20 Questions with Genius-Artist Stephen Wiltshire

Stephen Wiltshire is internationally celebrated for his astounding ability to recreate, with meticulous detail, entire cityscapes, after seeing them once and sometimes just briefly. The 40-year-old was diagnosed to be autistic when he was three, but showed an affinity and talent for drawing. He has since sketched cities such as Venice, Rome, London, New York and Tokyo, and shows no signs of stopping. At the invitation of SPH for its 30th anniversary, Stephen was recently in Singapore to capture her skyline, in live drawing sessions at the Paragon shopping centre. The finished artwork will be gifted to Singapore for her 50th birthday next year. What makes Stephen tick? He tells us in his own words.

Stephen drawing a self-portrait

1. I knew I wanted to be an artist when… I started drawing animals first, then cars and buses and finally buildings at school.

2. One person who changed my life was… Margaret Hewson, who took me to a lot of places in the world.
(Writer's note: Margaret Hewson was Stephen's literary agent, and one of the first to champion his artistic talent.)

3. When I draw, I like to listen to… Motown, R & B and disco as well as the latest charts.

4. What I love about drawing is… that it is easy to sketch something so amazing as a cityscape.

5. What I don’t like about drawing is… running out of pens.

6. My earliest memory is… walking home from school with my Mum and watching the demolition of a tall building.

7. My best day in memory is… racing a sports car at Brands Hatch with the film crew on the back seat. I broke the clutch...
(Writer's note: Brands Hatch is a motor racing circuit in Kent, England)

8. My favourite time of the day is… the evening, just to relax and watch a good movie.

9. The best invention is… the Internet.

10. I loved drawing the… New York skyline, one of my favourite cities.

11. I would like to draw the… Montreal skyline one day.

12. My favourite city is… New York. And also London.

13. My favourite waste of time is… strolling around on the streets, watching people.

14. The best part about travelling around the world is… seeing exciting places and finally getting back to my hometown, London.

15. My best quality is… that I never complain.

16. What keeps me going when I’m tired is… to do the best I can and never stop.

17. The best gift I gave someone… (is) when they bought my orinigals.

18. The best gift someone gave me… (is) pen and paper.

19. A superhero I would like to be… is Superman.

20. What I heard about Singapore… that it is very modern, clean and they have the best chicken rice.


Working on his drawing of the Singapore skyline at Paragon. Photo: The Straits Times

An aerial view of the Houses of Parliament in London

Stephen's drawing of 34th Street in New York 

Stephen's drawing of the Freedom tower and the Brooklyn bridge.

Find out more about Stephen here, and read about SPH's See the Big Picture campaign with him here and here.
Watch a video of Stephen drawing the Singapore skyline