Murals 9 and 10 in Tallin, EstoniaSo far, the murals have all had interesting stories behind them. Links beyond my imagination brought me to corners of the planet I never expected. And, this mural was no exception. Was it just a chance meeting that made this mural happened? I'm not so sure about "chance" anymore. Still, I certainly never really expected to go to Estonia. But, when a door opens and another wall calls, I don't need to be pushed.
This mural started at breakfast in Gjirokaster, Albania. In Mural 5, you met my friends Haxhi and Vita Kotoni and learned of their guest house. At breakfast on the final day of my second visit, I met Pekka. He spent the night at guest house (although I don't think he got the family treatment that I received). We both had to travel back to Tirana that day for flights out of the capital the following morning.
It was a really long journey by bus across Albania. And, when the bus broke down in the middle of nowhere, the trip was even longer. However, it did help to have someone to talk to along the way. Pekka liked to travel to out of the way corners of the planet, just like me. So, we had a lot of stories to share. The following day, I journeyed back to Belgium and, Pekka returned to Estonia.
So, now you know how I found my connection in Tallinn.
Pekka found a wall for me at the Tallinna Tehnikagümnaasium school in the capital. Usually I like to have some ideas to share upon entering the site for the mural. That at least gives a discussion starting point, because I really want the mural to be something the people wanted. It didn't happen on this trip. In several emails I requested information, ideas, and suggestions prior to my arrival. All they told me -- three times -- was they wanted something with children, plants, and engineering. That just wasn't enough information to start any drawing. I flew to Estonia with blank paper.
However, upon arrival in Tallinn and with a little brainstorming with Pekka, I had an idea that I felt worked. On the left of the mural I placed a skyline of the Old Town with traditional dancers. The right side had a skyline of the newer city and people with new technology. It was a good combination of Estonia's past and future. And finally, in the center was Tallinn, Estonia, carefully decorated in the colors of the national flag . . . or, so I thought. But, that's a later story.
Students at the school were prepared for the visit. They had already seen the cartoons on my website. They knew the "look" of the murals and had an idea of what to expect. However, nothing really prepares you for twelve yards of color on a previously bland wall.
The art teacher was an incredible resource. She sent groups of ten students to help in hourly shifts. My first question with every group was, "Do you speak English?" They all did, every one of them! Even the youngest kids in the grade school did. It eliminated a lot of confusion. However, I never figured out why an email from the school asked me if I'd bring an interpreter. First, where would I find one? And, second of all, why would I need one?
In two days the bulk of the painting was finished. On the third day, two students touched up details while I outlined everything in black. And, on the fourth day, the twelve yards were completed. But, did I mention a second mural?
This was a working holiday with much more emphasis on the working. On most days, painting continued four or five hours after students left for the day. So, why paint a second mural? Part of the reason was a second wall had been prepared in advance. If you build it (or prepare it) they will come (or I will paint it). And, there were just so many eager volunteers who wanted to paint. I didn't want to turn any of them away.