This guy draws New York from memory

for The Brooklyn Paper
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Stephen Wiltshire hails from London, but his knowledge of Manhattan’s skyline could stump any New Yorker.

The architectural artist — diagnosed with autism at age 3 — has drawn panoramas of Frankfurt, London, Tokyo, Dubai, Rome, Madrid, and Jerusalem, all from memory. His current subject is our fair city — and you can see him at work at the Pratt Institute.

Here’s the drill: Wiltshire rides around the city in a helicopter for 20 minutes, during which time he impresses on his mind thousands of landmarks, great and small.

His memory of what he’s seen plays back as a moving picture “like a TV show,” he said.

Next, he retires to a gallery to fill the blank 18-foot canvas that awaits him. He never once refers to a picture as he draws.

Wiltshire is especially inspired by New York because of its “busy streets, rush hour, the chaos, yellow taxis and the highrise buildings reaching up to the sky,” he said, also citing “the traffic, roads and avenues and a lot of American people.”

“That’s why I chose it for my final panorama,” he added during a press conference on Monday at Pratt, where he’s holed up, pen in hand, ear buds streaming 1970s funk and Top 40 hits. The school for art, architecture and design is sponsoring the event, along with “The Early Show” on CBS, which has been following his progress all week.

“My arm starts to hurt sometime, but I push on,” said the panoramist.

After he’s filled in every detail of the mammoth cityscape — which will include a good chunk of the Brooklyn Heights waterfront— he’ll rest, take a break from world travel and start work on a new book.

And someday, he might even move here.

“Brownstones are nice, but I like modern buildings, new loft buildings with glass,” said Wiltshire.

Stephen Wiltshire at the Pratt Institute [200 Willoughby Ave. in Clinton Hill, (718) 636-6300]. Visit him from 10 am to 5 pm until Oct. 30. For info, go to

Updated 5:15 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Joe Nardiello from 39th District says:

Great story, awesome talent. How can anyone just.. not.. smile when you see what this man can do, and from memory. We've talked about his talent at our dinner table, his gift for a photographic memory and love of drawing at our dinner table - and he must be inspiring children to do the same, worldwide reading the article. Thank you Stephen for even squeezing a little of Brooklyn into the portrait.

20 mins. in a helicopter, and he can do that... amazing.
Oct. 28, 2009, 6:33 pm
gimme from aroundtheway says:
that's autism for ya
Nov. 3, 2009, 11:26 am
Ruth from Wallabout says:
He's quite a famous international artist. I read a fascinating essay about him by Dr. Oliver Sacks in his book "An Anthropologist from Mars". Stephen lives a rich and full-life with a wonderful family that loves him. It shows what a little care and love can do and how it has helped him harness and hone his artistic and creative talents. I am psyched to see him in action locally!
Nov. 4, 2009, 10:58 am

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