Art at the Park – Meet the artists: Nadia Koo

6 minutes

‘Home-Start Essex gave me support when I was pretty exhausted’

Art at the Park supports Home-Start Essex, so I was very happy to be invited to exhibit my work at Braxted Park alongside established artists and emerging artists like myself.

Home-Start Essex supported me when I was a mum with three young children. I was pretty exhausted and they took my youngest son to playschool a couple of days a week to give me a bit of a break. I couldn’t believe how the people were so lovely, kind and caring.

I have only been painting about three years. About five years ago my mother-in-law, who is an artist, asked what I would like for a birthday present I said, ‘Oh, why don't you get me some acrylics?’.  She gave me everything I needed to start – sketchbooks, pencils and acrylics.

I lacked the confidence to start painting, so I put everything in a suitcase and after a couple of years my mother-in-law said ‘you haven't used my birthday present yet’ so I started just painting jars of flowers from my head. I was silent for hours and realised that painting was a really calming thing. I loved it, it was really therapeutic.

From there I started on canvases from charity shops, painting over them so it wasn’t expensive. Starting was the difficult part – thinking there’s this barrier between you and moving forward. I didn't know anything about painting but gradually, gradually, I began to find my style and an incredible sense of freedom.

I would say to anyone just paint when you can. When I go on holiday to my caravan in Southwold I paint there. Take every opportunity to paint, take a sketchbook with you. Paint instead of watching telly or even when you're watching telly! If you don’t like what you’ve done just paint over it, don't worry about what you're putting down. I love to revamp paintings.

(Image: "My Midwinter Plate" by Nadia Koo)


A lot of artists shy away from promoting themselves and selling themselves but I'm up for everything like that. You have to be confident with selling your work to the value it's worth.

I feel I have an advantage over trained artists who have said they wish they could paint as freely as me, without inhibitions or rules – unlearning a lot of what they were taught. I've learned I’m actually in a kind of free, privileged position.

(Image: "Wenge Bowl" by Nadia Koo)

Life before painting

I used work for Social Services, chairing child protection conferences and the Looked After Child reviews – I was the advocate for the child. At conferences we had to make important decisions; if the child had been harmed what should happen next in order to make life better for them.

Working in Social Services was tough and especially so in lockdown when, all of a sudden, it felt like everyone was in my space whereas before I could drive away from the office, drive away from the conference room. It was very difficult.

And then I found I was painting to relieve stress and literally, I mean the canvases were propped up against the wall and I was almost engulfed in paintings. Eventually painting took over.

Taking a chance

Lots of my paintings are quite large and I will include one of my early paintings at Art at the Park. It's a big green jug. I collect a lot of things and I am quite obsessed with this 1920s jug that was one of my best finds at a car boot sale. I’ve done a whole series of 10 green jugs with bright flowers in them.

Against convention, I took some of my paintings in the back of the car to Church Street Gallery in Saffron Walden and the owner agreed to take a look. She came out and said, ‘I think I'm going take some’ and she took 26! I had my first showing in that gallery, a solo show, so that was the springboard. I sold 11 paintings in four weeks and I'm still a permanent artist there today.

(Image: Nadia Koo with painting Be Bold which will be exhibited at Art at the Park)

I then plucked up courage to open my home as part of Cambridge Open Studios 2022 to show lots of my paintings. Since then, I have done a solo show at Merlina Arts in Earsham, Suffolk, The Aldeburgh Gallery in Suffolk, The Gallery Above in Linton, Cambridge and many more. I've now sold more than 100 paintings. It's incredible!


(Image: left; "Spring Asparagus", right; "White Chair And Peonies")

Livingstone St Ives, in Cornwall, recently got in touch through Instagram and asked to represent me – I was ecstatic! My art is now in their gallery in Clifton, Bristol and on their website.  They liked my huge paintings and I will be part of a floral exhibition in March, so I am painting several large canvases for that show. 

Letting go

My work has really developed and changed over the last three years, I've become even more free and I explore all sorts of deep narratives in my work, which might not be immediately apparent in the joy of all that colour.

I do a lot of dotting and lines and people say it reminds them of the Aboriginal style of painting. I like to paint jungles, hibiscus and hummingbirds – all that tropical wildlife and colour has come from visits to my family’s home of Dominica in the Caribbean. I have a vivid childhood memory from a visit to Dominica – walking on a really sheer cliff and looking down at glistening, bright, bright, turquoise water – that’s my mission to get bright colour on the canvas.


When I paint, I use my fingers quite a lot. That was immediate. I just felt that. It's a deep connection with the colour and the canvas. Yeah, I'd say the brush came second, really. Painting is a beautiful experience. If I don’t paint for a few days, I feel like a part of me is missing. I often dream about painting, planning strokes and patterns in my sleep.

It's been a whirlwind but it’s such good fun and I never imagined that this would happen.

(Image: "We Don't Fit In" by Nadia Koo)

Howden supports Art at the Park

Howden Private Clients Director Julie Webb says Art at the Park will be ‘such an exciting event, featuring so many incredibly talented artists’.

She adds: “We are proud to support Home-Start through Art at the Park and I look forward to inviting my art-loving clients to Braxted Park, a beautiful country house at Witham in Essex.”

Home-Start Essex aims to give children the best possible start in life by supporting parents and carers to feel less isolated, to build their confidence and to find ways to manage the challenges they face. Trusting relationships with families are created through a range of flexible support including volunteer-led home visiting, family groups, wellbeing services, school-readiness and behaviour support programmes.

Art at the Park in aid of Home-Start at Braxted Park, Witham, runs from February 1-4, 2024, supported by Howden. Work will be on display in the grounds and Georgian house with prices expected to range from around £15 to £50,000.
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