Evening Cricket at Cheltenham College
The summer hastens on and my cricket kit sits alone, but not forgotten, in the garage. We should have been approaching the half-way point of our season in the Sussex league, however Covid-19 and government directives have put paid to that. And we've had perfect weather for cricket. So we wait, somewhat impatiently, for the restrictions to be lifted and the hope remains that we may be able to complete a number of friendly matches from mid-July onwards.
The game of cricket is an important element of British life and culture. In cities, towns and villages across the country the landscape is punctuated by empty green spaces, often tree-lined, with beautifully (in some cases, less-than-beautifully) manicured grass. Some cricket grounds are privately owned while others make use of public facilities, and many are still to be found in idyllic village-green locations. The landscape, especially in England, has included cricket pitches for centuries and their absence would be immediately noticeable.
It's not just the pleasant aesthetic of the cricket pitch that draws us to the sport. At local club level the game allows those of us who once had a modicum of sporting prowess - now curtailed by expanding waistlines and dodgy knees - to maintain the pretence that we are still credible sportsmen (the women that play the game are less subject to these delusions I'm sure.) Cricket is a game that provides an opportunity for parents to play at a good standard in the same team as their children, a rarity in sport and something to be treasured. Yet cricket's most endearing attribute is afternoon tea - a break in the game, between innings, where sandwiches, cakes and sausage rolls are consumed, all washed down with a (normally weak) cup of tea, poured from an old, chipped enamel teapot. In the Sussex league one of our local sides, Bolney Cricket Club, is an exemplar of quality afternoon teas; the cricket is good there too, but the teas are an epicurean triumph. Any sport that promotes the importance of afternoon teas is to be cherished and must be preserved at all costs.
The opportunity to combine two of my favourite things - watercolour painting and cricket - is always welcome. Those that know me will tell you that I am certainly better at one than the other. Opinions differ as to which. Others might theorise that I am no good at either.....you decide. With a small amount of cynicism you could say that I am just fishing for compliments in a very transparent pond. Enough of that. A cricket match often looks its best towards the end of a glorious summer's day, as purple shadows start to lengthen and creep across the luminous, lime-coloured grass. This presents a challenge to the artist; painting the players' cricket whites predominantly grey - tonally darker than the grass - just seems wrong. They're 'whites' after all. Understanding the effect of light and how it determines the tonal values of adjacent shapes and subjects is a core skill to master in the quest for watercolour excellence. Before launching into a painting take some time to make a tonal monochrome sketch - it's the best way of resolving tricky lighting effects that can seem counter intuitive. Take a quick look at my video page on the blog - I've made a short tutorial that will give you more details on this.
Returning to the game here, I suggest that we are probably into the last few overs the day, and judging by the defensive approach of the batsman I contend that the game is slowly heading for a draw. The gracious presence of Cheltenham College, an independent boarding school established in 1841, acts as the perfect backdrop to this most English of games, creating an almost timeless scene; cricket has been played here for over a century. Although at times it appears that everything is changing in society, it is not necessarily the case. Many aspects of life simply carry on, and more often than not we should embrace that. Tradition need not always be viewed with suspicion.
Stumps. Match drawn.
THIS PAINTING IS AVAILABLE FOR PURCHASE AT PARK GALLERY, CHELTENHAM