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


Storm blowing by Chicago harbor light

detail of a white lighthouse and red sailed boat as a storm approaches chicago in a painting by kathryn sassall A storm can blow in to any place at any time. This particular one came as a brooding dark sky  reflected off of Lake Michigan below. The clouds sweeping across the sky. A lighthouse can be a clue of dangers below or close by or part of a harbour entrance. These boats were heading back towards harbour to anchor up. Shelter from the storm needed as the water turned into a sea of  unsettled waves. Just minutes before it had been blue and sunny with just a darkness in the distance. The storm flew across the lake fast and low.

The Chicago Harbor Light was state of the art in its day, 1893. It’s stood on the end of the breakwater surrounded by rip-rap since 1919.  A listed ironwork structure which is automated. The buildings below the tower are a fog signal room and boathouse. It is a clear beacon even in the daytime due to the white of the building.

I was strolling on Navy Pier. Distracted by the motion and shouts from the swing chair ride I was aware of a sudden change in temperature. I looked up and noticed the change in the water. The clouds looked full.  The rains had not started to fall but did follow.


This painting captures the moment  I noticed the weather change across the Lake. The dark maroon sail filled with the winds that blew the storm clouds. The darkness was brooding. An energy was created.  I chose to capture this by using a warm tone of the roof of the lighthouse buildings. The burnt orange background setting off the green hues. What dangers lurked in the water? impressionist painting detail of a boat on lake michigan in a storm

expressionist painting of stormy lake michigan chicago with sail boat and lighthouse

Storm £190
45 x 34 cm
Acrylic, brush application A2 (59.4 x 42 cm) acrylic paper

45 x 34 cm [13.60″ x 18.00″]
Brush applied acrylic paint on 59.4 x 42 cm (A2) acrylic paper.

Hues of the highlands

detail of the sky and mountains in an abstract impressionist acrylic painting by kathryn sassallNot just the hues of the highlands these colours to me are the colours of Scotland.Smoky peat soil from which the green grass and purple-pink heather sprouts. There’s that point as you drive up the motorway where the landscape changes.

The darkness created by the pine forests and the dark rock outcrops that peek through the farmer’s fields. As the roads wind around the hillsides it’s a breathtaking moment as the vista opens up to a loch. The reflection of the sky, mountains, forest and purple hues. Wheeling upwards the birds enjoy the freshness of the air.

The coolness of the lilacs, pale blues and whites in the clouds or mountain tops (you decide) swirl. Whilst the landscape is still my mind is whirring from the exhilaration of the climb to the top of a rock and perhaps one too many visits to distilleries of whisky.

heather and tree detail of an abstract impressionist painting of the Highlands by Kathryn Sassall


31 x 45 cm [14 x 18 “]
Acrylic paint on 42 x 59.4 cm (A2) acrylic paper

expressionist sky and moutnains of Scottish Higlands

Highlands £190
42 x 59 cm
Framed acrylic on paper


Sunflower soldiers in the fields of France

impressionistic painting of sunflower in field detail of a paintingSunflower – what does that mean to you? Perhaps you enjoyed the Vincent film last year? You may travel to France for a holiday or to a second home passing the sunflower fields which nudge the roadside. For me it is visits to friends or to Le Mans or the Tour de France in July when the sunflower fields are coming in to bloom.

The tall sunflowers stand in rows like soldiers. Their lines slightly wonky as the tiller will have hit the odd stone or bump. Perhaps the driver got distracted by a crow or buzzard. The tall strong stems may have more than one flower head. Different colours sometimes creep in with an antique burnt umber mixing with the bright yellow.

detail of an scrylic impressionist painting of sunflower in a field with green trees and blue skyAt the top of the field are the farm buildings. A line of trees partially hiding the farmstead. A stunning bright cobalt blue cloudless sky which is seen so often in France during summer.  No sign of airplane trails or birds as all is hot and still.

Standing under the heads makes me feel like a flower fairy. The pom-pom style of some of the flowers like teddy bear heads. Watch the fields as you travel back and forth to notice the sunflower heads will have followed the sun during the day. Each one competing for the warmth and light to ripen the seeds that will go off for food production.

Hellanthus – the sunflower

This painting is Field of Sun  III as  I’ve painted these beautiful flowers several times. A watercolour resides on a wall in France. Another watercolour is in Essex given as a prize for a Crohn’s and Colitis UK regional raffle in 2012.

This acrylic painting is  strident. The colours are bright. There is an energy in the brush-stroked sky and the sunflower heads beam out. They are well named.

impressionist painting of a sunflower field in France

Field of Sun III £190
46 x 35 cm
Acrylic, brush application A2 (59.4 x 42 cm) acrylic paper

Feeling the joy of the golden light of early Autumn; showers, sunshine and shimmer.

newspaper trees test for flicker paintingGolden light is streaming through the trees and into your eyes when driving towards Hereford on the A417 and M4 in the early days of Autumn. A rain shower creates small pools of reflection in some of the leaves which have already fallen. They reflect the golden light which lifts my heart as I journey through the highs and lows of a challenging time.

The roads have been heavy with commuters and holidaymakers. The hard-shoulder has a scattering of over-heating cars and the stationary vehicles from minor shunts between the over-eager and often fractious families. People rushing not having time to appreciate the cloth of leaves that is beginning to pool under the trees or the threads of golden light between the tree trunks.

It’s a heat that has not been fully felt by my mum as she has become less and less mobile. She stood at the door of her house looking out at the garden she would no longer go into. The garden she tended for years until the breaking of a hip meant that she could no longer enjoy the creativity and enjoyment of gardening. Shrubs would quiver as she approached with the pruning shears, but now they were enjoying a chance to spread their branches until a gardener was instructed.

Reflecting in the golden light

The painting of “All That” captures the moment of travel and a storm of emotions. The gold is mirror effect foil – look into the pools of light – what do you see? It all reminds me of a favourite poem by W.B. Yeats called The Cloths of Heaven. Old age seems to be treading on her dreams. She created the embroidered cloth in the garden which is dappled by the light through the oak trees. Change being inevitable but feared. Yet it is light, warm and embracing.

Continue to explore the changing light and way we live life inspired by road journeys here.

acrylic painting of trees in autumn light

All That £390
40 x 40 cm
Acrylic on canvas

trees in golden light acrylic painting on fireplace


What did I use to create the splashes of blue light? Sticky things of course!

a test of pebeo paint on paper There was no sketching prior to creating this painting. Having spotted the splashes of blue whilst journeying I knew it was a particular moment that creates it’s own type of light. The image was in my head quite clear.  I reviewed photographs that I’d taken over the last four years in Queenswood, Hereford and in Sussex. It was how to translate those thoughts to the canvas?

I did a couple of test squares. I trialled a solvent based paint, which was described as giving a hammered texture effect by it’s maker. This only seemed possible by really flooding the surface. That was not going to upscale to a canvas 100 times bigger. So I returned to acrylics and brushes. The colours flowed on to the canvas to build up the layers of the background tones. Creating painting with layers will ensure that it changes tone in different lights.

Texture Gel

I then did a test of a texture gel to see what sort of finish I could get for the flowers and leaves. This was applied originally by brush which made the results too choppy.  Then, abandoning the paint brushes, I picked up a green flower support stick which I’d brought back from my mum’s house. Rolling, thwacking. pressing.
test of structure gel textures

Firstly to paint the thinner trees in greys and silvers, and then the pattern on the larger trees that I’d laid down. And finally the foliage and flowers. All of this led to the creating a painting with texture, which is expressionist,  which allows the imagination to create the bluebells amongst the long green leaves. I even managed to remember to stop and take a few pictures along the way which can be seen below.

The story behind the final painting “The Blues” which is part of a series inspired by the theme of Light is in the next blog. “The Blues” was SOLD in exhibition in July 2017.