds of a refugee’s belongings.

In each of the 12 situations explored, Butler gives a brief outline of the situation and tells the story of someone he meets and their portraits, stamp-size, are placed on top and bottom of the introductory pages. There are no judgments here, only observations about the human condition and warmth towards those who in his words have ‘displayed humanity and such generosity of spirit … and who have sat still for long enough to be drawn’.

This is a very fresh and different look at the story of migration and it will open eyes and broaden minds and provoke much discussion. And it is equally useful for its images as for its text. And it is a tribute to Walker that they have made Butler’s work available to a younger audience.

Review by Pam Dix