Stonehenge – Tuesday 12th February
Yesterday’s efforts to draw at Stonehenge were thwarted by horizontal snowfall. Today, there’s a milky threat in the sky but so far it’s dry, so we venture up to the stones for a session.
On the tarmac path a small boy in a woolly bobble hat is hanging on to the guide rope pleading with his parents, “But how do we get in there?”
Mark grabs his spot to continue the silverpoint study. Today he’s wearing fingerless woollen gloves over the top of his drawing gloves. It’s still only possible to sit out in this weather for an hour and a half. He’s not getting in the long sessions he’d like to. But this is the nature of working ‘en plein air’. It’s no real surprise that the serious exponents of this type of art, the Impressionists, are mainly known for their summer scenes.
People behave differently around Mark in these winter months too compared to summer. They aren’t so bold, which is quite handy considering that time, on days like this, is short. The artist just wants to be left alone to work.
A couple of soldiers in camouflage gear ask a couple of young girls to take a photo of them. The young men throw their arms around each other’s shoulders and smile broadly for the camera, but also I suspect, for the pretty young women behind the lens. It is spring.
Around and between the sarsens, the jackdaws are busy courting each other, squeaking and chirruping as they dart in and out of the hollows by the lintels.
I hear a jet plane fly over but today the cloud cover disguises its passage.
A monk, South-east Asian, robes of maroon and blue, poses for a series of photos taken by his companion. His companion is warmly wrapped up against the cold, topped off by a furry Russian hat. The monk sits crossed legged on the tarmac, his bare arms exposed.
There’s a sudden swell and a group of teenagers with sketchpads swarm around Mark. Then, following the lead of the monk, they sit on the ground in neat lines either side of the path and start sketching. It’s all remarkably calm and orderly.
I speak to one of their teachers and learn they’re from the Archbishop’s School in Canterbury. Apparently, each year, students taking GCSE Art go on a school trip where they get the chance to study and practice art. Right now, they’re heading for Cornwall and eventually Tate St. Ives. It’s so impressive watching a group of young people, and there must be 40 of them here, concentrating and working so intently.
After a while one lad gets up from the ground, pulls the sleeves of his hoodie over his hands and says, “ I’m so cold! So Cold.” They’ve done well. These temperatures are challenging.
I watch one boy desperately trying to finish his sketch as students around him gather their things and start to leave. As he finishes I pounce and ask him if I can take a photo of his work.
And here it is, a drawing by Tom Elliott, 15, that not only captures the complicated composition of the stones beautifully, but also notes the presence of Stonehenge’s busiest resident of the season, the jackdaw.