Hazel Soan grew up in the UK and graduated with a BA hons in Fine Art after studying painting at Camberwell and Leicester Art Colleges.She was awarded the Holbrook Trust Prize from Nottingham Museum and Art Gallery in 1976 and within a year of her graduation, she was earning a living by her paintings, and her watercolours sold out within the first hour of her first exhibition in London. Hazel has since held over 20 solo exhibitions, heeding the advice of one of her college professors - ‘Always have an exhibition on the horizon’. She has held exhibitions from as far afield as Namibia, Venezuela, South Africa & Zimbabawe to closer to home in the UK. She took advice from the same lecturer when he told her to have a studio of her own where she could work uninterrupted and also to travel in order to avoid getting in a rut. She now has a studio in West London and another in Cape Town.
Hazel has always loved the written word and began writing articles and books about painting in the 1990’s. Analysing visual practice became an interesting challenge. She has now written 15 books, mostly on watercolour, published by HarperCollins and Batsford-Pavilion. She contributes articles regularly to magazines such as The Artist and the Leisure Painter and wrote a bimonthly article for the leading Art Magazine, Kunst, in Norway.
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 Channel 4’s 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.
A significant part of Hazel’s artwork is by commission, for 10 years she 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 two huge murals that grace the atrium of the Durban Hilton in South Africa and the Black Christ hanging in Nazareth House.
She has participated in numerous mixed exhibitions including the Royal Academy, Barbican, Midland Open, Mall Galleries, many London and provincial galleries, USA and Tokyo.
The main themes of her contemporary, figurative oils and watercolours explore the individual and group shapes of people, animals and landscapes, surrounded or backed by light. Her work is represented in private, public and corporate collections worldwide, including the National Portrait Gallery in London, who acquired her ink drawing of the photographer Bill Brandt for its collection.
Hazel has been travelling in Africa since 1981 and now shares her life between London and Cape Town. For many years Hazel has been passionate about the African Continent. Her painting forays have taken her into Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Malawi and South Africa. Whilst on safari she paints in watercolour for speed and ease of transport but creates larger works and paintings in oil and acrylic back in her studio.
The people of Africa and their association with each other features prominently in much of her work. Especially in paintings from the Cape & Malawi. The Cape Peninsula has also been an important inspiration.