Former England cricketer Jack Russell not only was an outstanding wicketkeeper but is also more than useful with a paint brush.
The Stroud born gloveman retired from cricket in 2004 due to a back injury and decided to become a full-time artist.
“It’s the only skill that I have got left”, he said. “It came through boredom at the cricket really, stuck in the pavilion watching the rain fall, I got fed up with that and decided I wanted to become a painter.” I’m a person who can’t sit around twiddling my thumbs as I’ve got to be doing something productive, as if I have a day where I haven’t been doing something productive, I get very guilty and miserable.”
Jack got into painting back in the eighties, thanks to playing cricket.
He said, “We were playing at Worcester in 1987 and I started painting from there, well I thought if Rembrandt can do it, then why can’t I, and I taught myself.”
“I started sketching first and I took a load of sketches into a gallery in Bristol that winter in 1987 and I had just been picked for my first tour with England which was the tour of Pakistan and the gallery owner knew who I was and said go to Pakistan and do some sketching on your tour, come back and we will have an exhibition.” “I played two and a half days cricket in about eight weeks. So, I had plenty of time to sketch”. “I had an exhibition in 88 and had about 40 odd sketches and to my amazement they sold out within two days, and that is how it all started.”
On the playing side, Jack was so thrilled to make his debut for Gloucestershire back in 1981.
“ I will never forget the first time I went out with a Gloucestershire sweater on as I was still at school at the time taking my A level examinations, but they postponed the exam for a few days and I made my debut against Sri Lanka as a 17-year-old school kid with grubby hair and a little moustache.” He said.
It wasn’t the best start to his cricketing career, and he remembers his first delivery he had to keep to. “My first ball in county cricket went for four byes way down the leg side.” “I picked myself up and dusted myself down and thought every where is up from here and just keep going.”
Russell’s old county Gloucestershire won promotion into Division One last season. “That was amazing.” he said, “It was a little bit of a surprise but fair play to them as they did what they needed to and were brilliantly led by Chris Dent and was a real team effort with everybody chipping in and doing their bit.”
If he was playing now, Jack mentioned that it would be a testing job behind the stumps.
“I’m so pleased that I don’t have to deal with the review system” he said, “as the wicket keeper has to be the captains umpire as he will always have to turn to you and say how close was it, is it going down, that would be an extra burden which would interfere with your duties and there is a lot resting on that decision.”
In the old days of cricket players were allowed to play for their counties whilst being selected for a forthcoming test match, unlike in today’s era where this isn’t allowed.
“That would drive me absolutely nuts” he said. “I was just so lucky to have played in that period where I was allowed to play.” “I just loved playing cricket all the time” he went on to say. “To be deprived of matches I would have found that very frustrating.”
What next for the man with golden hands.
“I’m in the middle of finishing some big Ashes paintings from last summer” he said, “I was lucky enough to paint in the opening day of every test match last summer which was great, and I painted the first ball of ever test along with the women’s Ashes as well which was a first for me down at Taunton, and at some point limited edition prints will be available of those.”
Full interview with Jack Russell