1. Stonehenge – Tuesday 21st August

      It’s the afternoon and the campervans outnumber the coaches in the car park.

      Mark has brought a portfolio of drawings with him today to compare his work to the actual views of Stonehenge. He’s trying to do studies by degrees using his trusty old compass and it seems to have played a cruel trick on him. Is 130° actually 140° or what? The only way of checking is by eye.

      Mark at Stonehenge August 21st

      He opens his portfolio on the grass walkway and instantly someone is at his shoulder with a camera. No, they can’t photograph the work. Sorry. Process is one thing, the artist captured making the drawing, but a finished work, ‘fraid not. It’s difficult in a world where people expect to get things for free, they don’t appreciate it’s someone else’s living they’re appropriating. A big problem with image and audio files and the lot of artists working in the age of digital reproduction. Ah well.

      The woman with the camera walks off disappointed. She’ll just have to satisfy herself with photos of the real thing standing feet away.

      The sky is full of cloud but it is pleasant up here. And the crowds aren’t so thick. It’s better in the afternoon if you don’t like people so much.

      Mark has identified a specific view he needs and sets up his stool and workstation. Shellac ink, water, brushes, pens and cotton paper.

      A mother and father put their very new baby on the ground a few feet away. They lie in front of it, coo-ing, and take photos of it. She lies down with it, he takes photos. She sits up with it; holds it on her chest; in the air, he takes photos of them. He holds it in his arms, standing in front of the stones, she photographs. They don’t stop. They don’t move from that spot. They only have eyes for their new dear little dot in a cream hoodie. But I do think possibly Stonehenge does provide the background for most shots.

      The wind suddenly gets up. Dandelion clocks tumbleweed across the grass. The crows start shouting. Out on the 303, flat-backs loaded with golden bales drive by. Outside the chain-link fence a parade of people point and photograph the inside. It’s quite sedate, in spite of the wind.

      Mark Anstee drawing

      A purple and silver coach drives past, views of London illustrated along its side. Stonehenge is just the right distance from London to be on the itinerary for those who don’t really want to leave the capital. It’s strange for me to see it as part of the London experience, but along with the Tower, the Eye and Madame Tussauds, for many it’s just another attraction.

      The sky is darkening behind us and it’s seriously threatening rain. The stones become more and more silhouetted by the second, and still people arrive – mostly in shorts and t-shirts and loose summer clothing. A helicopter flies over and into the darkening sky, his tail light sparkling as he goes.

      The temperature drops. I’m the only person sitting on the grass walkway. Time to move.