September 11th, 2012
02:11 PM ET

Watercolors of a warzone

The medium is decidedly low-tech, and known more for depicting sunsets than civil war.

But British artist George Butler turned to watercolor to document life during wartime in Azaz, Syria.

Courtesy George Butler

His subject matter includes a child posing on a destroyed tank, a bread line outside a bakery, and a rebel-run prison - its thick bars and large metal lock in full focus.

"I felt like I was an intruder," says Butler about creating the image of the prisoners. "It's an odd feeling, to draw people you don't know... essentially in a cage, and sitting so compliantly."

Powerful images of the human conflict inside Syria have been taken by photojournalists like Robert King. But what can a water colorist capture in a war zone?

"Time lapse is a great advantage," says Butler. "The idea is not to compete with photographers, but to offer something different by sitting on the street, and getting to know what you're drawing for an hour."

The young artist advances the heritage of traditional artists working in hostile environments, such as the war artists in World War II who worked in oils or pen and ink like John Nash or Ronald Searle.

Butler says the medium is even more relevant today because it stands out from the massive trove of modern-day war video and photography now available online.

And it's true. In the era of YouTube and Bambuser, his watercolors offer an entirely new perspective of life inside Syria.

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