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Living Your Soul Signature

To live your soul signature means having the courage and clarity to live a life that is uniquely yours and reflects your greatest potential. This series of posts focuses on people who inspire me in the way they live their lives and have found their most authentic expression.

Stephen Wiltshire is living his soul signature.

“Do the best you can and never stop.” – Stephen Wiltshire

Architectural artist Stephen Wiltshire did not speak until he was five years old. His teachers took away his art supplies in an attempt to force him to ask for them. Only then did he utter his first word: “Paper.” Desperate to express himself through his art, this autistic child shattered his world of silence and unleashed his soul signature.

Stephen, now 40, is best known for his extraordinary ability to create detailed drawings of cities from memory. He completed a 13 ft. long pen, ink, and pencil panorama of a seven-mile stretch of the London skyline after just one brief helicopter ride along the Thames. The drawing took him only five days to finish.

As a little boy born to West Indian parents, Stephen found human contact nearly impossible. He could not make eye contact with his mother Geneva. He would sit in a corner, rocking back and forth, with an occasional outburst of frustration. The only things that pacified him was a pencil and drawing paper. He was bullied for being different, kicked and tormented by other boys, but what gave him solace and peace was his art.

Stephen is not only autistic, but also a “savant,” one of only 100 diagnosed throughout the world. And while he simply could be a man confined to the world inside his own mind, his gift as an artist has allowed him to communicate fully with other people. Despite his challenges, Stephen travels extensively throughout the world – Dubai, Jerusalem, New York, Beijing, Montreal, Las Vegas — every year taking in new structures and buildings, drawing each one in meticulous detail.

While he’s been dubbed the “human camera,” Wiltshire's creative process is a great deal more sophisticated than simply drawing what he sees. As neurologist and psychologist Dr. Oliver Sacks explains of Wiltshire, “His pictures in no sense resemble copies or photographs, something mechanical and impersonal. There are always additions, subtractions, revisions, and, of course, Stephen's unmistakable style. He is an artist with his own distinctive and creative vision of the world.” In January 2006, Queen Elizabeth II made Wiltshire a Member of the Order of the British Empire.

Imagine having your life’s purpose drawing you to it like a powerful magnet and being unable to embrace it. Imagine the frustration of not being able to communicate the need for something so vital to your existence. Are there things in your life, necessary to your soul signature, that you’ve stopped asking for? What are the reasons that keep you from expressing your authenticity and heart’s desire?

Stephen Wiltshire has overcome great odds to accomplish his dreams. He could have remained trapped inside his head and missed the beauty and magnificence of the greater world. We all have the ability to shrink our reality, isolate ourselves, and silence our amazing gifts and expression. But if we take the time to accept who we are as we are and love ourselves unconditionally, we’ll find it harder and harder to escape our true calling.

Stephen’s gentle presence and gifted artistry quite literally gave him a voice on this earth. Each cityscape or building he captures is the vessel through which his soul signature is brought to life and shared for all to embrace. When asked how long he could keep the memorized images in his mind, his reply was, “Forever.”

His magnificent drawings, the masterworks of his souls true expression, will no doubt resonate just as long.