Russell Stutler is an illustrator, musician, missionary and collector. It is almost hard to give a definition of this man, born in Japan in Fukukoa in 1956. Stutler currently lives in Tokyo, but he’s actually American, having moved to Ohio when he was only one year old. His illustration of Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson’s room at 221B Baker Street is one of the most famous, and most accurate, that can be found online. There is no paper copy of this beautiful drawing even though it was made by hand in 1995, just before Russell owned a computer; in 2008 a second version, completely digital (and definitive) was published on his site. Since then, many sites and publishers have used his drawing as a detailed “photograph” of what was supposed to be the room that Holmes and Watson shared in London, since, as Russell tells us, every detail drawn comes only and exclusively from the descriptions of Arthur Conan Doyle in novels and short stories.
What inevitably attracts the attention of Sherlock’s worshippers about this drawing is undoubtedly the concrete possibility of peeking through the very detailed references to objects, positions and hiding places that are mentioned in the stories and, why not, also “correct” any “inaccuracies”. It is the same fascination that attracts thousands of visitors to the Sherlock Holmes Museum in London or to the small but precious Swiss museum in Meiringen: to be able to see and touch the myth.
Russell came to visit us: we had him sit on one of the armchairs in the Sherlock’s Room, we asked Mrs. Hudson to prepare a cup of black tea and a cup of hot coffee, and that’s what he told us in front of the fireplace.
When was your passion for Sherlock Holmes born?
During the early 1990s I started reading the Sherlock Holmes stories but I don’t remember why. Maybe because I was interested in smoking pipes at the time. But I read them all and loved them, so I read them all again right away. I loved the details of 19th century London, with the gas lamps and horse drawn carriages and everyone smoking pipes, and I loved the dialogue between Holmes and Watson and also Lestrade, and I loved all the details about actual places in London. I actually bought a map of London so I could follow some of the adventures with it.
What struck you most about the room details described by Doyle?
As I read the stories, the room started to take form in my imagination, but when I read the The Adventure of the Mazarin Stone with its secret passage between Holmes’ bedroom and the window area, I realized that this was a unique place unlike any room that existed.
What technique did you use to make the drawing?
I drew the first version in 1995 before I had a computer, so it was all hand drawn with ink. I think I used Rapidograph technical pens for most of it. The current version is actually digital art and was created in 2008. I made a scan of the original version, converted it to vector art and modified it on the computer.
How long did it take you to prepare it?
I drew the original version while my wife was in the hospital when she delivered our first child. I was alone and had a lot of time ro draw. I think it took me about four days. The second version was done a little at a time when I could find time because I was much more busy by that time.
What is the item you would give Sherlock to put in his room?
I don’t know, maybe a Zippo lighter!
Did you be surprised by the success of this illustration?
Well, I don’t know how successful it has been, but I have seen it appear in various books and magazines in various languages, and I noticed that it dominates Google image searches for 221B Baker Street. It has been around since 1995, so there has been a lot of time for people to notice it.
What is the object you would steal from Sherlock’s room?
I would be afraid to do that because he would catch me, but maybe one of his pipes or a walking stick.
Who would want to buy your illustration, what could they do?
The illustration does not exist on paper, but only digitally. People can find it printed on posters at Zazzle.com. I don’t make much money from the posters, but that’s okay since I don’t do the work to produce them other than the original art several years ago.
Were there any collectors who contacted you to correct details or elements of your drawing?
One time a school teacher contacted me because her students wanted to know where the safe was. I had not drawn the safe because I never noticed it in the stories, but it did appear at least once. So I told her the safe was hidden so Holmes’ enemies could not find it.
What is your favorite Sherlock Holmes story/fiction?
That is a difficult question. Today I would say A Scandal in Bohemia. I don’t know why, but it is very clear in my imagination.
Are you planning to make other illustrations dedicated to the Baker Street detective?
I finished this illustration many years ago, and can’t think of a reason to make another one. Other than the rooms at Baker Street, nothing in the stories fires my imagination the same way.