Posted by: Kathy Temean | September 14, 2013

Illustrator Saturday – Hazel Mitchell – Book Give-a-Way

hazelbooksigningOne Word Pearl280Back on February 2011, I featured Hazel on this blog. In that short time she has illustrated 14 books, attended conferences all over the world, conducted school visits, and maintains a strong social media presence. I’m really impressed. Thought you would be interested in seeing some of her work and sharing more of her journey. She has also agreed to send a lucky visitor a copy of her latest book ONE WORD PEARL.

Here is Hazel:

Drawing and horses were my great escapes as a youngster. I attended art college in my home country of England. When I left art college I ran away to sea and joined the Royal Navy – they taught me to be a graphic designer.

Now I’m doing what I’ve always dreamed of – illustrating and writing children’s books.

Originally I’m from Scarborough in Yorkshire, UK. I came America in 2000 and now I live and work in Maine.  I still miss fish and chips and mushy peas, (but I’m learning to love lobster). I have two dogs, two horses, a cat and several snow shovels.

Some of my books have won awards and my publishers include Charlesbridge/Makinac Island Press, Highlights, ABDO/Magic Wagon, Kane and Miller, Freespirit, Beacon Publishing, Reading A-Z and SCBWI.

hazelOne Word Pearl Cover

And I have Great News for all of you. Hazel has agreed to give away a signed copy of ONE WORD PEARL. Anyone that leaves a comment will get their name put in the hat one time. If you would like to collect more entries into the hat you can do the following:

1 entry everything you tweet this link (One a day).

1 entry for putting this link on facebook

1 entry for putting up this post on your blog.

2 entries if you reblog this post.

5 entries if you talk about the book on your facebook page or blog.

Please come back to leave an update on what you did by next Friday in the comment section, so I know how many times to put your name in the hat for the drawing. I will announce the winner on Sunday September 22nd.

hazelProcess 1

First rough draft with basic text placement.

hazelProcess 2

Transfer to light box and trace off.

hazelProcess 3

Pencil the background and some light and shade and scan into photoshop.

hazelProcess  4

I add the characters as a separate layer.

hazelProcess 5

Colour the background digitally and adding some texture. The marble floor is a watercolour wash I created on yupo and scanned.

hazelProcess  6

The characters get their colour. I use multiple on layer to reveal the pencil lines beneath.

hazelProcess  7

Window glass is another layer of salted texture watercolour, again scanned.

hazelProcess 8The wall texture is scanned rice paper that had a great texture. I change the colour with an overlay tool and the shadows are added in another multiple layer on top of that!

hazelProcess 9Lastly I add in the ‘letters’ around the door. Each is on a layer of it’s own so I can jiggle it around and set them to different opacity to give the effect that they are floating. This spread had 35 layers.

hazelProcess 9

The final spread with text.

hazelProcess 10

Title page below:

hazelOne Word Pearl Title page

How long have you been illustrating?

I’ve been illustrating trade books for children since 2010, but I’ve always worked in graphic/commercial illustration.

hazelOne Word Pearl Interior 1

I see you grew up in England and attended Art College in the UK. Can you tell us a little bit about that school?

Well, here’s the thing, I didn’t enjoy Art College a great deal. The college I went to was very fine arts directed and apart from graphics, illustration courses were never mentioned. In fact, how to get into children’s illustration was the red headed stepchild. I didn’t have a great time and in my second year I found myself on a glass blowing course, of all things. So I am afraid I drifted rather (I hated glass blowing!) and finally left college altogether in my second year.
I WAS very lucky though. In my years from 16 -18 I had an excellent art teacher who was an artist himself and his classes gave me an excellent grounding in the basics, as did my first year at art college. So I always felt like I had 4 years of study. We don’t all have a perfect journey, but it is the journey that matters.

hazelOne Word Pearl Interior 2

What classes were your favorites?

Looking back I can see that my favorite classes were those that let my imagination run free. I enjoyed life drawing and learning techniques and all that, but what I really loved was exploring story … only I didn’t know it then, and my tutors did not pick up on it.

hazelOne Word Pearl Interior 3

Did the School help you get work?

Alas, as I did not finish the course I didn’t have chance to know if they would or not. But I have been in touch with several people I went to college with, who finished and got good degrees. How many are working in an art based field today? … not many.

hazelOne Word Pearl Interior 4

Do you feel that the classes you took there have influenced you style?

I really feel like my style was influenced by my teacher from 16-18. He loved classic illustrations, Victorian and Edwardian artists, the pre-raphaelites and William Morris. Those are the kind of images that formed my basic drawing technique.

hazelOne Word Pearl Interior 5

What was the first thing you did where someone paid you for your artwork?

Ha! The same art teacher got me a commission in a cafeteria right on the oceanside in the  town I grew up in. It was a mural of seaside life, right above the counter. I had to paint the whole thing up stepladders at the weekends in the winter. Looking back it was quite a thing to do for a 17 yr. old girl. I think I got a couple of hundred pounds for it. Last time I went back to my hometown they’d knocked down the café and built a sewage filtration plant there! Great!

hazelOne Word Pearl Interior 6

You say in your bio that you learned graphic art in the Royal Navy. I know you like to kid around. Is this the truth? If so, what made you sign up for that?

And that, Kathy, IS the honest truth! After I drifted out of college I worked with horses for a while (my second love after art), but it was going nowhere. My brother, who was serving in the Royal Navy, suggested I go to a recruitment office and see if they’d anything I would be good for. I never expected to end up as a graphic designer! They looked at my past experience and I was placed in a trade working with civil servant graphic officers. I learned from some excellent artists and did all kinds of things from technical drawings of helicopters to exhibition work and all kinds of general stationery and manuals. Also I got to paint portraits of senior officers for their leaving gifts – I even got to do a painting for Princess Anne which I presented to her when she visited the Naval Base. So, I was extremely lucky and I enjoyed every minute of my 6 year’s service.

hazelOne Word Pearl Interior 7

What was the first illustration work you did for children?

The first book I was commissioned to work on was ‘How to talk to an Autistic Kid’ by Daniel Stefanski from Freespirit Publishing.

hazelOne Word Pearl Interior 8

How did that come about?

Simple answer … from a postcard I mailed out that hit the Art Director on the day he was looking for an artist.

hazelOne Word Pearl End Page

When did you decide you wanted to illustrate a children’s book?

I think I always wanted to do it from being a child. I made up my own stories and drew the pictures. I made comics for my class mates later. But I began to take it seriously in about 2002.

hazel1, 2, 3 by the Sea cover

What made you move to the United States?

My husband is American, originally from NJ, a couple of years after we met, we married and I moved to America.

hazel1, 2, 3 by the Sea Interior 1

It seems you have had a very success last two years with having six books published.  Two were published by Kane Miller. How did those contracts come your way?

I just counted up and that’s about right, plus I did several educational jobs. No wonder I feel like a holiday! It’s been quite a roll. They came in several ways … postcard mailouts to editors and art directors (which is how Kane Miller found me for the 4 book chapter series ‘All Star Cheerleaders’ by Anastasia Suen). Also from my work being seen on social networks and blogs, and also from conference contacts.

hazel1, 2, 3 by the Sea Interior 2

Three of your books have been published with Charlesbridge. Your first being Hidden New Jersey by Linda Barth. Can you tell us the story behind you getting this job?

This book came to me after being spotted on Facebook by Anne Margaret Lewis, the developer for Charlesbridge’s imprint Mackinac Island Press. She saw my regular sketch posts and was looking for an illustrator who liked detail!

hazel1, 2, 3 by the Sea Interior 3

Did you do anything specific to influence Charlesbridge into asking you to illustrate One Word Pearl?

I was asked after they published Hidden New Jersey if I would be interested in Pearl and I jumped at it!

hazel1, 2, 3 by the Sea Interior 4

Same question as above, but for you next book with them – Imani’s Moon coming out next year.

Again, I was offered the m/s and I love it! I am really looking forward to illustrating Imani’s Moon .. it’s something totally new for me, and I am looking forward to doing something different (again!)

hazel1, 2, 3 by the Sea Interior 5

How did you get the contract to do Double Crossed at Cactus Flats by Rich Williams with ABDO?

This came from a postcard I gave to a marketing person on ABDO’s booth at ALA midsummer. They needed someone to illustrate a cowboy book and I happened to give them a postcard with horses on it! You never know when Karma is working for you!!

hazel1, 2, 3 by the Sea Interior 6

Have you worked for educational publishers?

I have done several online pdf educational books.

hazel1, 2, 3 by the Sea Interior 7

Have you done any work for children’s magazines?

Yes, I recently did a ‘What’s Wrong’ spread for Highlights.

hazel1, 2, 3 by the Sea Interior 8

What was your first book?

How to Talk to an Autistic Kid by Daniel Stefanski from Free Spirit Publishing.

hazelAutistic Kid Cover

Do you have an artist rep or an agent? Could you tell us how they found you? If you don’t have a rep. would you like to find one?

I have been working under my own steam for the last four years. I have been looking for an agent on and off, but haven’t clicked with anyone yet. (It’s SO like dating!) I am writing my own books now and I have been holding out for a literary agent, rather than a rep. But my projects keep getting pushed aside while I work on commissioned books. Not that I am complaining, it’s a jolly nice problem to have!

hazelAutistic Kid in Japanese

Would you ever like to write and illustrate your own book?

Yes, definitely. I have a ton of ideas and just need to get on with finishing some of them! I love writing. Doing the 2 things together seems the natural progression for me.

hazelAutistic Kid Interior 1

Are you open to illustrating for self-published authors?

I have illustrated several self-published books in the past, but now I am concentrating on trade books and, in the future, I hope my own author/illustrator projects. However I am not ruling out a great project, I just finished a MG book this year for a book developer that’s a lot of fun, but it’s not strictly ‘self-published’.

hazelAutistic Kid Interior 2

What types of things do you do to find illustration work?

Mostly mail outs of postcards and tear sheets. Plus social networking and attending conferences and trade shows.

hazelAll Star Cheerleader Covers

What is your favorite medium to use?

I have mostly been working in pencil and digital colour, but I love mixed media and it’s turning up in my work more and more. I also love ink brush/pen.

hazelAll Star Cheerleader Interior 1

Not counting your paint and brushes, what is the one thing in your studio that you could not live without?

My Wacom tablet.

hazelAll Star Cheerleader Interior 2

I have watched you since you were featured on Illustrator Saturday and wonder how you can do so much. It looks like you are always flying all over the world, doing conferences and workshops, communicating with your friends and fans on many social media sites, and doing school visits, all while you are illustrating children’s books. How do you find the time to do everything you do?

This is a good question. The thing is, I never feel like I am doing enough! I guess I have always been a workaholic, since I was in the Navy and then running a print and design business. I love what I do now and wish I’d had the courage to begin much sooner – so I am making up lost time. I also have no children at home, so that maybe frees me up. I HAVE learned that I need to get away and have time out, though, else the work suffers and so do I!

hazelAll Star Cheerleader Interior 3

Have you ever won an award for your writing or illustrating?

To date ‘How to Talk to an Autistic Kid’ has garnered the most awards of my books including a ForeWord Review’s Gold Medal, Learning Magazine’s Award and was a finalist in ‘Books for a Better Life’. I have also been awarded places in SCBWI illustration contests in New England.

hazelAll Star Cheerleader Interior 4

Do you take pictures or do any research before you start a project?

I take pictures if I can or do research online/library. I make mood boards and for ‘Imani’s Moon’ I am using Pinterest to make reference boards.

hazelAll Star Cheerleader Interior 5

Do you think the Internet has opened doors for you?



Do you use Photoshop with your illustrations?

Yes I do … most of my work is put together from hand drawn elements scanned into photoshop. For One Word Pearl I used a lot of collage and textures and photoshop was indispensable. I have used it since the 1980’s in all sorts of design work. Now it is integral to my illustration.

hazelDouble Crossed Interior 1cropped

Do you own or have you ever tried a graphic Drawing Tablet?

I use a Wacom Intuos tablet.

hazelDouble Crossed Interior 2cropped

Do you think your style has changed over the years? Have your material changed?

Yes it has, even in the last four years. In some ways I find I am going back to how I drew when I was in my formative years, with freedom and before all that graphic design tightened me up. A lot of knowledge on craft has come to me from attending conferences and workshops, reading and looking at illustration. Naturally you change. I tend not to have just one style, and I can’t help but feel one style is a bore … producing the same thing time and again. (Maybe that is why I am not repped 😉 I don’t like pigeonholes). Every manuscript is different. So therefore it seems essential that the voice in the illustrations matches the writer’s voice.

hazelDouble Crossed Interior 3cropped

How do you market yourself?

I try to be consistent and keep at it! I mailout postcards, keep my social networks and portfolio ticking over and updated. I mail schools and I invest in myself and my career by going to conferences/retreats as well as being asked to be on faculty these days (which is wonderful and amazing!).

hazelHidden NJ Cover

Do you have any career dreams that you want to fulfill?

To see something I have written and illustrated on the bookshelf. That will do for now. Oh and I would like a theme park about one of my books, please ;-).

hazelHidden NJ Interior 1

What are you working on now?

Right now I am beginning the initial character and layout on ‘Imani’s Moon’. My personal WIP’s include a graphic novel and a MG adventure/mystery. Oh, and several PB’s at various stages of un-finished-ness.

hazelHidden NJ Interior 2

Do you have any material type tips you can share with us? Example: Paint or paper that you love – the best place to buy – a new product that you’ve tried – A how to tip, etc.

Hmmm …

1 – If for some reason you are drawing with a mouse – get a tablet! Do you want carpal tunnel??
2 – Use the best materials you can. It makes a difference. From pencils to paper.
3 – Keep EVERY little sketch and reference and take photos of how you are working on a book or project. You never know when it will come in handy for promotion/school visits etc.
4 – Try YUPO paper for interesting watercolour techniques.
5 – Try something new … a new paper, an alternative to paper (ie anything at  all!), if you have never used oils, give them a go. If you always draw with pencil, try a big crayon. Keep experimenting, keep fresh.

hazelHidden NJ Interior 3

Any words of wisdom on how to become a successful writer or illustrator?

It’s about the journey. Even the rejections, the late nights, the tears, the failures. Pick yourself up and keep on drawing or writing and of all the highs and lows the steadiness of the work will move you along and give you the greatest enjoyment. Oh, and don’t forget to show people your work!

hazelHidden NJ Interior 4

Hope you enjoyed meeting Hazel Mitchell (aka The Wacky Brit).  You can see more of her work at . If you’d like to talk to Hazel about an illustration project, a visit to your school or library, buy a book, or just say ‘hi’ you can email Hazel at

Hazel, thank you for sharing your journey, books, and process with us.

Don’t miss out on winning an autographed copy of ONE WORD PEARL. Leave a comment for Hazel and you automatically are entered.

Talk tomorrow,



  1. Wonderfully interesting interview. I love Hazel’s Illustrations and will definitely be looking for some of her books.


  2. Thanks for introducing us to Hazel’s amazing work. Barbara


  3. I love your work, Hazel! I’ve been tuning in every week and seen lots of different artists styles and must say yours is unique and fascinating. I’m an author with little to no illustration abilities so I’m so jealous! Keep up the good work!


    • Thanks Allyn, I love seeing all the artist’s work too! And I am jealous of writers.


  4. Such wonderful, fun illustrations! And great interview.


  5. Reblogged this on Darlene Beck-Jacobson and commented:
    I hope you enjoy this great interview with Illustrator Hazel Mitchell.


  6. Dear Kathy,
    Thanks for the awesome interview with wonderfully talented illustrator, Hazel Mitchell. I posted this on Facebook and on Twitter..

    Dear Hazel, Thank you for sharing your amazing illustrations and how you do them. Good luck with all of your future projects.

    Never Give Up
    Joan Y. Edwards


    • That’s lovely Joan, thank you. And I WON’T!!!


    • Joan,

      Congratulations! You are the winner of Hazel’s ONE WORD PEARL. It is on today’s blog post. Please send me your address, so Hazel can send it out to you.



  7. Oh, my! Such delightful illustrations. Pearl is a charming, sweet looking little girl. I will definitely spend some time checking out Hazel’s website. Well done.


  8. Hazel, I follow your blog and I must say your story is inspiring and your art is delightful.


    • Thank you Tracy .. we all have our own journeys, right?


  9. Pearl is simply enchanting, as is all of Hazel’s work. Thanks for posting this.


  10. Thank you so much for sharing your process. I really appreciate your generosity and candidness. One Word Pearl is gorgeous.


  11. What a great interview! Love your work, Hazel. Thanks for sharing so many tips.


  12. PEARL looks like a winner! Thanks for this fun, info-packed interview 🙂


  13. It’s always really interesting to see how an illustrator works on a picture book. I had no idea about the layering process, so much time and effort for one picture – very impressive. Thanks for sharing your work Hazel.
    I would really like to know how Pearl tackles the word tornado now!


    • Thanks Catherine … it’s my way of working, not everyone’s, that’s what keeps it interesting!


  14. Great interview! I love your artworks Hazel! You are multitalented and a beautiful person! Thanks for sharing your process.


  15. I just recently became RE-aware of Hazel and her work, and when I googled her, your original interview came up, Kathy! lol SO glad to see you here again, Hazel and YOU BET I’m leaving a comment to maybe win a copy of ONE WORD PEARL! lol


  16. This is a fantastic post! I am just starting along and its nice to hear that you don’t have to have an agent, that you can send postcards, and network and just keep on drawing what you love to draw. I love Hazel’s style, now that I’ve seen it – and its really neat to see the process behind the finished art. I’ll have to work on scanning textures to add more to my own art. I would love to have a copy of the book, it looks like a fun story to boot!

    I’ll also tweet it.


  17. Joan never got back about the book, so put everyone in again and this time, Robin Newman is the winner as long as she responds with her address.


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