Chingford-born artist Jane Phillips on defying expectations, motherhood and tattooing


“When I started out, I was rubbish”

– Jane Phillips

By Lisa Gibbons

I meet artist, tattooist and mother of two Jane Phillips at Connaught Water, Chingford, on the hottest day of the year. While most people can barely move in the humidity, Jane is expertly skimming stones into the vast pool and running around after her two-year-old daughter.

Born and raised in Chingford until her family moved to south London in the late eighties, Jane often comes back to visit long-established friends and expanding family. 


“I love the fact it doesn’t quite feel like London,” she says, while her daughter throws a stick into the water. “Epping Forest will never get old. I hope my daughter gets to enjoy it when she’s 90.”


Jane takes inspiration for her often macabre paintings from cult film, music and comics. But while fans of her art may think she was born with a natural gift, Jane begs to differ.


“My art teacher told me that I wouldn’t get anywhere with my paintings. And in fact, when I started out, I was pretty rubbish,” she tells me.

“But I’m so stubborn, so I constantly tried to better myself. I made myself paint every day, even when I didn’t feel up to it. I don’t think I’m naturally talented, I just work very, very hard.”


She treats painting as a full-time job, getting to work on her canvases at the same time every morning. At the beginning were lots of costly mistakes, but Jane persevered. “There were times when it didn’t work and I got stressed and threw the lot in the bin. “But it has to be perfect, especially when I’ve been commissioned work.

Jane keeps her clients updated with every step of the journey on canvas by showing them sketches and sending photographs of the artwork while it’s being completed. So far, everyone that has commissioned a painting from Jane has been delighted with her work. From painting portraits to designing artwork for bars and album covers, Jane welcomes the weird and wonderful – there’s virtually nothing she will turn down.

J Red Artworks Mag Shots-6.jpg

“I love it when people ask me to design and paint really offbeat things. Then I can use my imagination, rather than when I work from a photo,” she says, showing me some images on her phone.

“This one is a woman in an alien spacecraft with an alien baby, riding a luminous green dragon with a top hat and cane next to lady playing guitar. That’s what they wanted.”


Jane worked as an apprentice in a tattoo parlour before her painting career took off, but is taking a break from her needles to work from home while her daughter is still young. She plans to take up tattooing again in the future.

“Tattooing is my passion and I think you can see that in a lot of my paintings. It can be difficult because you’re hurting someone, so you have to get over that. Not anyone can do it, and you can’t get it wrong!”


So if Jane could speak to her art teacher now, what would she say?

She laughs: “The school failed its Ofsted reports and closed its doors to become an academy. So what did they know?”

Details of how to buy paintings can be found at the J Red Artworks Facebook page.