The Sentinel

27 Feb


The Sentinel is a massive quartzite standing stone, the first ancient monument we met as we walked up Mynydd Llangyndeyrn, which translates from the Welsh as the Mountain of the Church of Saint Cyndeyrn. The stone was flat on the ground until 1976, when its socket was found and it was re-erected. Nobody is sure what the stone signifies although it may have been a way-marker and some think there may have been another opposite, forming a portal to the Bronze Age landscape of the Mynydd. As I circled the stone, looking for the right angle to draw it, I noticed the coastline in the distance. I was on the mountain with archaeologist Dewi Bowen and film maker Melvyn Williams and Dewi told me that the coastline was North Devon, around the Bideford area. Coincidentally I had some Bideford Black in my bag and so decided to use it to draw with. It’s a strange oily black pigment, a bit like coal, that used to be mined commercially in Bideford until the late 1960s. Local artists still dig it out and use it and I was lucky enough to be sent some back last year. It’s very possible that Bideford Black might have been traded and used many thousands of years ago.

Click here to find Dewi Bowen’s book about standing stones. Click here to see some of Melvyn Williams’ films. Click here to see my art for sale.

12 Responses to “The Sentinel”

  1. Nancy Farmer February 29, 2016 at 09:33 #

    How very interesting! I love your story of the Devon pigment. Sadly I don’t think there is anything much here I could find you except Somerset Mud. Indicentally if you are ever looking for rare pigments without going to places further than Devon to get them, Cornelissen’s in London have very interesting things. I have genuine Lapis, also Vermillion (sulphine of mercury) and Realgar (sulphine of arsenic), and also Lead Tin Yellow, which has a big label on it warning you that it ‘contains lead’ while the arsenic and the mercury containing ones have just discrete labels suggesting it might be toxic!…. It’s amazing what you can still buy if you are an artist 😀 …I haven’t dared use them, they are waiting for a project as yet unimagined….

    • Rosie Scribblah February 29, 2016 at 14:43 #

      Oh I adore Cornelissen’s. Always try and get over there when I’m in London and Intaglio Printmaker in Southwark. Between Cornellisen’s and the British Museum is a gorgeous tea room, Ruskins, with the best Florentines I have ever tasted.

      • Nancy Farmer March 1, 2016 at 14:18 #

        ah… thanks for the tip! 😉

    • Rosie Scribblah March 1, 2016 at 14:58 #

      And the most delicious little light custard tarts

  2. Leonie Andrews February 27, 2016 at 22:51 #

    That’s an interesting connection with the local landscape. It is interesting to consider early trade routes. Some interesting work has been done on these across Australia prior to European arrival. Ochres and selected stones were often traded over quite large geographical regions. I’ll look and see if i can find anything online.

    • Leonie Andrews February 27, 2016 at 22:52 #

      Oops way too many ‘interestings’😀

      • Rosie Scribblah February 28, 2016 at 06:29 #

        You can never have too many interestings 😀

    • Rosie Scribblah February 28, 2016 at 06:28 #

      I have been reading about Australian ochre in Victoria Finlay’s book, ‘Colour, Travels Through the Paint box’. Fascinating stuff. She traces the history of pigment across the world.

      • Leonie Andrews February 28, 2016 at 08:51 #

        Yes, it’s a good book, i read it some time ago.

      • Rosie Scribblah February 28, 2016 at 09:02 #

        I want to go to all the places she has been. I managed to get within about 50 miles of Afghanistan, but couldn’t go any further but I bought a fair bit of lapis lazuli in Pakistan. Australian ochre is on my wish list

      • Leonie Andrews February 28, 2016 at 14:32 #

        Oh lovely to have been able to buy lapis lazuli! There are ochre pits all over the place,but most of the famous ones are protected. I have visited some in central Australia, but they were in national parks and there were strict rules about non collection. I also recall a shop in Kyoto that sold earth pigments, that i didn’t buy at the time. But I’m thinking that when I’m in Tokyo later in the year i will be going to that very tempting shop called Pigment, so i might just see what they have on offer.

      • Rosie Scribblah February 28, 2016 at 16:20 #

        Oh that would be wonderful. I’m so thrilled you have the trip to Tokyo coming up

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