"When I grow up I want to write books and draw pictures"
Gail Wilkes age 11.
My last years at school were spent creating a portfolio of artwork to help me get a place in art college. However, while waiting for exam results I was invited by a TV advert to 'Join the Navy and see the World'... and so I did, much to the dismay of my art teacher and mixed emotions of my parents. So in 1981 I left our small village in Lancashire for a most fantastic adventure.
I spent nine years in the Women's Royal Naval Service working as a helicopter mechanic and in education training support. I then worked in cosmetics retail management and training until after fifteen years teaching in adult education I finally came full circle and ended up doing what I originally intended to do. Art!
I decided to start going to art classes and at the first one, to my surprise I discovered that I could still draw and paint! I also started to play about with digital artwork on my iPad and was asked to do a design for a local community group for merchandise for the 2015 Tall Ships visit to Blyth, Northumberland (my home since 1990). Seeing my artwork go off to all corners of the globe gave me the push I needed to start up my own business.
For several years I had the name Start With a Doodle in my head. It was conceived in a classroom of 16-19 year olds with a variety of barriers to learning. I discovered that if I allowed them to doodle on paper while I was teaching, they would take in more information and also sit still longer before getting distracted. One day one of the boys walked in and asked "can we start with a doodle miss?" and there it stayed in my head waiting for an opportunity to be used. As any creative person would hopefully agree, all ideas start with a doodle on a scrap of paper or sketchbook, and so I googled it and not one single person was using it as a business name or email. It was meant to be!
My experience and knowledge of the armed forces, especially the Royal Navy led to several commissions and designs for veterans to use on social media, and I am honoured to have been asked by staff on HMS Prince of Wales to create bespoke artwork as leaving gifts for members of the crew.
I love that everything I do is different and often unusual, such as drawing a WW2 tank painted in Picasso's camouflage, or a logo for a whippet breeder in Slovenia. A cartoon strip for a 'super-hero' husband or HMS Hermes coming into Portsmouth after The Falklands for a RN sailor who was onboard that day.
What I love most is making people smile and recall a precious memory when looking at my artwork, be it a local landmark of home sent to someone living abroad, or a commission with lots of personal details. If they shed a tear of joy, then I know I did a great job!