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

Original Acrylic Painting
50 x 40 cm on paper

Read the Rest

Thundering hooves and skies

a photo of a jockey in blue silks focussing pre-race on a grey horse Thundering hooves certainly make noise. How so? They are metal shod ends to legs which look so slender compared to the body they hold aloft. The power in those legs. Thundering is the sound of the weight of the horse cutting the turf and soil below.

My grandfather (maternal side) loved the gee-gees. He’d watch on the television with the newspaper in hand. Later in life I lived just down from Brighton racecourse.  It fascinated me that they covered the road to the refuse tip with straw and turf eveytime a race was on.

Families in their cars with picnics. Children bored after the first race playing ball games. The horse could be heard as they approached.  Ground trembled. Nostrils flaring and their breath coming hard and fast the horses steamed by. Even the crack of silk as it flapped in the wind on the top of the hill and the backdraft of the movement.

I’ve visited Windsor, Goodwood, Ascot, York, Cheltenham, Hereford and Newmarket over the years. Sometimes trapped in corporate hospitality with a brief escape to the parade ring. Other times camera in hand getting as up close and personal as I can to the race.


The Grand National is not a race I’ve ever been to. Sweepstakes at various places of work have resulted in different results.  This painting was inspired by watching TV and video footage. It’s primarily one moment but the idea is to capture the energy and noise of the excitement of the whole race.

Yet, as is always the case, some of the jockeys and horses seem to be distracted. I love the billowing silks. The fly-like eyes created by goggles.

riders on horses galloping in grand national in oil painting

Thundering £Sold -STD
60 x 60 cm
OIl on deep canvas

60 x 60 x 2.5 cm
Oil on linen canvas on hardwood stretchers



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