[Drawing of the House of Parliament by Stephen Wiltshire]
The very first time we heard about Stephen Wiltshire’s art was on a bus journey from Angle to Oxford Circus about four years ago. We overheard two art students talk about how the London-born artist had inspired them to reach for the stars. They described him as ‘the living camera’, he could draw city panoramas with great detail completely from memory – never referring to notes, sketches or photographs.
Four years later, we don’t know whether the sky was the limit for the art students or not but we’ve managed to interview Stephen himself.
What really amazed us was discovering that his ariel drawings are so exact to the real thing that not even science can explain how he memorises so much detail from just a five minute helicopter ride. Even the number of windows in all the major buildings are correct.
[Stephen drawing a panaroma of London]
Stephen was diagnosed with autism at a very young age, he started drawing before he could actually speak. He learnt how to have a full conversation at the age of nine.
Stephen: “I started drawing when I was 5 years old. We used to go on excursions around London with our class and when we returned to the school, the teachers asked us to draw what we saw. I drew St Pancreas Station first. Later on my teachers used to take away my pens and paper, so I would ask for them.”
Little did he know that in 2006 when he was just 32 years old he would be awarded as a Member of the Order of the British Empire for services of Art and open his own Art Gallery in London.
Stephen: ” I used to go to Queensmill School in Fulham. I started my career there, when my teachers used to enter my drawings into competitions and I won them all. At first he newspapers did not believe that I drew them”.
He has drawn some of best, biggest and busiest cities in the world, from London and Rome to New York and Sydney. But the longest and hardest city to draw was Tokyo, it took him eight days to draw a ten meters panorama from memory.
Stephen: “Tokyo is a very large city, lots of buildings, highways and skyscrapers. I put a lot of details in my drawing, it was hard work.”
Apart from being a real inspiration to the young and old around london, he is just an ordinary guy who has found true happiness with what he does. His favourite food is chicken, he misses his mum when his traveling and has a collection of his favourite American classic cars in his bedroom. But we couldn’t help but notice how proud Stephen is of his work.
Stephen: “I still draw every day and I am very proud of my work. A lot of people come to my gallery and my work makes them smile.”