"Painting is an amazing art, it employs a small flat surface, transforms it with a few colours and lo and behold we are transported into the third dimension. This never fails to amaze me. I will never forget the moment at Art College when I suddenly began to see like an artist for the first time and my life became indelibly transformed. The medium of watercolour is likewise amazing: the less you try to paint the subject matter, the better it looks; the more you exploit the medium the better the results. I like a challenge and watercolour painting is one that can never be conquered. Just when you think you know how to paint it usually all goes wrong again and you have to re learn what you thought you already knew. Far from being depressing I find this exhilarating, here is an art you can pursue for life, one that will entertain and enrich forever." Hazel Soan 2008
Hazel was born in Woking and grew up in Surrey. From an early age she drew and painted, using whatever medium she found at hand. Her first sales were psychedelic posters to the Boys School nearby. From her teens she knew she wished to pursue an artistic career but had no knowledge of living artists. It was only at Art College that she realised it was possible to make a life out of painting. Glimpsing a confidential report in the secretary's office that said "Hazel has schoolgirl enthusiasm and romantic ideals about being an artist" provided the catalyst.
Within a year of her graduation she was earning her living by her paintings and soon had her first show in London, where her watercolours sold out in the opening hour. She followed this with regular exhibitions, heeding the advice of one of her College lecturers: "Always have an exhibition on the horizon". He also told her to make sure she had a studio of her own, where she could work uninterrupted, and to use the freedom of an artistic life to travel in order to avoid getting into a rut. She followed all three words of advice. Since then she has had many successful solo and mixed shows mostly in London but also as far afield as Venezuela and Zimbabwe. She has a light-filled studio and gallery in West London and a studio in Cape Town, and has travelled widely throughout the world, especially in Southern Africa.
Her chief inspiration is found in the way in which light strikes and the shapes of light and dark tones thus created. Gentle nuances of shade or dynamic contrasts of tone are equally enthralling. She will find subject matter anywhere but rarely among the obviously picturesque. She prefers to paint the mundane, even if the setting is exotic- the whisper between two Malawi fisherwomen, rather than the fishermen returning at sunset. But the physical subject is never the real subject, what she seeks out are the patterns of light and shade and these can be found everywhere and anywhere.
From the 1980s onward Hazel's work was published as cards, reproductions and limited edition prints. Publishers included Athena, Bancrest, Rosentiels, London Contemporary Art, Christies and several American publishers. This took her work around the world.
Hazel always loved the written word and began writing articles and books about painting in the 1990s. Analysing visual practice became an interesting challenge. She has now written 10 books, mostly on watercolour, almost all published by HarperCollins. She currently writes a bi-monthly article for Kunst for Alle, one of Norway's leading Art magazines and contributes articles to magazines, such as The Artist and Leisure Painter.
In 1996, with a desire to communicate her passion to a wider audience, Hazel took up the offer of her own television series Splash of Colour with Anglia TV. This propelled her into the public eye and later brought her the role as an Art Expert on Channnel 4s ever popular painting programme Watercolour Challenge. Her natural enthusiasm and engaging personality won the hearts of millions of viewers and her talents as a communicator made her much in demand for lectures, workshops, painting holidays and demonstrations, taking her from the QE2 to the Kalahari Desert..
Hazel's collectors are worldwide and her work is held in public collections, including the National Portrait Gallery. A significant part of Hazel's artwork is by commission, for the last 10 years she has painted the Ritz Club Calendar for the Ritz Hotel, London Many other works hang in hotels, hospitals and other public and corporate buildings, including the huge murals that grace the atrium of the Durban Hilton in South Africa and the Black Christ hanging in Nazareth House.
Hazel's Christian faith fuels her passion for painting and inspires many of her ideas. She believes that painting gives the individual a chance to be a creator, albeit in a miniscule way, but enough to understand the making, from nothing, of something of value. The transformation of white paper into a painting fills her with a wonder that never fails to enthrall. It is this thrill that is contagious and has inspired so many people to paint, many of whom have gone on to paint professionally themselves.
Over the years Hazel has made a number of video and DVD films on painting. She has recently teamed up with Townhouse TV to make her latest DVD film, Watercolour Weekend, which brings together all the advice, confidence-building and encouragement that she can possibly fit into one and a half hours. Aware that many people go out painting with great expectations and high hopes yet quickly become demoralized, she has taken a weekend on the North Norfolk Coast, in some of Britain's favourite seaside locations, to show you how to approach watercolour without getting daunted, how to get the most out of the medium, the time and the location. Watching and listening to Hazel you cannot help but be inspired. Her enthusiasm is indeed contagious. Be warned, painting is addictive!