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The secret about the first outdoor piece

The first outdoor TABBY piece was painted on the streets of Vienna, Austria in October, 2013. What most dont know, is that it is actually only half done, at least according to the original plan. In fact, had things gone to plan then Mozart would have had legs.

I had been working on stencils for a while and many of the pieces that were to come in the following year had already been designed. All that was left to do was to start painting them out in the streets. For this, a simple piece was chosen (1 layer and some hand lettering) and it also seemed fitting to pick something connected with the local history (Mozart).

A wall was selected during the day and the stencil cut out. Back then the stencils were mostly made out of thick poster board and either rolled up or folded for transport.

Walls were always selected that wouldnt bother anybody if they were painted, so if you look at the early pictures you can see that the nearby windows are all boarded up. 7 years later, the building has since been renovated and windows installed, but the piece still remains mostly in tact.

(Updated image from 2020. Somebody added a black line through the text but otherwise still going strong)

This wall was located right along a busy main road. Not only that, it was next to a street light, so cars would stand right next to you when the light was red. I had a lookout come along, possibly around 10 pm, who would stand further up and see if police happened to be driving down that way. I would have earbuds in, connected to my phone and he would let me know about what was heading my way. This lookout, who we will call "Smarti", would be alongside me for many other pieces in the future, either making sure the coast is clear or helping with positioning stencils (Little Lady, Hawk in the sky, Michelangephone, Broken ice cream dreams, Sound of uzis....).

So the time comes, stencil cut, wall selected, red and black paint in a backpack and we head out. Lookout is in positioned 100m up the road, he gives the go ahead that none of the coming cars are police and so I place and tape the stencil to the wall. Everything seems in order and I begin to paint the mozart figure, started at the top and working down. No problem, all is going well, until I get half way down and the can suddenly stops working. The cap has clogged up.. Fuck. The can was new but I didnt bring extra caps, a rookie mistake.

Theres enough of mozart painted to at least add the words in the right place, so I remove the stencil and write "MozART was here" in red paint. Why I didnt simply remove the cap from the red can and use it to finish the black I dont know, but it probably had a lot to do with the adrenaline rush of painting outdoors (illegally) for the first time and being caught off guard with an unexpected setback.

Im done for now, pack up, let my lookout know about the mishap and head back to TABBY headquarters. In the same night, I grab a handful of caps and head back to the spot. The plan is to finish the stencil, but once I look at whats on the wall, I kind of like the half finished version. I decide not to put up the stencil again, and add drips to the half finished body instead. And thats the way it has been up on the wall for the past 7 years (as of 2020).

It has always been a reminder to me that you can plan all you want, but always expect something unexpected to go wrong. And even if it does, maybe its for the better and things will turn out better than originally planned. Since then Ive also always made sure to bring extra caps on every mission, but the cans have never clogged up again.

Theres plenty more stories about hurdles and obstacles that turned up during other expeditions, but those will wait for another day.


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