If New York inspired Stephen Wiltshire, Dubai simply blew his mind. City Times looks at one man’s awesome talent to sketch from memory and captures shades of his personality
Perhaps the most delightful and talented artist this reporter has ever met Stephen Wiltshire visited Dubai to create one of his world famous cityscapes. This fantastic work of art will be auctioned off to raise money for the Dubai Autism Centre’s new state-of-the-art facility in Garhoud which will help gradually increase enrolment from 42 children to 140. Stephen, who is himself autistic and was brought to Dubai by the Autism Centre, travels the globe intricately recreating the panoramic views of cities often in pen and ink drawings and all completely from memory.
When he arrives in a new city Stephen takes a brief helicopter ride of no more than 45 minutes where he absorbs all the contours of the skyline and manages to remember every building, green space and road in the entire city. He then gets to work almost immediately drawing for up to seven hours a day in order to complete an exact copy of what he has just seen. After he is finished, the drawing Stephen has created matches up to a photo of the same view exactly. Stephen Wiltshire has drawn most of the major cities including London, Los Angeles, Tokyo and Rome among many others. He is the only artistic autistic savant in the world whose work has been recorded and published since his childhood. Stephen’s work has been the subject of numerous television programmes around the world including the BBC’s QED show, ‘The Foolish Wise Ones.’ This is his first time in Dubai but already he sees it as overtaking his current favourite city of New York. Also a talented musician, Stephen gave everyone in the lobby of the DIFC a beautiful rendition of ‘Stand by Me’ before answering a few questions about his marvellous talent and his travels.
With his lovely sister Annette by his side Stephen first told us what he likes about drawing Dubai. “Dubai is beautiful, there is such great weather and I like all the developments. This is my first time here but I love all the buildings,” he said. Annette added, “There is just something Stephen likes about big, new buildings. He’s not too fond of anything small so Dubai is perfect.” Stephen went on to say, “I like the shape and design of buildings my favourite one is the Burj Dubai because it is the tallest. I would like to come back when it is finished. Dubai is difficult to draw, there are so many details and lots of high rise developments but I can manage, it’s very interesting and new.”
Stephen’s other passion aside from drawing is music, both listening and playing. When he draws he is often seen with his earphones firmly plugged in as it improves his concentration. “I like to listen to 70’s soul music and Mowtown. I also like 70’s disco and 90’s R&B and pop. Music makes me feel good and happy. I have been playing the piano since I was sixteen and this also makes me happy” Asked what his favourite medium was Stephen replied, “ I love pen and ink as it is not so messy but I like to add colour to my pictures with pastels.”
This phenomenally gifted artist is truly one of a kind. The Dubai Autism Centre has achieved something brilliant by bringing him here and let’s hope Stephen will be back soon. His drawing will be a great record for the future of how Dubai was in 2008 so the lucky purchaser will get to own a piece of history.
To view Stephen’s past work visit www.stephenwiltshire.co.uk and for more information on the Dubai Autism Centre visit www.dubaiautismcenter.ae