Try to take a snapshot of a city like New York, Paris or Rome in your mind. Now close your eyes and visualize Paris’ Arc de Triumph. Take those images in your mind, grab a pen and try to plot that image down on a piece of paper. Not so easy is it? For those of us who were lucky enough to visit some of the world’s major cities, few details usually resonate. For Stephen Wiltshire, New York, Rome, London, Brisbane and Dubai -among others- are all alive and vivid in his mind, and with staggering detail. Drawing has been a refuge for Wiltshire from his early childhood. For the first few years of his life, Stephen struggled with communicating with others. But his passion for drawing spoke more than volumes, it claimed its own by it’s staggering nature. Stephen has the unique ability to capture and absorb massive vistas like the details of an entire metropolitan city and translate it onto paper in near perfect proportion and perspective, right down to the number of windows and pillars in a single building. It was in West London’s Queensmill School where teachers first noticed his interest in drawing.
The more he drew, the more apparent his gift became to his teachers. The young Englishman first started drawing with renderings of buildings in London. He later attended the prestigious City and Guilds of London Arts School, where he studied painting and drawing. Ever since then, Wiltshire has been drawing at a fever pitch. Incrementally challenging himself to more complex vistas and cityscapes. Wiltshire’s story is without doubt a source of inspiration, as it has captivated millions around the world, making him an international icon. Aside from the staggering detail depicted in any one of his pieces, there is an innocent softness to his work. It is an honesty that contradicts itself, by being brutally true, yet remaining easy on the gaze and timid on the visual palate. There is a fresh, lightness to his craft. His work seems to reinvent itself whenever looked upon; there is always something new to be savored when you look at it again. Though, Google images obviously don’t do his work justice.
Yet it is also a tale of triumph for an educational system, which clearly allocated the resources to care for special needs students. Sadly, Middle Eastern educational systems are the subject of serious neglect, especially for special needs students. There is a wealth of talent, which is inherent in all children. It is society’s turn now to demand higher standards for education for all students across the board. We as a society must put more emphasis on the proper schooling and allocation of resources for our children, because our true wealth lies not in an oil field, but rather in the talent and promise of future generations to come. I apologize for the cliché’, but make no mistake: they are the future. The Einsteins, Van Goghs, Rodins, Fousts and Wiltshires of the future could be waiting as we speak. Now, who are we to deny a Wiltshire his pencil?
On a personal note, having the privilege of writing about Mr. Wiltshire has been an experience, which opened my eyes mainly to the importance of being more sensitive and tactful in my subject matter. We are talking about people, with real emotions and sensitivities. It is not my intention to use Wiltshire’s staggering talents and skills just to make a mere point, but rather to hopefully contribute something useful to a discussion as important and heated as educational reform, and how much we as a collective society have to gain from taking a second look at our selves and our environment.