If you’ve ever held a paintbrush in your hands, or been privy to the way a pencil glides across paper, you might agree with me when I boldly claim that art is a language all its own. And it’s a language that transcends rules. After all, art is something that we can all mutually appreciate, but lends itself to varying interpretations. It’s a world wonder in its own right, and something that should be held dear, available to all, and often on the front pages (politics, schmolitics). It’s no secret that we could each spend eons uncovering artists worth writing about – they’re out there, creating in droves. One in particular that has recently inspired many headlines, exhibits, and hearts is Stephen Wiltshire, an internationally acclaimed artist from Britain.
What makes Stephen so special? Oh yeah, and how does he relate to real estate and architecture? The answers to both questions are almost one in the same. Wiltshire creates practically flawless, incredibly accurate drawings of large cities (think NYC, Paris, Venice)…and he does it from memory.
Wilshire has a unique background. In his younger years, at school, he struggled to communicate and take part in the traditional classroom. Diagnosed with autism at age three, however, it was (and remains) clear that the normal constructs didn’t matter – Stephen has a gift. His talent was first evident during his school-grade years, where he found he could create incredibly detailed and accurate images of wildlife and people.
As Stephen grew up, his interest slowly shifted from sketching living things to drawing what he saw in front of him…which growing up in London, was a sprawling metropolis. Speaking to The Guardian about the obviously special place he has in his heart for tall buildings and the grit of city life, Wiltshire says:
“I first started having an interest in cities and buildings when I was around seven or eight years old. I always liked the high-rise buildings, the many windows and lots of details. I particularly like how it can change the skyline when new developments are added over the years.”
Although Stephen is now an accredited artist with the accolades to prove it ( including a PhD in drawing and printmaking from the City & Guilds of London Art School and an MBE for services to art), he was just seven when he made his first sale as an artist – and it wasn’t a measly sale, either, at £ 1,500. Over the course of his career now, he has been commissioned by companies and admirers alike to draw mostly panoramic views of skylines of cities such as Tokyo, Hong Kong, Rome, Frankfurt, Madrid, Dubai, Jerusalem, London, and New York.
Perhaps the most impressive part of Stephen’s work, aside from the detail and genuine beauty he portrays with just a few strokes of his pen, is the fact that he references almost nothing after he decides to draw a certain city. Often, he goes on a quick helicopter ride over whatever city he is drawing and then, that’s it. The next step on his deceivingly simple list is to draw said city from memory. A tall order for anyone else, but really just a showcase of exemplary talent for Wiltshire, who often completes his work in record time as well. One BBC documentary documents him drawing a scaled but accurate aerial illustration of his jolly old hometown, London, complete with a dozen historic landmarks and many other intricate buildings, in three hours time.
When speaking to The Guardian about his fame within the world of art, Wiltshire is quick to come forward with his favorite thing about it all: the people he gets to meet. His gallery appearances often draw large crowds and if he is working in a public space, it’s not hard to understand why people stop and ogle over his every flick of the wrist.
“It makes me feel good and happy because it makes people smile, when they smile, I smile.”