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Though many artists specialize in cityscapes, very few create masterpieces as detailed and intricate as those sketched by Stephen Wiltshire. Even more impressive is that each monochromatic landscape, which takes the British artist just a few days to complete, is drawn entirely from memory, a talent that has earned him the nickname “The Human Camera.”
Stephen’s artwork includes skylines of Rome, Hong Kong, Frankfurt, Madrid, Dubai, Jerusalem, and London. The most challenging city to draw was Amsterdam, because of the many details the artist had to recall, as well as the names of the buildings which were difficult to learn. Given his penchant for skyscrapers, it is not surprising to hear the artist is a big fan of New York City and calls it his “spiritual home.” His passion is reflected in an astounding 18-foot drawing featuring Manhattan’s iconic landmarks, like the Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building, all committed to memory during a 20-minute helicopter ride.
Though Stephen, whose works sell for thousands of dollars, is now considered an artistic genius, his start to life was rocky. Diagnosed with autism at the age of three, he was unable to relate to people and refused to utter a single word. His talent came to light when his kindergarten teachers noticed how much the young boy enjoyed drawing. To encourage him to speak, they began providing him with art supplies only if he verbally requested them. Not surprisingly, Stephen's first word, spoken at age five, was “paper.”
As a child, Stephen excelled at sketching life-like depictions of wildlife along with portraits of his teachers and peers. However, as he grew older, it became apparent that his real talent and passion lay in drawing city skylines. The artist says, “I first started having an interest in cities and buildings when I was around seven or eight years old. I always liked 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.”
His incredible work did not go unnoticed. Stephen sold his first painting for $1,620 (£1,150) at age seven, was commissioned by the British Prime Minister to create a drawing of the Salisbury Cathedral at age eight, and published his first book of art at age 13! In 2006, to honor his significant contribution to the art world, Stephen was presented with an MBE (Member of the Order of the British Empire) by Prince Charles.
The “Human Camera” says the best thing about his success is meeting with the thousands of people that gather to see him work in every city. He explains, “It makes me feel good and happy because it makes people smile when they smile I smile. I also like going up in the helicopter and seeing the cityscape from a bird’s eye view.”
Resources: the guardian.com, nationalgeographic.com, stephenwiltshire.co.uk