British Artist Sketches Intricate Panoramic Cityscapes Entirely From Memory

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Stephen Wiltshire at work on 52-foot canvas of Tokyo (Photo Credit: Stephenwiltshire.co.uk)

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.”

Seattle, Washington (Photo Credit: Stephenwiltshire.co.uk)

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.

Aerial view of Manhattan skyline and Brooklyn Bridge (Stephenwiltshire.co.uk)

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.”

Panoramic view of London, UK (Photo Credit: Stephenwilshire.co.uk

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.”

Cologne, Germany (Photo Credit Stephenwiltshire.co.uk)

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.

Photo Credit: Stephen working on Dubai skyline (Photo Credit Stephenwiltshire.co.uk)

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

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astoundingautismcityscapescommissioneddepictionsdiagnosedexcelledgeniusiconicimpressiveintricatemasterpiecesmonochromaticnicknamepenchantsignificantverbally
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Reading Comprehension (11 questions)

  1. What is unique about Stephen Wiltshire’s art?
  2. According to the author, what makes his art even more impressive?
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Critical Thinking Challenge

What impresses you more – Stephen’s ability to recall...

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Vocabulary in Context

“To encourage him to speak, they began providing him with art supplies only if he verbally requested them.”

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223 Comments
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  • hh10296
    hh10296Monday, April 9, 2018 at 9:17 am
    O.M.G! I don't know what I can draw from memory! Perhaps just a pillow and that's it. ^_^.
    • rehjiro123
      rehjiro123Monday, April 9, 2018 at 6:24 pm
      LOL XD
    • CalMonday, April 9, 2018 at 9:15 am
      I didn’t read it
      • meepy35
        meepy35Monday, April 9, 2018 at 9:14 am
        too cool
        • ls10453
          ls10453Monday, April 9, 2018 at 9:06 am
          Stephens ablate to recall is so cool! It impresses me more than anything else that he dose!!!
          • nd10186
            nd10186Monday, April 9, 2018 at 9:06 am
            The way Stephen's memory works like this is amazing. Being able to memorize every little detail of a city in my opinion is again outstanding, and selling a painting for over 1 thousand in my opinion is just super cool.
            • ls10453
              ls10453Monday, April 9, 2018 at 9:03 am
              He has a great memory unless he secretly looks at the pictures!
              • ck10330
                ck10330Monday, April 9, 2018 at 9:01 am
                I am more impressed by how good Stephen's ability is to draw.
                • ls10453
                  ls10453Monday, April 9, 2018 at 8:59 am
                  I do have a good memory but not that good!
                  • nd10186
                    nd10186Monday, April 9, 2018 at 8:59 am
                    Stephen's ability to being able to memorize a city or even a picture is outstanding in my opinion, and selling pictures for over 1 thousand dollars under the age of ten is again outstanding.
                    • s165411
                      s165411Monday, April 9, 2018 at 8:58 am
                      I wish I knew this guy!

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