Stephen Wiltshire isn’t your average artist ― he can draw cityscapes entirely from memory.
Wiltshire, who was diagnosed with autism at age 3, would sketch images of the wilderness and caricatures of his teachers as a young boy. After one teacher began to take notice of his capabilities, she entered his work in art competitions, which garnered him local recognition. At just 8 years old, he was commissioned by the British prime minister to draw the Salisbury Cathedral, according to a profile by National Geographic last week.
The London-based artist has since been recognized by neurologist Oliver Sacks ― whose entire home Wiltshire was able to draw after a quick visit ― and Prince Charles, who honored Wiltshire with the title of Member of the Order of the British Empire.
But the elite aren’t the only ones who have been following Wiltshire’s work.
In October 2009, he completed a panoramic drawing of the New York City skyline on a 19-foot canvas in six days, after viewing the city for just 20 minutes during a helicopter ride. Segments of that process and a number of Wiltshire’s other panoramic drawings like those of Houston and Sydney are available as videos on his YouTube page and his website.
His sister Annette Wiltshire told The New York Times that he delights in others’ enjoyment of his work.
“That he has a gift makes no sense at all to Stephen,” she told NYT in 2009. “He knows that he draws very well, but he picks that up from other people — he sees the warmth on their faces, they tell him how much they like his work, and that makes him very happy. He loves the attention.”
In July 2014, Singapore Press Holdings commissioned Wiltshire to draw a panorama of the city-state. The art was gifted to President Tony Tan Keng Yam for the 50th anniversary of Singapore. The time-lapse video of Wiltshire drawing a panoramic view of Singapore has received nearly 180,000 views on YouTube. Wiltshire’s most recent work was a drawing of Mexico City in October.
Those looking to commission Wiltshire may be placed on a four- to eight-month waiting list.