Why did you want to write Watercolour Rainbow?
There are many books on colour but they do not actually explain the properties of the pigments and why you would choose one particular red or blue, say, over another similar red or blue. This book explains why, and how to combine colours together for maximum clarity and radiance. From the response I have had it seems to have hit the mark.

You have a new exhibition opening in May, can you tell us about it?
The exhibition brings together paintings, mostly in watercolour, from the last couple of years while I was writing Watercolour Rainbow, and afterward. Some of the paintings from the book are featured in the show and then there are paintings from more recent travels to Sri Lanka, Tunisia, Italy and of course Southern Africa where I have a studio. I am obsessed with light and shadow and the patterns and shapes made by their effect on people, things, places, basically everything and anything is fuel for my brush.


What do you love about teaching painting?
I guess the immense joy, even bliss, I get out of painting I want to pass on, simple as that. I hate seeing watercolour paint abused so its partly to protect watercolour as well, and I get the greatest kick out of seeing someone turned on to watercolour  or having their own revelation about something which sends them soaring to new confidence levels. Watercolour provides quite an adrenalin rush and that is an exciting experience to pass on.

Do you have a favourite book that you’ve written?
Oh that’s a hard one, I love writing them all, I  cannot wait to get up in the morning and get on with it. I found writing Watercolour Rainbow more challenging than any other book so far, so I guess in terms of the depth of satisfaction on completion Watercolour Rainbow is my current favourite.

You go abroad quite frequently to paint, where do you enjoy going? Does a change in surroundings help you work?
When I left College my professor told me to make sure I always travelled so as not to get stuck in a rut, I took his advice and as soon as I had earned enough money from sales of paintings I started travelling and have never stopped! I am a sun seeker because I like painting strong contrasts of light and shade and the bleaching effects of the sun on detail, plus I am always amazed at how little light is needed to break up darkness. So in general I travel to places where sunlight is more or less guaranteed  and in that regard it definitely helps my work.


Can you tell us a bit about your new painting DVD? What was it like to work on?
I really enjoy filming. When I am looking into the camera I do not see the lens I see the person/audience I am making the DVD for, its weird, I just start talking to them and get quite carried away usually. It’s always been like that since my days on Splash of Colour. When I have to check over the edit I find I do not think in the first person, ie I am worrying for ‘her’ not me, as I am watching her/myself painting on the DVD, I say things like ’stop, you’ll overwork it’  completely forgetting  its all done and dusted. It’s so strange.

What inspires you to paint?
Ever since I was young I drew and painted with my sisters, I am not sure where the urge comes from but I just have to paint, just want to paint. I am excited by what I see, it hits the stomach first usually, like butterflies rising but really pleasant. I am a figurative painter, drawn to what I see with my eyes, but I love abstract art and I see figurative art as abstract too, ie a pattern of colours and shapes on the flat surface of the paper which just happen, by some kind of coincidence, to look like something in or from the 3D ‘ real’ world.

Do you have any favourite subjects to paint?
Light and shade, strong or subtle contrast, and shapes, both tangible shapes and the intangible shapes of spaces and gaps between them.

Hazel Soan is the author of Learn Watercolour Quickly, Watercolour Rainbow and The Essence of Watercolour.