At the age of five it soon became apparent that he communicated through the language of drawing. His teachers encouraged him to speak by temporarily taking away his art materials. Eventually he uttered his first words – “paper” and “pencil” (just like Picasso) – but didn’t learn to speak fully until the age of nine.
Today Stephen is well-known the world over. His talent has been recognised with an MBE for services to art. He has a thriving gallery in the heart of London and originals of his work fetch thousands of pounds.
Stephen sketches on the spot at street level, from the top of skyscrapers or sometimes from a helicopter flying over the city. He attracts crowds wherever he draws, London, New York, Paris, Edinburgh, Venice, Amsterdam, Leningrad and Moscow.
Whilst flying over London in a helicopter he completed his detailed and perfectly scaled aerial illustration within three hours. This masterful drawing of a four-square-mile area included 12 historic landmarks and 200 other structures and is a perfect example of his natural artistry and astonishing eye for detail.
Stephen’s reputation has grown worldwide, and he has published several books.
How old were you when you started drawing?
Stephen: “I was three years old. My earliest drawing was recorded at the age of five.”
What type of subjects did you draw?
Stephen: “I started drawing animals, aeroplanes before buildings and landscapes.”
Why do you like drawing so much?
Stephen: “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?
Stephen: “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?
Stephen: “It makes me feel good, it helps me to relax while I am working.”
What type of songs do you listen to?
Stephen: “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?
Stephen: “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.”
What are your favourite buildings?
Stephen: “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?
Having your own gallery in the heart of London is a real achievement. How does it make you feel?
Stepehn: “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 go to my gallery twice a week and meet people and sign my autograph.”
Through your journey with the media and travelling to various countries, have you met any famous people?
Stephen: “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.”
What has been the longest time for you to finish a piece of artwork?
Stephen: “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.”
You are very much the globetrotter. What is the best thing about travelling?
Stephen: “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?
Stephen: “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?
Stephen: “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.”
What inspires you?
Stephen: “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.”
What do you consider the highest and lowest moments of your art career?
Stephen: “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?
Stephen: “I am right-handed.”
Steven’s motto remains: ‘Do the best you can and never stop’.
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The photographs are courtesy of Stephen Wiltshire press office.