"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 into 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, aged just 17, I left our small village in Lancashire excited to see what lay ahead.
I spent nine years in the Women's Royal Naval Service working as a helicopter mechanic and in education training support. I left in 1989 to work in retail management and later adult education with a few years between as an art and design technician in a school. But art and writing was always what I wanted to do and in 2015 I decided to leave a stressful job to start my own business as a creative coach, using journaling and planners to help others find a better life balance.
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 commissioned to do a design used on 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 motivation to add artwork to my portfolio.
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 barriers to learning. I discovered that if I allowed them to doodle while I was teaching, they would take in more and sit still longer. 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 agree, most ideas start with a doodle of some kind. I then googled and to my surprise it was available as a business name and email. It was obviously meant to be!
My experience and knowledge of the armed forces, especially the Royal Navy led to several commissions and designs for veterans and 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. such as this Field Gun Crew and Ship presented to the No.1 Trainer by that year's 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 Conflict for a RN sailor who was onboard that memorable 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 unexpected meaningful details that are part of their life story. If only I was a fly on the wall to see their reaction.