British Artist Nancy Cadogan On Life Behind The Canvas As a Mother of Three - The Grace Tales

British Artist Nancy Cadogan On Life Behind The Canvas As a Mother of Three

“Remarkably my great grandmother trained under Monet,” says the British figurative painter Nancy Cadogan...

It’s no wonder she’s gone on to become such an accomplished figurative artist. This month marks her first solo exhibition, entitled Mind Zero, at London’s Saatchi Gallery. A collection of f 11 large scale works, which she has been working on over the past two years, she captures the joy of thoughtful observation and delight in the things we surround ourselves with. We spoke to Cadogan about the life of an artist, how motherhood influenced her career and tips for buying art.

Mind Zero runs from 14 August – 15 September 2019 | Go to

Where did you grow up - what was your childhood like and what are some of your most vivid memories?

My mother is an American writer and my father is an academic archaeologist. He was working at the university in Cincinnati, where I was born. We moved back home when I was four, though we had been splitting our time between the continents. My most vivid memories are times on the excavations in Cyprus and Crete. These excavation times had masses of students and I would spend my time as a small child resting in the olive trees hoping someone would buy me an ice-cream when the van appeared. These were all such immensely happy times. 

When did you first start painting and how did your parents foster your talent?

Remarkably, my great grandmother trained under Monet. And my parents have always taken me to exhibitions and been completely up to date with the shows that were on. We have always been surrounded by art and my great uncle, who was a huge influence on me, taught me from a young age about hard work and commitment. I was always drawing.

Talk us through the beginning of your career - what were the challenges you faced?

I left art school in 2oo2, with all the insecurity of a new graduate hopeful to make her way in the art world. It all seemed impenetrable and frightening. But I knew the only thing I had to do was paint.

My boyfriend at the time (now my husband) and I moved to New York very quickly after graduating, and I found the can-do attitude of the city amazing. It was in 2004, I had my first break with a solo show on Madison Ave. I don’t think I realised how ridiculously lucky this was and that was probably a good thing.

What are some of the lesser known things about life as an artist?

It is a lonely job. I think there is a myth about painting and art and creativity that it is a relaxing job, but I find it highly stressful and lonely. You can get stuck in your head, which friends can find difficult sometimes. But that said, I could not do anything else, and for me a day spent not painting can be tricky. It is all consuming, but takes you to another place which can be difficult to come back from.

Talk us through the process behind each painting - where do you begin and end?

These paintings are a totally different process, initially I normally do preliminary drawings but for these paintings I have gone straight to the canvas and have let the painting evolve as I paint them.

You were named as one of the ‘Top 20 New British Art Talents’ by Tatler magazine in 2008, describing you as ‘the new Paula Rego’ - how did this feel?

I was delighted when this came out. It was thrilling and I was pregnant with my eldest child. I was nervous that this would mean my career would end. So discovering that the world has tilted slightly in favour of women, who paint figuratively is the most wonderful piece of good fortune.

How has your art and the way you work changed since having children?

I have a lot less time. I used to start the day with a large cup of coffee doing the G2 crossword, smoking a cigarette, but I now have a cup of herbal tea and get straight down to it. I am thinking about the paintings all the time as I have so much less time to paint them.

And now my children spend a lot of time in the studio with me. I have a big chair where they sit and read and chat whilst I work, which is really lovely as they are very supportive of my work.

Can you tell us about your upcoming exhibition Mind Zero in London?

‘Mind Zero’ has come after my exhibition ‘Still Reading’. It is a solo show in the Saatchi Gallery in September and a collection of 11 large scale works which I have been working on over the past 2 years. For the first time, the paintings have completely come from my imagination. They depict women in their imaginary semi-domestic setting.

Where do you feel most inspired?

I feel most inspired when I am at home in my family house, which is the house that I grew up in and recently moved back into with my husband and three children.

If you could go back, to when you first became an artist, what advice would you give yourself?

Try not to be too frightened. 

What are your three tips for buying art - what should we consider?

You have to buy what you love irrespective of what a gallerist says about a future investment. You need to find a gallery or someone that you really respect, and try and learn as much as you can about what the artist is trying to do.