Y Garreg Goch – The Red Stone

The Story Of A Picture

This ancient monument carries millennia of human history and changes to the environment on its surface like a code ready to reveal all to the person who can decipher its enigmatic secrets. The story of how I came across it lies here.

Throughout 2016 I did a large series of drawings of Neolithic stone monuments, en plein air as we artists call it. I was accompanied by archaeologist Dewi Bowen who is researching a book on Neolithic / Bronze Age monuments. Our days consisted of long walks interrupted by short outbreaks of creative and scientific activity. This particular day we drove as far as we could up a narrow, deeply gullied country lane then abandoned the car to the mercy of local wildlife.

Waded through wet grass

After trudging up the rest of the lane, carrying our heavy equipment we came across the vast expanse of a farmer’s field. Thigh high grass covered a precipitous slope and bang in the middle of the field, about 200 yards away was a single standing stone. We duly waded through the wet grass to the stone and Dewi got down to taking measurements as I frantically drew. When I was nearly finishing he abandoned me and took off down the field, his scarf trailing in the wind as he aimed his compass at the horizon. I watched him disappear down a steep bank then I completed my sketch and bundled up my gubbins.

When I eventually found him he was grubbing around in a hedge, pulling at strands of Ivy and tossing them over his shoulder. After about ten minutes he removed enough to uncover another stone. As large as the first but almost completely covered by vegetation it was hemmed in either side by barbed wire.

The Devil’s work

It looked to me like it was imprisoned, but Dewi pointed out that being in a hedge, fenced in, might have saved it from being moved or destroyed and that hedges often offer shelter to stones. We have no way of knowing how many monuments have been destroyed over the years but as soon as explosives became available a lot of stones were destroyed. The reasons were many and varied with some going for practical reasons like farming or building whereas others went because local religious fanatics saw them as the Devils’ work.

I had already prepared some Fabriano paper with walnut ink and I selected a piece I thought fitted the scene and drew with conte crayon in sanguine and white, following the contours of this fine stone. I kept the drawing simple as I wanted to focus on the barbed wire fence.

Since then I have started to draw from my drawings to try to push myself into more abstraction. Here I’m using three colours of conté crayon, white, black and sanguine into my A4 brown paper sketchbook. I like drawing onto coloured paper, it breaks the tyranny of the pristine white space.

How to buy this artwork

I have a gallery of original artworks featuring a tale older than history, written in the stones of South Wales for sale on the Artfinder website.  To see my drawing of Y Carreg Coch and others please click here.

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