Lads and Lasses We Love – Gail Armstrong

April 1st 2019, 9:15am

Tell us a bit about yourself and what you do
When I was young I told people that when I grew up I wanted to be an artist and writer. I spent my last few years at school compiling a portfolio for art college. That’s all I wanted to do. Until one day while waiting for my results, I saw an advert for the Royal Navy. The next day I snook away to the careers office, got the paperwork and announced to my parents over tea that I was going to join the Navy, and a year later I did, as an aircraft engineer working on Search and Rescue helicopters for nine years.

After that I went into retail management and then adult education, working mostly with young adults on apprenticeships. Three years ago I felt it was time to do something different and decided to start my own business, taking a leap of faith to do the things I said I wanted to do ‘when I grew up’. I began to deliver creative journaling workshops combining life coaching techniques with art and writing. While doing these I joined an art class and surprised even myself with the artwork I produced. 

Around the same time, I bought an iPad Pro and Apple pencil and decided to have a go at digital artwork. My very first drawing, Blyth beach huts is now my most successful piece and has been bought by many people to send around the world to family and friends as well as by visitors to Blyth.

Tell us about your business
My business, Start With a Doodle, has developed over the last two years into more commission work for business and private clients who are looking for something a little different and unique. This ranges from logos and social media images to personal pieces of artwork to be given as gifts or commemorate a special occasion. I have a range of local Northumbrian artwork that I sell through a successful art and gift shop in Blyth and via my website. I add to this as and when I have time between commissions. I also do quirky doodle artwork for cards and prints.

What are the most sparkly bits of what you do?
The most sparkly bits of my job are the commissions where I get really involved and can add personal things that make it extra special. Sometimes people tell me that the recipient was really emotional when they saw their artwork for the first time. Knowing I created something to trigger a happy moment or re-live a precious memory makes my heart sing. 

What are the biggest challenges you face running your business?
The biggest challenge for me is juggling my work around other commitments. As well as having a family I am Chairman of a Royal British Legion branch and so sometimes I have to manage time so that I am able to do artwork at my most creative times of the day. Often at the kitchen table at 6am as I’m too tired in the evening.  

What have been your biggest achievements and how have you celebrated them?
My biggest achievement was being commissioned to create a drawing to be presented to the trainer of the HMS Prince of Wales Field Gun Crew last year. What began as an enquiry for a print of a previous drawing became a trip to Rosyth Dockyard to hand deliver the framed artwork and present to the trainer myself. I also got to see the partly-built aircraft carrier and was asked to do more artwork. Being ex-Royal Navy, that was a really big thing for me.

What are your goals – for yourself and your business?
My goals are to continue to work with commissions and start to use different media not just digital. I would love to have my own studio/gallery where I could meet clients and have more space to paint. To fulfil my dream I am going to write and publish a book. This is in progress and is based on my experience in the Royal Navy, and maybe illustrate it too. This year I intend to explore the possibility of giving talks on journaling techniques to groups. I really enjoy sharing my passion for writing and creativity with others to help them make the most of their lives.

What is your favourite place in the North East and why?
I love living on the Northumberland coast and spend a lot of time on the beach with my two whippets, Kizzy and Blue. Blyth has such an interesting history, harbour and quayside and it’s only a few miles inland to lush green countryside and The Cheviots too.

Who puts a Sparkle in your eye?! 
The Sparkle in my eyes comes from spending time with people who remind me of what I can achieve. The first time I had a 1–2–1 with Nicola really brought home to me the importance of having a mentor and people who challenge you to overcome hurdles. I’m my own worst enemy at times and really don’t see what all the fuss is about. There are lots of much better artists out there than me, but people seem to like what I do and that makes me so happy to be able to do something that people appreciate.

​You can connect with Gail on FacebookInstagram and Pinterest.


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