Spotlight: Gail Jones, Starkeys Lane

From her studio in rural Buckinghamshire, artist and illustrator, Gail Jones, founded Starkeys Lane — the creative hub of her beautiful artwork, illustration and luxury stationery. Her range of thoughtfully designed and delicately illustrated work has captured the hearts of many, with her recent Botanical Alphabet range, painted in watercolour, now available on Not on the High Street. We caught up with Gail to find out more about her journey into illustration, her love of all things botanical and what she’s working on at the moment.

Tell us your story, Gail. How did you get into the world of art and illustration?

I have always been creative ever since I was little. When I was five years old my primary school teacher told my parents I was destined to do something with art in the future!

Fast forward a few years, I graduated from university with a textiles degree in screen printing and went on to become a fashion stylist and illustrator. After taking a career break to have children, I returned to my passion for art and over the past few years have held several art exhibitions selling art for interiors, alongside my work as a freelance illustrator.

Gail Jones, founder of Starkeys Lane, illustrating at home in her studio in rural Buckinghamshire
Gail at work in her studio in rural Buckinghamshire

Can you tell us a little bit about your work and what you do?

I started my business Starkeys Lane in January 2015. I wanted to create a brand as a way of bringing my artwork to life through stationery, homeware and original and beautiful art prints. Over the last three years, my business has evolved, and I now work from my art studio in Buckinghamshire as a freelance illustrator alongside selling fine art prints, stationery and large-scale art for interiors.

A hand-illustrated botanical alphabet letter 'B' by Gail Jones, Starkeys Lane
A framed illustration from the Starkeys Lane alphabet collection available from Not on the High Street

What do you love the most about your vocation?

Time flies when I am illustrating or creating a piece of artwork. My style is detailed and natural and I love stepping back seeing the illustration or art piece taking shape. I love having fresh flowers and natural objects on my desk in amongst paint palettes and brushes. The more interesting my desk is the better, as it sparks creativity. I am a bit of a magpie and collector.

A self-confessed magpie and collector, Gail's desk is full of fresh materials and natural objects
A self-confessed magpie and collector, Gail’s desk is full of inspirational fresh materials

Walk us through the day in your life as an illustrator

After getting the children to school, I will come back home to my art studio. If my desk or studio is a mess I usually have to tidy it before I start work otherwise I can’t concentrate!

When I am working on a project I usually prefer working from fresh flowers, leaves or natural objects so sometimes I will go to my favourite local florist to buy some flowers or see what I can forage from my garden or countryside around me. The morning will be spent getting an accurate pencil illustration before I start to watercolour. I photograph my stages of illustration for reference and also the subject I am illustrating.

Coffee sees me through the morning and tea through the afternoon and I have always got some music on as background noise. In the afternoon I will try and get as much watercolour painting done as possible before I have to get the children from school. As soon as the light fades I stop painting until the next day but I will often do some more pencil illustration in the evenings to get ahead.

A water-coloured botanical letter postcard from the Starskey Lane alphabet collection

We can see that you adore flowers; do you have a favourite variety?

I don’t have one favourite variety, there are so many I love! But to name some favourites, I love astilbe, black centred anemones and hellebores. I am always drawn to flowers with either a vintage, dusky shade or dark hues rather than bright colours.

What’s the secret to illustrating botanical art?

I always photograph what I am illustrating from as many angles as possible. In some cases when an illustration is really detailed and taking a long time, I need reference photos in case it dies before I have finished!

 

Hand-illustrated botanical wedding stantionary by Gail Jones, Starkeys Lane
Bespoke eucalyptus and protea-inspired wedding stationery

 

What are you working towards at the moment?

There are lots of exciting things happening this year. I have been commissioned to produce some illustrations for a book and I am also working with some business brands on botanical illustrations for packaging and branding, plus working with some lovely clients on their wedding stationery. It’s a busy and inspiring year!

Spotlight: Gail Jones, Starkeys Lane
Gail Jones, Starkeys Lane