The beauty and grit of Tallinn, 2016


Tallinn is a two-hour ferry ride from Helsinki, and the terminal is very close to where I stayed in the latter city for an internship earlier this year. Upon arrival into Tallinn, I walked to the Old Town where most of what I wanted to visit was.

The tallest cathedral in the area allows visitors to walk up a narrow spiral staircase to reach the top of the tower. The walk is exciting, and you could see the polished steps from people walking on them. From there, I sketched the skyline of Tallinn Old Town (above). I used pencil instead of ink to be quicker. The effect is useful in drawing more complex scenes, the result comes out softer, and the process was more liberating. However, I am still struggling with how to integrate this new way of working with my ink and watercolour sketches so that there is more of a personal style.
Tallinn Old Town is split into two sections, the upper and lower town. From the upper town, I was able to get many beautiful views over the rest of the city. I particularly enjoy seeing the modern city with skyscrapers contrasting with the pitch roof and spires of the Old Town. There was also an Eastern Orthodox Church built in the last few years.

The town square was lined with bars and tourists taking selfies with the town hall. I sat on one edge of the square and drew a panorama of the entire scene. Unfortunately, the town hall was holding an event that day so I couldn’t go inside.

Although the streets of Old Town looked refined and fairytale-like, there are narrow alleyways just outside that reveal a different side of Tallinn – the roughness of old buildings that were never restored, with graffiti and chipped paint. Although this may not be what tourists came here for, there was a truthfulness to it that was in itself beautiful and I wanted to capture that. I decided to use granulating watercolour to achieve the effect, which turned out to be a series of surprises and unpredictability of how the colour behaves.
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