From Racing Silks to Silk Paint Brushes

Tucked away behind industrial doors down the Peninsula from Bay Meadows is a treasure trove of studios for working artists. Inside you can find every medium, from oils to photography to mixed collage. None of the artists at the Art Center of Redwood City and San Carlos, however, can boast a previous career that painter Tom Chapman has enjoyed.

Tom was a jockey who raced throughout California and even competed in the Kentucky Derby. Tom not only spent a number of years racing at the old Bay Meadows horse racetrack; for the track’s closing, Tom painted the official commemorative poster depicting famous racers in their silks atop the world-famous horses that once ran at Bay Meadows.


Amid the adrenalin-charged jockeys of professional horse racing, Tom was no exception. He competed fiercely and won the Bay Meadows Handicap riding Slew of Damascus (Seattle Slew’s son). The Bay Meadows community even has a street named after Tom’s whole family, Chapman Lane.

After Tom’s victory with Slew of Damascus, he did a painting of the horse and, upon seeing this, the horse’s owners all wanted their very own paintings. Others ordered paintings, too, which launched Tom’s career as a professional artist.

How does an ambitious athlete make the transition to working in front of a canvas? Tom said it had a lot to do with seeking a less demanding, more relaxing career. Not to mention a safer job. His wife Kathy encouraged him to return to the art he had enjoyed so much as a kid.

Promo shot for A Taste of San Mateo

Promo shot for A Taste of San Mateo

Tom retired from racing in 1996. From his studio in San Carlos, he continues to paint horses, of course, but also enjoys painting dogs (including his own Jack Russell terrier) and any other scenes that a commission might request. Anyone interested should follow Tom on Facebook (Chapman Fine Arts) to see his latest works.

Tom also fills his days teaching high schools students and adults to paint with everything from water colors to oil painting and acrylics.

After the excitement of racing and, now, success as a working artist, what more could Tom want out of life? “I’d love to travel more – painting castles in Ireland,” he laughs.

No doubt, there’s an Irish property owner out there on the Emerald Isle who would love to invite Tom to do a plein air painting of their manor.

Slew of Damascus Wins the Bay Meadows Handicap

Slew of Damascus Wins the Bay Meadows Handicap rates Bay Meadows high on the list for walkable locations to live on the San Francisco Peninsula and for good reason! Bay Meadows has a high Walkscore because it is steps from shopping, groceries, parks, Caltrain, a farmer’s market and a few short miles from downtown San Mateo with its burgeoning restaurant scene. Check out life out and about at Bay Meadows by following us on Instagram.