Stephen Wiltshire: Autistic Skyline Artist

 

Stephen Wiltshire is a 33-year-old autistic man with an extraordinary talent. He is one of less than 100 people in the world who is recognized as an autistic savant. Whereas some savants excel in mathematics or music, Stephen is an accomplished artist, and is capable of producing highly accurate drawings of buildings and cities after seeing them just once.

Wiltshire was born in London, England, in 1974 to West Indian parents, His father, Colvin was a native of Barbados, and his mother, Geneva, is a native of St. Lucia Wiltshire was mute when young. At the age of three, he was diagnosed as autistic. The same year, his father died in a motorbike accident.

At the age of five, Stephen was sent to Queensmill School in London where he expressed interest in drawing. The instructors 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 learned to speak fully at the age of nine. His early illustrations depicted animals and cars; he is still extremely interested in American cars and is said to have an encyclopedic knowledge of them.

When he was about seven, Stephen became fascinated with sketching landmark London buildings. After being shown a book of photos depicting the devastation wrought by earthquakes, he began to create detailed architectural drawings of imaginary cityscapes. He began to communicate through his art. His teachers encouraged his drawing, and with their aid Wiltshire learned to speak at the age of five.[1] At the age of eight, he started drawing imaginary post-earthquake cityscapes and cars. When he was ten, Wiltshire drew a sequence of drawings of London landmarks, one for each letter, that he called a “London Alphabet.”

In 1987, Wiltshire was part of the BBC program The Foolish Wise Ones. Drawings, a collection of his works, was published that same year.  Between 1995 and his graduation in 1998, Wiltshire attended the City and Guilds of London Art School in Kennington, Lambeth, South London.

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