Two To Go for Twiston-Davies on New Year return

work in progress acrylic painting two to go of two horses racingWhen I called this Two To Go I had no idea how unfortunate ‘two’ would become for Willy Twiston-Davies in 2017. Having started his career on the flat at 16 he’s fought against the problem of being a six-footer in a jockeys world. This captures the moment that he and his mount Cogry were battling against favourite Rocklander with two fences to go.

The race is the Betbright Casino Handicap Hurdle at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day 2017. Twiston-Davies had worked hard with his father Nigel during the winter months to get ready to battle the jumps. He’d done two races before this outing. On the four runs out over fences prior to this race he’d had two falls, was brought down and became unseated … so it was not looking good. Odds 9-2.

Despite this he rode hard and jumped well. With two to go it was looking close, but he managed to pull off the win. Later in the year he suffered two broken vertebrae in a race on the opening day of the Cheltenham Festival. Before finally confirming in December 2017 that he would not ride again with a move into bloodstock. Perhaps one day he’ll take over the yard of his father.

Two To Go

The painting was started with broad palette knife strokes filling in the turf which surrounds the horses. I then switched to 5cm soft brushes and built up the layers alternating between shadows and highlights. Legs are blocked in with dark paint.

Returning to the palette knife the background was reworked to add more movement. Bright colours on the horses were created to follow the shapes of the muscles and the sheen of the well-turned out mounts. The jockeys silks were built up and then allowed to dry before whites were relaid.  Twiston-Davies height is obvious by the shape he creates compared to Tom George.  Finally the bridles and details were added.

More horse racing paintings here.  

oil painting horse and rider racing two to go cheltenham new year

Two To Go
80 x 60 x 2.5 cm
Oil on linen canvas on hardwood stretchers  SOLD








Distant dreams of days gone by

3 teasels in sunlight photoDistant dreams captures the way my mum remembers family holidays we had at the English Riviera, Devon. The Morris traveller would be filled with bags of clothes, bedding and food. Then the three of us girls would have to find a space to clamber into. Devon still a distant dream as we’d drive West through the countryside. Stopping at Midhurst for the first of a couple of planned breaks to eat the sandwiches. We’d drink the tea or soup from a flask or warm squash from a bottle we’d filled before leaving.

Tucked on the North Devon coast we’d reach our distant dreams. The cottage was a road away from the sea. There were horses in the fields behind. Too late and too tired to hit the waves that day despite having been up since silly o’clock the unpacking was done and beds made.

The next day we’d be on the sands or in the rockpools. An orange striped windbreak was put up marking out our bit of the beach for the day. Sand in our sandwiches. Salt on our skin. Fingers pinched by tiny crab claws. The smell of seaweed. Heart-thumping moments as we slipped on the green slime covered rocks.

On other days we’d be up on the clifftops walking along with the winds whipping our hair backwards. We soon learnt that the yellow gorse was pretty but prickly. There were pinks and mauves from sea clover. Dog-walkers with a chirpy hello. Distant dreams of not having to be doing anything for anyone but the family.

Choosing Mortehoe Point

This was mum’s choice when asked what painting she’d have on her wall. It had to be something by the sea with the cliffs. There had to be distance so she could move through the picture. She’d walked these cliffs on a holiday just with my dad when recovering from a bout of ill-health.  If you follow the cliffs along you’ll find small buildings right at the end. Someone out there loves you.

The cotton canvas was first covered with battenburg pink gesso. This gives the whole painting a warmth. Areas are visible in the cliffs. Building up acrylic layers with gloss medium for the sky and sea gives both a depth and many graded tones. As the light falls on the painting it changes as does the mood of the picture.

This is the most realistic of my landscapes. Others are very expressive or impressionistic to the point of abstraction as you’ll see in the portfolio here.

Distant Dreams has been put into a white wood frame.
acrylic painting of a sea bay and clifs at mortehoe devon


Where going downhill is positively encouraged – on a mountain bike

Acrylic Painting of Mountain Bike Downhill racer jumping Racer


On a mountain bike you are going to be going downhill at some point. It’s a Delia Smith titled sport – mountain and bike. However, dig behind that and there’s a level of fitness and skill that is required to make you hot rather than not. Whilst you can get a lift up to the top of the trail,  making your way down is all about the ‘B’s; balance, braking, bouncing, bumps and frankly being ballsy.

As a downhill competition you’d think that uphill mountain bike skills may not be useful. Of course a well-laid out course will twist and turn. It may snake back up the hill here and there. So it’s a shift into the lower gears and plant your bottom on the saddle. It’s important to keep the tyre grip on loose dirt. It can be hard to keep pedalling with a deep lean forward to keep the weight on the front end.

One of my favourite places to clamber to for watching and photographing is close to the jumps. Looking at where each rider takes off from and guessing where they will choose to land. Body positions can also give away whether this is going to be a smooth moving landing or a thump and go.

Mountain Bike Downhill

This is the second in the series of mountain bike downhill paintings. Capturing the colours of the reddish brown earth and the late greenery on some trees. The downhillers coming out of the darkness of the wood. They arrive fast. Then they are jumping about 10 feet across and dropping about 6 feet.

For a moment they seem suspended and then they are down and gone. Spectators in a hushed awe or a communal ‘ooh’ for the harder landings.


acrylic painting of a mountain bike rider in flight across a jump

MTB II Downhiller £790
80 x 60 cm
Framed acrylic on canvas

Horse staying close at New Year opener Cheltenham

staying close acrylic painting in progress kathryn sassall

In Progress

The horses are blowing out cold air as they stay close around the bends. It is the first race-card of the year at Cheltenham 2017. Jockey silks billowing, goggles down they’re all standing on the stirrups.

A grey day captured in strong palette knife and brush strokes. The horses are not jostling but they are staying close. All eyes are forward and focussed. The horses heart rates are rising. Muscles pumping as they propel themselves and their riders forward.

The turf is still lifting despite the cold weather of the start of the year.  Grass and mud is flung into the air as the metal hooves pound the ground. Coming round towards the cheering crowds. More feet stamping but from the race-goers who need to stay warm.

Staying Close  – Oil Painting

A painting like this takes several weeks to build up layer by layer. First of all the canvas was blocked out in a magenta wash. Next light strokes of charcoal are used to roughly draft the shapes of the horses and jockeys to ensure a good fit on the canvas. Then it’s the background and the turf over a couple of weeks.

Once dry enough to work on without moving the background colour,  I work from two directions – top down with the jockey silks, and bottom up with the legs of the horses. At this point the background and turf will get some re-working to balance the colours appearing on the horses and silks.

I use a limited range of paint colours so that the overall tone of the picture stays consistent as the image starts to come out of the canvas. The final layer is highlights and shadows which pull the whole composition together.  Final painting is hung in a light warm space for a couple of weeks to ensure the thicker layers become dry enough to transport the painting.

More horse racing art here.

oil painting of horse and rider racing staying close Cheltenham New Years Day 2017 by Kathryn Sassall

Staying Close
60 x 60 x 2.5 cm
Oil on linen canvas on hardwood stretchers SOLD






Coming Home at the Point to Point

photograph of a start of ladies point to point race

Coming home is a watercolour painting of a point-to-point. It captures the moment the riders have finished their three miles of riding and jumping. Point-to-point is a regular weekend fixture in a field or land near me from November to mid-June. It takes place on farms and estate land with hurdles being put up for the race card.

The riders are amateurs but the racing is not.  All point-to-point riders must have a riders qualification certificate for the current year. This is proof that they are of a suitable riding standard, medically fit and they have insurance. As the horses are coming home to the post the care and attention to preparing the mount is clear in the beautiful brushed in patterns on the haunches.

Point-to-point horses are hunters and are amazing to be close to. Majestic, proud and powerful animals. Heavy breathing. Thundering hooves. Eyes dancing and ears twitching before they set off. Pacing. Racing for three miles. The crowds cheering them along as they are coming home.

This is Year of the Woman and point-to-point is a sport that sees women riders compete over the same courses as men.  The first Ladies’ point-to-point race was won by the Duke of Hamilton’s 17 year old daughter, Lady Jean Hamilton in 1921. Women had competed in open point-to-points from 1913.  They had proved to be very good at winning so soon got their own races. It wasn’t until the late ’60s that they were allowed to compete in open races again.

Coming Home – Point-to-Point Painting

The jockey’s silks billow with the wind created by the speed they are moving. Heads down and willing the mount forward.  Brampton Bryan on a May day was glorious. The women riding point-to-point now wear jodphurs but back in the beginning they wore skirts and rode side-saddle.


horse and rider two at a point-to-point racing to the finish

Coming Home £125
40 x 30 cm
Watercolour on Paper



Over the Last – Arabian horse race

Over the last is about an Arabian horse race held at the local racecourse. It captures that moment that the jockey has been willing their mount forward for that final rush for the winning post. Hereford has had a race course since 1771. Closed for a few years, it returned with Arabian horse racing in 2013. Now leased by Arena Racing Company it runs many  Jump racing events.

The excitement of the colour and movement of horse-racing must be in my blood. My maternal grandfather used to enjoy watching the early televised events. He would be silently cheering the horses he’d backed as they came over the last fence. Waving his folded and heavily marked newspaper. Wonder if that’s why I always read a newspaper from the back?

I love the colourful silks which fill out with the air as the race gathers speed. The jockeys silk hat covers matching the owner’s colours. Pristine white jodphurs soon turn to mud and grass spattered as the horse race unfolds.

Arabian Horse Race Painting

The thumbnail image shows the stages I go through when painting. First attend the event and take photographs or watch on TV or video channels to get a feel for the race. The moment to capture is a subconscious awareness now. I may do a pastel sketch on paper just to get a feel for the layout and shapes. Generally I go straight to paper or canvas.

This is an acrylic painting on paper. I ituitively strobe the background when painting. I don’t work from photos taken with a slow shutter speed which would ‘blur’ or photoshop the image.  Onto the background I block out the main shapes and then build. It’s layer by layer. Sometimes reworking an area to bring depth back or obtain a colour relation effect.

Finally it’s looking for those little flecks and details which either pull the whole image together or make the eye fill in the detail that I’ve actually left out.

horse and rider racing after last fence at Hereford racecourse in acrylic painting

Over the Last £290
50 x 40 cm
Acrylic on paper

The Essence of Movement

pencil sketch of a moving arabian dancer abstract style

It’s a grey day at the end of October. The sound of gunfire rings out. The teacups rattled on the tables in The Courtauld Gallery Café’s courtyard. A piece of modern art performance being captured on film.  Inside a series of life studies, maquettes and sculptures by Rodin captured the essence of movement

Rodin was a rarity amongst 19th century artists. He was recognized and well considered in his own life-time for the expressive works he produced. Many will know him for the bronzes and marbles that he produced.  In his last decade and a half they were created from life studies. These works were experimental and many not shown beyond his close circle of friends.

Life Studies

By drawing the new dance forms, and wildly expressive movements of the dancers, he was using what was around him at the time. Using life models in his studios, and also meeting the dancers at the theatres, he developed a fluid shorthand for capturing the shapes.

Some of the works concentrated on line and others introduced washes. This increased the feeling of movement both in creating the form and giving a livelier background. It was interesting to see the way the drawings changed over time and the terracotta or plaster forms were created.

Exaggerated Movement

Due to the flexibility and strength of the dancers Rodin was able to capture poses that are not often possible with models. The new ballets that were being created at the time  reflected a move away from the classic positions. It must have been difficult to decide on which of the many movements to capture and then how to make a free-standing sculpture.

The exhibition took place from 20 October 2016 to 22 January 2017 and was supported by Friends of The Courtauld International Music and Art Foundation, in memory of Melvin R Selden, The Daniel Katz Gallery (London), Stuart and Bianca Roden and the Henry Moore Foundation.


Seeing Rodin’s last major project and learning that he was still experimenting was very up-lifting. Continual study of the body and it’s movement plus embracing the new forms of movement in his sixties gives me hope. It also encourages me to be playful in my studies. I will try new ways to be expressive when attending life groups. Groups ar a great way to get access to models whose poses may be passive or active.

Some of the works that I create from life study each week get destroyed. Some are put in the development drawer as a reminder of what can be achieved by happy accident or planned experiment. Only finished works of a certain quality are offered for sale.

PS I don’t know what the movie being shot was, but it involved Michael Keaton in a Polish market.

Movement drawings

The drawing at the top of this blog is a sketch idea for a painting, by Kathryn Sassall, of a dancing drummer who was twirling at a show in the Dubai desert.

“Get Set” shows a life model in the traditional position for a race start. No blocks though.

Click the picture to take you to Artfinder to purchase.

watercolours sketch of a model as if at a start for a running race

Sprinters – blink and you’ll miss them

sprint board drumming by fans photo tour de franceIt was to be a difficult day where it was hard to organise a chase. The sprinters were keen to increase their points. The Flame Rouge left behind, they hurtle towards the line. The crowds are cheering. Boards on the roadside being drummed by the fans who’ve stood in the wind and rain for hours. Sprinters about to have their moment of glory.

Mark Cavendish, Peter Sagan and André Greipel all wanting to make the line first after 189.5 km of hard cycling from Arras Communaute Urbaine to Amiens Metropole. Others dropping out as they supported their GC riders and tried to avoid the many crashes that occurred along the way.

In the rough weather the fans stayed by the roadside and waited for their favourites. The rain fell hard. The winds blew. The sprinters grouped and re-grouped. And then they were there and in the blink of an eye – gone – as they flew on to the finish of Stage 5 of Le Tour de France 2015.


“Blink’ was in exhibition during hArt 2016 at Greenstage Gallery and SOLD at the Affordable Art Fair, Battersea in November 2016.  Created on 80 x 60 cm primed canvas on deep stretchers with professional Daler-Rowney acrylics.

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Team spirit despite cold play

photo NFTO Rider partrige tour de yorkshireSitting with the wheel spokes just millimetres from my face, with the smell of rubber, and the need to remember all of my motorcycle pillion passenger skills as the car shifted the point of balance at high speed, it’s probably the closest I’d get to being on a media bike during a pro-cycling race. Courtesy of Hereford team, NFTO, I was enjoying the experience of being in the team car as it flew behind the cycles from Otley to Doncaster on day 2 of the 2016 Tour de Yorkshire.

There are simple rules when photographing in most sports that involve racing, don’t get run over and don’t get in the way of the teams doing what they do. In the back of the car it was also listen to the radio calls and keep an eye out for riders with mechanical/technical problems plus any errant fans getting a little over-zealous and standing in the road! It was fantastic to hear the dialogue between the race team director and the soigneurs and hear more about the preparations of the riders and the team.

Also the scenery racing by at a blur, and seeing for real that moment when riders go through yellow fields – here it was local oil crop rapeseed – France there is always one or two of those through the sunflower shots. Round and through they went. It was a day when we seemed to be constantly in sight of the cooling towers at Ferry Harbour. The time absolutely flew by, as there was always something happening, and getting the chance to experience the speed the riders take the hairpins, the climbs and the distance was very exciting. Finally we were streaming in to Doncaster where the heavens opened yet again. The riders made their way back to the team bus for the warm-down, food and liquids, before heading off for the next start town which was in Middlesborough next day.

It seemed the perfect image to capture; the pinkish grey skies of Yorkshire threatening to quench the thirst of the crops but soak the riders and the Ferry Harbour cooling towers in the background as the riders were strung out during the 136 km day two racing.


“Cold Play’ was exhibited at Greenstage Gallery  in September 2016 as part of hArt 2016 with the work of Ed Ball who is also influenced by noise. Created on a 100 x 50 cm primed canvas on stretchers using Winsor & Newton water-based oils, thinner and linseed oil, framed in white-limed wood.

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For when  you love the picture but have a smaller budget or wall space to fill.
Professionally printed on A2 (60 x 42 cm paper), image size 50 x 25 cm.



From sprint to sands at Scarborough

photo KOM spotted houseBikes painted and hung in trees. Houses covered in spots. Bunting shaped like racers jerseys. Lamposts wrapped in knitting. The Tour de Yorkshire has it all as the fans and towns it passes through make the effort to show their support to T’Tour being there.

The third day was the chance to catch a sprint in the wonderful town of Thirsk, known also for it’s famous Yorkshire vets.

Of course it was raining, by the time the bikes went through, but no-one minds. Test runs and cheers had been completed as local children went by on their bikes, dreaming that it would be them in a few years time. A lady on a mobility scooter got the largest cheer of the morning.

The riders came by less in a sprint and more in team huddles as the weather was making it tough to stay warm and lead out. With the heights of Sutton Bank to scale in the damp and then another five climbs before the sea and sand finish at Scarborough it was a real day for pulling together.

That’s what bike racing is partly about. Sometimes sacrificing yourself for the sake of the team, supporting, pulling others along, but knowing you’ll not get the line glory. Working hard and keeping going as that endurance will give the team the results they need. It’s hard and those riders are often in the shadows of the greats.


“Drones’ was in exhibition with Greenstage Gallery  and SOLD at the Affordable Art Fair, Battersea in November 2016. Created with primed canvas on stretchers, Winsor & Newton water-based oils, thinner and linseed oil, framed in white-limed wood.

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