Imagine drawing a perfectly accurate and realistic skyline of New York City after only seeing it one time. This is what British Artist Stephen Wiltshire does on the daily.
Born in London, and of West Indian descent, the artist was mute as a child and diagnosed as autistic at the tender age of three, but this didn’t stop Stephen from communicating through drawing. At five years old, his talent with a pencil became apparent, and he began speaking once his teachers realised they could coax him to do so by temporarily taking away his artist supplies, thus pushing him to ask for them back. His first word was ‘paper.’
From animals to buses and everything in between, Stephen enjoyed drawing all the elements of his world, but at seven years of age his true passion unfolded: drawing landmark buildings. He began to enter competitions, sold his first work that same year and, at just eight years old, was commissioned by then UK Prime Minister, Edward Heath, to create a depiction of the iconic Salisbury Cathedral.
Soon afterwards, Stephen began traveling the world to draw, publishing books of his exceptionally realistic architectural sketches from Japan to the US, Australia and the Netherlands, among many mothers. One of the most amazing things about Stephen’s practice is that he doesn’t create his work looking at the skylines he is drawing, but rather does so entirely from memory.
Documentaries have been made about him and the Queen even awarded him the honour of being a Member of the Order of the British Empire in 2006. He now owns his own art gallery in London at the Royal Opera Arcade.
If there’s anything that Stephen can teach us, it’s that talent is powerful, and that the mind is capable of far greater accomplishments than what we may realise.