After just 20 minutes in a helicopter above the Manhattan skyline, autistic artist Stephen Wiltshire was ready to re-create a city that took hundreds of years to build.
Wiltshire is drawing a 20-foot panoramic view of New York – all from memory.
The 35-year-old artist’s autistic disorder affects his ability to interact with other people.
It has also given him a photographic memory – and a gift for putting it on paper.
“I just looked without drawing,” said Wiltshire as he explained how he is able to draw the skyline without referring back to a photograph of the city.
“Everything is like a TV show,” he said. “I have never drawn from a sketchbook.”
Wiltshire, a Londoner, is creating the image at the Pratt Institute of Art in Brooklyn, where the public can watch him work through Friday afternoon. New York is the last in a series of eight panoramas of major cities across the world, including Dubai and Tokyo.
“This city is very beautiful,” he said, as he drew the Big Apple from the Bronx to Staten Island.
“It has got skyscrapers …and the American people.”
Wiltshire began drawing as a child, when his teachers used art to help him learn.
“Stephen used his drawings to communicate with the world,” said his sister, Annette Wiltshire, 37. “He used his drawings to learn the alphabet.”
He has his own gallery in London, which his sister helps him run.
“He’s good at picking up on things the human eye normally wouldn’t,” she said. New Yorkers watched yesterday as Wiltshire furiously moved his pen across the paper.
“I could watch him all day,” said Karen Smith, 51, of Brooklyn, who works at the Pratt Institute.
“It almost makes me cry,” said her co-worker, Emma Legge, 39.
Amazing! What difference allows his visual memory to store and recall so much compared to the rest of us?