This artist's language is drawing
Following a forty-five minute helicopter ride over this iconic city, Stephen Wiltshire spent the last week of October 2009 at Pratt Institute, the world famous college of art, design and architecture, where he drew an eighteen foot long image of the city from memory and in full view of the public. Stephen’s progress was featured during the week on CBS News’ The Early Show.
The artist comments, ‘I love New York: the busy streets, rush hour, the chaos, yellow taxis and the high rise buildings reaching up to the sky, the traffic, roads and avenues and a lot of American people. New York is beautiful.’
Stephen is a London-based artist with a particular talent for drawing lifelike, accurate representations of cities, sometimes after having only observed them briefly. His New York panorama completes his collection of nine works depicting some of the world’s most iconic cities- London, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Rome, Madrid, Frankfurt, Dubai and Jerusalem. Stephen toured the US three times in the early 90s and his fourth book American Dream was based on his love of American architecture. Following the completion of this New York panorama, he will now explore new creative directions with his work.
Stephen was born in London to West Indian parents on 24 April, 1974. As a child, he was mute and did not relate to other human beings. Aged three, he was diagnosed as autistic. He had no language and lived entirely in his own world.
At the age of five Stephen was sent to Queensmill School in London, where it was noticed that the only pastime he enjoyed was drawing. It soon became apparent he communicated with the world through the language of drawing: first animals, then London buses, and finally buildings. These drawings, show a masterful perspective, a whimsical line, and reveal a natural innate artistry.
Aged eight, Stephen started drawing cityscapes after effects of an earthquake (all imaginary), as a result of being shown photographs of earthquakes in a book at school. He also became obsessed with illustration of classic American cars at this time (his knowledge of them is encyclopaedic), and he drew most of the major London landmarks.
The teachers at Queensmill School encouraged him to speak by temporarily taking away his art supplies so that he would be forced to ask for them. Stephen responded by making sounds and eventually uttered his first word - ‘paper’. He had learned to speak fully by the age of nine.
Stephen shot to fame in 1987 when his astounding talent was featured on the BBC QED programme The Foolish Wise Ones and he was introduced by former president of the UK’s Royal Academy of Art Sir Hugh Casson as ‘the best child artist in Britain’. He went on to study Fine Art at City and Guilds of London Art School. Since then Stephen has continued to draw and paint prolifically, travelling all over the world to create his work and achieving worldwide fame in the process. He has been featured in many books, and his own third book Floating Cities (1991) was number one in the Sunday Times Bestseller List.
Meanwhile, Stephen’s artworks were being exhibited frequently in venues all over the world. In 2001 he appeared in another BBC documentary, Fragments of Genius, for which he was filmed flying over London aboard a helicopter, and subsequently completing, within three hours, a detailed and perfectly scaled aerial illustration of a four-square-mile area. Amazingly, his drawing included twelve historic landmarks and two hundred other structures.
In October and November 2003 thousands flocked to the Orleans House Gallery in Twickenham, near London to see the first major retrospective of Stephen’s work. The exhibition covered the twenty year period, from 1983 to 2003, and comprised one hundred and fifty examples of Stephen’s drawings, paintings and prints.
He has twice been featured in the list of the 100 most influential black people in Britain and in 2006 was awarded an MBE for services to the art world. His work is popular over the world and is held in a number of important collections.
Work from Stephen’s entire career is permanently on display, alongside new paintings and prints, at the Stephen Wiltshire Gallery, Royal Opera Arcade, Pall Mall, London, where he also has a studio. His New York cityscape will go on permanent display in the London gallery later this year and members of the public can now put in their orders for a print of his New York panorama by visiting his website at www.stephenwiltshire.co.uk