Kent Life meets Ware-based artist Jane Ford

Painting in oils, inks and a 'secret ingredient', Kent artist Jane Ford has an unforgettable style with elements of the Gothic and Renaissance

Kent Life meets Ware-based artist Jane Ford

Painting in oils, inks and a ‘secret ingredient’, Jane Ford has an unforgettable style with elements of the Gothic and Renaissance 

Jane Ford’s studio in Ware, not far from Sandwich, takes full advantage of Kent’s delights. Custom built it has windows, light and views over the surrounding fields, where sheep and horses graze. Bucolic to say the least!

Jane has been in Kent for 10 years. She is adamant that she has never wanted to live and work in London: “absolutely not!”

However there are advantages to where she lives and works. It is easy to get into London, easy to get to Gatwick, as Jane has good links with the Galleria San Maurizio on Dorsoduro in Venice. Jane likes the views, including over the Sandwich Marshes which “can be very bleak in winter, but I like that.”

Jane is also represented by three good galleries in the county: the Val Gould Gallery in Sandwich, the Singing Soul Gallery in Cranbrook and West End House in Smarden, where you can see her work. Each May Jane alos exhibits with the Pilgrims Way Artists in the fabulous tythe barn in Lenham.

Most Read

Brought up in the Potteries, Jane’s father worked for Spode and was instrumental in firing her interest in illustration. For Jane, however, it was more in the line of traditional fine art that she focused on, attending College at Newcastle-under-Lyme. She became the first woman apprentice in a publishing company with the union Slade. “It meant I could be at art school two days a week and I had to work four. The two days were Fine Art, rather than the illustration which I was doing at work. This was a traditional apprenticeship of seven years. It was vital for me.”

I use sunflower and walnut oils because I like my paintings to look translucent, the old Italian Renaissance effect

This is the word Jane also uses when I ask if she thinks formal art training is important. “I think if you are trained to draw and paint in the traditional way you can paint in any medium and any subject and it gives you a wide range of ability when it comes to galleries and exhibitions.”

Jane has exhibited extensively and has had work in the Affordable Art Fair, the Dublin Art Fair, and in the galleries mentioned above.

Jane’s media are oils and ink “with a secret ingredient” so secret she doesn’t want to let on. “With oils I was taught never to use turps or white spirit because it affects the paint, it could become patchy and you need to varnish to get the translucence back. 

“I use sunflower oil and walnut oil because I like my paintings to look translucent, the old Italian Renaissance effect.”

The inks, on the other hand, “free me up: I can become loose – a lot looser with the way I paint. There’s always a surprise with the ink. I draw it out in pencil, use Arche paper, a very heavy paper, cover it all with water, drip the ink in, add the secret ingredient and how that lands will determine the painting: it is completely different from oil.”

Of both these media, Jane admits: “It stretches my abilities. I try to stretch my abilities and will go out of my way to find a different subject to paint. I’ve been doing this for 40 years and it’s a way of improving. Oils are a lovely medium.”

We touch on the genre Jane works in. She dubs this Gothic, or Renaissance. Certainly her portraits have elements of the artist Arcimboldo, yet there is a clean and clear aspect to these which lean towards the hyperreal or even the surreal and her girls remind me of the masks worn in the Venice carnival.

A new series of paintings is called the Cabinet of Curiosities and Jane cites Edgar Allan Poe - “but not as dark”, she adds.

There are problems in painting portraits, especially finding the sitters or models. “I try to go for Renaissance-style faces, Greek, Italian or possibly French.”

The process of painting begins with a protracted period of research. For example, the New York series, a resplendent set of buildings, necessitated research into the buildings, the architects and the styles.

For the series of owls, Jane will trawl the internet for information. “Unlike a lot of artists I am meticulous in the studio and I have to have brushes in a certain place, wear the same clothes. I have lucky brushes and if for example I see jays or rooks in the garden, I know the painting will turn out well.”

Each piece of work, however, is the most exciting. “When I stop being excited about a painting, I stop, something inside says stop now. I rarely go back to a piece.”

Jane has developed her own style and once you have seen her work you will recognise it again and again: wild and bright.

Jane will be running workshops on Painting and Drawing for the Terrified at the Singing Soul Gallery in Cranbrook, for those who have never painted but always wanted to. So if you are interested, you will have an experienced teacher for your first steps.


Jane Ford’s studio is at 2 Downfield Cottages, Ware, near Ash CT2 2LZ, 07932 533401 or Please make an appointment before visiting..

Jane’s work can be seen at Val Gould Gallery, 35 Harnet Street. Sandwich CT13 9ES, 01304 611104/07980 665052 or valgould13@btinternet.

Singing Soul Gallery, 19 Stone Street, Town Centre Cranbrook TN17 3HF,‎

01580 714551

West End House, Water Lane, Smarden, Ashford TN27 8 QB, 01233 770261