The world at it's most wonderful
I had no idea how much I would fall in love with Tallinn, nor how hard it would be to leave.
My husband and I thought we would embrace our ability to work from anywhere and escape the ridiculously hot Australian summer and spend one month in each of two places to work from. He chose Granada (also amazing… we had just arrived there in my previous blog post) and I picked Tallinn. I wanted snow and old buildings and plenty of makers and art and good coffee. It was a bit of a wildcard - I didn’t know much about it other than some pictures that looked like fairytales and that it was frequented by bucks nights from the UK (which put me off so much we almost didn’t go). But, oh my goodness, it was all the things I imagined plus it had such a wonderful quiet energy that I think I could live there for a long time very happily.
We arrived in a snow storm. It was whirling around the streets, a beautiful white wind, and sat caked on all the rooftops. Snow makes my camera happy… and so I spent the first days just photographing it all…
I then began to get a bit frustrated. Here I was in the most magical place and all I wanted to do was draw it… but I had no idea how to do that in such cold weather. Maximum temperatures were hovering around -10 degrees celsius (super nippy for my australian fingers) and so I needed some new strategies for drawing outside. I had really enjoyed drawing Granada and even though it was winter, could just sit on the stone for hours if I wanted and draw everything going by.
At the start I thought it wasn’t possible… but the beautiful pastel-coloured houses sitting there in the snow were just yelling at me to draw them. So were all the people walking by in their winter jackets and beanies and scarves (all my favourite things). So I just started to try. I bought big fat beautiful woollen mittens (for the hand holding my sketchbook/paper) and had fingerless gloves underneath… for my hand holding my pen. At the start I only lasted about 10 minutes, but I gradually realised that I could keep thawing out my hand in various strange ways and last longer. In the end I grew to love drawing in the freezing air. I felt so very alive standing still while everyone hurried past. I worked out how to do all my line and tone work out in the snow. But added colour later, back in the comfort and warmth of our apartment or cafe. The only thing I didn’t manage was drawing while it was actually snowing heavily… the snow would freeze onto the paper and my inky pen freeze as it hit the cold water - the results weren’t even very interesting, just no good.
The collection of drawings I made while I was freezing are some of my favourite that I have ever drawn. I think something about it being so physical demanded my focus, and also something about being just so very happy to be right there, in that place, at that time, meant something quite magical happened.
Here are a few of my favourites…
You can find more of my Tallinn sketches on my instagram account.
My month in Tallinn was a time of complete inspiration. Everything around me seemed wondrous and I had so much I wanted to make. There were never enough hours in the day to get it all done and I woke up so very pleased to be alive. The challenge of being somewhere so wonderful and that just seemed to just suit me so well, is leaving. I now am trying to generate those feelings, that incredibly aware interaction with the world around, in somewhere more familiar, and gosh it is sometimes hard. I miss the streets with more people than cars (I really dislike drawing cars and feel they take away from the story I like to suggest in my images). I miss the clouds and wind and sea and snow. I miss a more populated town (I live in a tiny place here in Australia) with things on in the evenings to go to. I miss the smell of baking cardamon buns, and the sound of seagulls. I miss all the wonder that lies in the new - but also I think I miss the more particular wonder that is Tallinn - a town filled with makers and medieval buildings, nestled in stone walls next to the icy baltic.
Tallinn really made me feel so very alive.