Q & A with Stephen Wiltshire
How old were you when you started drawing?
I was three years old. My earliest drawing was recorded at the age of five.
What type of subjects did you draw?
I started drawing animals, aeroplanes before buildings and landscapes.
Why do you like drawing so much?
I enjoy it because it makes me feel happy and lots of people enjoy looking at my work. It makes them smile. They always say how good my work is. I feel very proud.
Apart from using pen and ink, what other medium do you use?
I also use chalk pastels. I like to use it when I add colour to my work, it's easy to smudge in. I also use oil paints for larger work sometimes. I don't paint that often as it takes too long for the paint to dry. I much prefer pen and ink.
You are always listening to music. Why?
It makes me feel good, it helps me to relax while I am working.
What type of songs do you listen to?
I like mostly 60's, 70's, 80's and 90's music, rock n' roll, motown, funk, soul, r'n'b and also pop.
Who is your favourite artist? Why?
Richard Estes. I like his work because it is very realistic and they are American scenes that I can relate to as they are one of my favourite places.
When you are not drawing, what do you do?
I like watching sitcoms on tv in the evenings and listening to the Top 40 on the radio at weekends. Sometimes I dance to get some exercise and I like going shopping with my family on my day off.
What are your favourite buildings?
I have several favourites, Empire State Building in New York, I also like Canary Wharf in London. They are modern blocks.
What is your favourite colour?
How often do you draw?
I often draw, nearly every day.
Having your own gallery in the heart of London is a real achievement. How does it make you feel?
I feel proud of myself, lots of people come to visit my gallery from all over the world and buy my artwork, lots of school groups also come to visit. I come to my gallery twice a week and meet people and sign my autograph.
You seem to get filmed quite a lot. Do you ever get shy or nervous in front of the camera?
No, I don't get nervous at all. I feel very relaxed and comfortable. Sometimes filming can take a few hours or all day, but I don't mind, I have a lot of patience.
If you did not draw, what do you think you would do instead?
I think I would always draw because I started so young. It's what I do best. I used to make a lot of mistakes when I was young, but I have had many years to practice, so I am a very confident artist now. I have had time to mature and grow with my work.
Through your journey with the media and travelling to various countries, have you met any famous people?
Yes, I have met Dustin Hoffman and was on the front cover of You Magazine. I have also met Michael Crawford at the 'Phantom of the Opera', he showed me how to put his make-up on. I met Junior Giscombe, he used to be a singer and Beverley Knight at the Hilton Hotel for Gibson Guitar event in London. I have also met Prince Charles at Buckingham Palace when I got my MBE for services to Art.
I have read that you play the piano. How long have you been playing?
I have been playing for over 15 years with my piano teacher Evie. She is great. I also practice at home at the weekends.
What is your favourite food?
What has been the longest time for you to finish a piece of artwork?
Eight days, that was in Tokyo when I did a 10 metres panorama from memory. This is the longest panorama of all the ones I have done.
What has been the shortest time for you to finish a piece of artwork?
Two minutes, a quick sketch of a bus, also Statue of Liberty.
You were very young when your father died. Do you think about him sometimes?
Sometimes. I know it made my Mum feel very sad and she misses him a lot. We have many photos in our family album with my Dad photographed with me and and my sister Annette.
You are very much the globetrotter. What is the best thing about travelling?
Coming home to the UK. I enjoy travelling very much and seeing different styles of architecture, but after a while I miss my Mum and my bedroom, all my favourite American classic cars are in my room.
How did you realize that you had this talent?
My teachers at Queensmill School noticed that I drew London Landmarks from memory. When we came back from the bus tour I started to draw what I saw. They used to enter my drawings into competitions and I won them all.
When you fly over a city and you memorise it, how long can you keep these images in your mind?
I can memorise any city I like, buildings or anything really. I can still remember buildings I saw when I was very young, like five or six years old.
Words of inspiration?
Do the best you can and never stop.
What inspires you?
I like buildings, especially modern cityscapes and street scenes. I love the chaos and the order of avenues, bright lights of modern cities, the rush hour and the people. I think it is all exciting.
Tell us your daily routine
I always have cereal for breakfast and choose what I want to wear for the day. I travel to my gallery on Pall Mall and draw there in my studio a few days a week. Sometimes I work on commissions and give interviews for film crews. A lot of people come to see my work in the gallery. Sometimes I get invited to events and I get to wear my dinner suit. I often travel abroad as well. Other days I go to my college to use their print room working on new ideas.
What do you consider the highest and lowest moments of your art career?
When I was a young boy it was sometimes frustrating that I could not express myself and it was very hard. I am a grown man now and was very proud of myself when I met Prince Charles who gave me an MBE for services to the art world. He is a very nice man.
Stephen, are you left-handed or right-handed?
I am right-handed.
What are your favourite films? Why?
Rain Man and Saturday Night Fever. Rainman because of Dustin Hoffman. He is a great actor, makes me laugh, especially when he says 'I am an excellent driver!'. Saturday Night Fever because John Travolta starred in it when he was young. I like the music from the Bee Gees and John Travolta's dance moves, which I sometimes do when I am at home.
When you travel what are the most important things you must take with you?
My pencil case with my favourite pens and pencils, rubber and my London double decker bus pencil sharpener, also my camera, so I can take lots of photos of all my favourite things. My diary, my iPad and my iPhone.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I will keep doing what I do best, drawing. I might even get better by time. I would like to visit some places I have not been and one day would like to have my own penthouse in New York.