herds of Jortland Danes with dubious legal swimming and golden hour tricks
My first full weekend in Denmark involved traveling with my host family to their annual family reunion in Jortland, Denmark’s main landmass that connects the country to northern Germany. From Friday night to Sunday morning there were lots of rambunctious Great Danes, herds of timid Tiny Danes, delicious pork sausages and classic dice games. The experience was exciting, almost everyone spoke very good English, but it was also overwhelming living in a single dorm with over 40 people I had never met before while I was still in adapting to life on the other side of the Atlantic. So when my host dad asked me if I wanted to go with him to see a cool building, I jumped at the chance.
Without any expectation, I got into the car, not quite sure where we were going – my Dansk still isn’t good, so Danish names of buildings and towns are still going in one ear and out the other. When we arrived, however, I was not disappointed. Our destination was VadehavscentretWhere The Wadden Sea Centre, a beautiful contemporary building serving as a gateway The Wadden Sea, a stretch of coastline marked as a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to its ecological importance. The facade of the building is mostly made of straw, a sustainable throwback to traditional Dansi thatched roofs, and the subtle form and materiality of the building really allows for discretion. Wadden Sea shine. To capture this, I limited my drawing of the building to pencil and used watercolor for the colorful landscape and its reflection in the windows of the building. Due to my focus on reading birds and petting fish in the tidal pool in the current building, this sketch was made later that day from a photo.
It was my last day of capering with the Danes in Jortland. The weekend had its highs of playing cards and socializing and its lows of feeling awkward and intrusive, but overall it was an experience I felt privileged and honored to be part of. The little dormitory near Gaston Stov was nestled in the woods and fields of Jortland, but it was also filled with family love and joy. Before leaving, I took a quick shot of the scenery near an outdoor sleeping shelter. Later that evening, after returning to Copenhagen and taking a long nap, I did this simple watercolor. The colors aren’t that bold, nor is the landscape monumental, but it was beautiful and reminded me a lot of the southern Minnesota river valley that I call home.
My first full week of classes started with a lot of Studio homework that I didn’t do over the weekend. My current project site is along the harbor near Nyhavn. The brief is to build a bathhouse that allows people to relax, swim and launch kayaks. For Tuesday, I needed to do a light analysis of the site, a previous study and a diagram of the “soul” of the site. But when I got there, all I really wanted to do was take a bath. The port is a monumental part of life in Copenhagen. Tourists board tour boats, kayaks and visit iconic locations. Residents go swimming quickly before and/or after work. It shapes the shape of the city and the way people interact with nature. But I had not yet been formally introduced.
Anticipating this inclination into the water, I had worn my bathing suit under my clothes, so I found the pier near our site where I had seen people swimming, stripping and bathing before. It wasn’t a hot day, maybe 60-65 degrees Fahrenheit, but the water was still warm from the summer, and after initially taking your breath away, the water was perfect. I’m not a good swimmer but finally being in the water I had been cycling for a week and a half felt like I was finally saying “hej” to that person you share three with course and instantly become friends. I had unlocked a new part of town and had taken a step from “tourist” to “resident”. Plus, swimming is quite fun. I knew the water should be the subject of my daily sketch, so later that day I tried to capture the light on the water from one of my harbor photos.
Disclaimer: After talking to harbor officials for the class since then, I’ve concluded that this probably isn’t an official swimming area and my swimming probably isn’t entirely legal. Although I strongly recommend that you make swimming a priority on your next trip to Copenhagen, stick to the proper channels (or at least swim only where other people are swimming) as you may receive a ticket.
Tuesdays are busy school days for me and I didn’t get much sleep the night before. So this is just a quick outdoor sketch of the corner of Vestergade, the street where all my classes are. It was quick and messy, but it gave me a chance to finally include a bike in my drawing. There will probably be a blog post in the future about how having a bike in Copenhagen allowed me to channel the 16-year-old rebel I never was.
The day of my first study trip! Every Wednesday is free from regular classes at DIS. Instead, they are used for 3-4 hour class study tours where you go on a class trip to or near an area of town to complete your education and have fun! That Wednesday, I took a tour with my Urban Design Journal class – a class that so far has allowed us to draw things. This is probably my favorite class so far. We went to Fredericksburg Gardens to greet the elephants and draw plants, shadows and views. It was a beautiful day and I was slightly to quite proud of some of my drawings, but it left me feeling more tired than expected. After the visit, I sat in the yard near our classroom. To me, this space is classic Copenhagen in that it’s quaint, serene, and I never would have guessed it existed from the street. I only used charcoal and pencil in class, so I wanted to focus more on color for this Plein air sketch. It didn’t go well, but it was a relaxing time after class, and I hope to return to this space for future redeeming drawings.
I don’t know what building it is. I should probably find out. All I know is that when some of the student media team and I walked by, the color he had in the golden hour light made us all stop and stare .
I usually withdraw when I am in new stressful situations. It’s easy for me to find a safe space and stay there instead of embarking on new experiences. In Denmark I was very willing to get out and explore on my own, but generally didn’t venture out much after 6 years. I feel very safe in the city, but I have tried to respect the importance of family dinners with my hosts and if I relax an hour after dinner, it seems too late to go out again. Most of my experiences in Copenhagen were strictly during office hours. But after the student media team kick-off picnic, a group of us stayed in town all night, chatting in a square by a fountain and walking past towers during golden hour . So this sketch, made after you get home, is a reminder to get out there and see Denmark in all different kinds of light.
The Danes know how to occupy a city. This is partly due to the urban design of Copenhagen, but also to the spirit that the city belongs to the people. Most cafes in the city center are small and rely heavily on outdoor seating along the street. Part of the bustle of the city is the people constantly eating and socializing in the small streets, including next to Pisserenden 8, where I had coffee before the studio on Friday. While I was enjoying my caffeine, I made a quick sketch of my cup and the flowers on the table where I was sitting. I tried something new with this design; I did a quick pen and ink sketch of it in person, then added watercolor to it later from memory. It was a fun exercise in cooperation between my past and future selves and created an experience that involved more self-reflection and self-confidence. It’s a simple composition, but to date, it’s one of my favorite sketches so far, and it was a perfect way to end the week.