Wednesday, September 4, 2013


I met Hazel through Facebook.  I was drawn to her beautiful characters and sketches that she was always posting.  Since then, she has really become an inspiration to me.  Some of her books have won awards.  

Hazel's book publishers include Charlesbridge/Makinac Island Press, Highlights, ABDO/Magic Wagon, Kane and Miller, Freespirit, Beacon Publishing, Reading A-Z and SCBWI.  and I wanted to let everyone know about her new book, 

 "One Word Pearl" 

Written by  Nicole Groeneweg   
Illustrated by: Hazel Mitchell 

1,) Describe yourself in five words:
Average Height, Blonde, bubbly.

2.) Tell me something about the place where you were born ?
I was born in Scarborough, North Yorkshire, UK. It’s a beautiful and typically English seaside town with a castle on the headland, a lighthouse and fishing harbor. It was a great place to grow up and I spent a lot of my time outdoors on the beach, walking and riding.

Hazel riding on the beach in Yorkshire (Filey)

3.)Did you have a favorite book as a child ?
I loved anything by Enid Blyton. Also Alan Garner, especially Elidor. Chronicles of Narnia. ANY PONY BOOK.

4.) Did you like to draw as a child ? Where you encouraged ?
It was a great escape. I was just left to get on with it really. If I could include drawing in anything I did, I drew.

5.) What is your earliest memory of making art? I don’t have a specific memory. I was just always making things, or drawing or doodling. It just seemed to be natural.

6.) What pictures influenced you as a child ?
I don’t remember many picture books as a child. The Cat in the Hat, Pooh, and classic illustrations in novels. I did love going to the (very small) local art gallery and was mesmerized by the huge painting of Charles 1st on a big grey horse, which was possible a Van Dyck. I collected pictures of horses and covered my bedroom walls with them.
7.) Where you the class artist ? 
At times, yes. I remember being extremely frustrated when I was about 7 and 2 other members of the class where chosen to do a wall mural. I was mad. I think it was the first time I realized there was competition. But if there was art to be done, I was always there. In secondary school we had ‘art’ but it was more kind of here’s some paint and paper, off you go, and nothing structured. So I did my own thing, and it became obvious this was what I was good at and so I was the ‘top artist’. It came as a bit of a shock when I got to Sixth Form (16-18) and found that there were a heck of a lot of good artists around! But it was inspiring and I think I learned an awful lot at that age.

8.) Did your parents draw ?
My mother used to draw little doodles for me. Rabbits and crinoline ladies (like Scarlett O’Hara). Looking back I think she had talent, but in those days, unless you came from an arty family (and not a Northern working class one like me!) you weren’t really encouraged. My Dad thought it was all a waste of time. My brother is a talented artist, but I do not remember him drawing as a child.

9.) Did you go to the public library as a child ?
I LOVED my library. The library in Scarborough was fabulous. In an old sandstone building. I always felt like I was entering hallowed ground. The children’s library had a magical mural of Alice in Wonderland, which, alas, has disappeared now. It was like another world, the smell of the tickets for the books, the echoing quiet, the click of librarian’s heels. A door from the children’s library to the adult library was forbidden, but I used to peer through sometimes. It seemed HUGE, shelves and shelves and shelves of books. When I was old enough to get an adult ticket, it was like I’d come of age. I spent hours there. On my return to my hometown this year I revisited. Oh how SMALL it seems now!

10.)  Did you have books at home as a child?
Unfortunately, not many. My mother used to reminisce about reading Dickens to my brother and sister, but I can’t remember her reading to me, which is sad. Apart from magazines and Reader’s Digest and a few trashy novels, that was it. So the library was my sanctuary. My sister read a lot, but she was much older than me, so I didn’t get the benefit of her books.

11.) Did you have a teacher who influenced or inspired you?
The teacher who inspired me most was my art teacher from 16 to 18 years, David Fulford. I adored him (yeah Art Teacher Crush). He saw potential in my work and made art fun while imparting a lot of knowledge. Plus he painted. He was the first artist I knew. He was responsible for pushing me to pursue a career in art (although it has been somewhat wandering!) I was all for going to work with horses and not go to college, but he rang my mum up and told her I HAD to apply for art college. I guess he was right, because I doubt I would be here illustrating books, now. I would still be mucking out stables ;-). So thanks David!

12.) What did you do BEFORE you got started with children’s book illustrations?
Oh my. Here’s the thing, I dropped out of art college after 2 years. I don’t think I was ready for it. Looking back I had minimal career guidance. It’s so obvious to me now that my work was illustrative, but illustration courses were not available then. I lost interest. Anyway, after a stint working with horses, I joined the Royal Navy and worked as a graphic artist and it was like an apprenticeship! After I left I ran a print and design business and then moved to USA and painted fine art and taught kids for a while.

13.) When did you realize you were interested in illustrating for children?
Now I realize it was when I was about 7. But then later, when I was about 17 I began to think about it, but had no idea how to do it and got lost in doing other things for A LONG TIME.

14.) When did you become an illustrator ?
I have always illustrated. I don’t think you become, I think you just do. I might not have been illustrating children’s books, but I was illustrating. From technical drawing, to wedding stationery to commercial work. And all the little doodles I did in my own time.

15.) How did you get started in picture book illustration?
So, in about 2002 (2 years after I came to America) I started feeling the desire that I had to give it a go. I was too scared to stand in Barnes and Noble’s kids book department, I was so intimidated. But the internet was on the rise. I started getting small jobs with mainly self-publishers and yes, most of the books were awful, but I learned a lot. Then I joined the, went to conferences, began to understand and educate myself on the process and craft of children’s books and the industry. I could even stay in Barnes and Noble for more than 10 minutes. I built a better portfolio and website and began to mail out to editors and art directors. In 2010 I got my first trade book.

16.) What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve been given as an illustrator?

17.) Of the six fundamentals of 2D design (line, shape, volume, perspective,shading, and color):
            a. Which is your greatest strength? LINE.
            b. Which poses your greatest challenge? PERSPECTIVE

18.) Tell us about your new book ?

One Word Pearl is illustrated by me and written by Nicole Groeneweg from Charlesbridge Publishing. It’s the story of a little girl who loves words and collecting words. But one day, most of Pearl’s words are blown away, leaving her only a few which she keeps safely in her treasure chest. After that day, she uses each word carefully—one at a time, until she has no words left. When her teacher asks her questions at school, she doesn’t answer. When her friend wants to know what she has for lunch, she can’t respond. What will Pearl do without her precious words? Will she ever find them?

One Word Pearl explores the power of words to transform, inspire, and cultivate imagination and is the winner of the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) Children’s Book Competition in the Picture Book category.

19.) What inspired you to illustrate this story ?  
This book was a great opportunity for me to do something different with my illustration, and I used a lot of texture and collage in the spreads.

20.) Did you self publish or go through the other publishing routes ?
It’s a trade book.

21.) Is your book available for purchase?

22.) Describe a typical day in your life
I rise between 6.30 and 7am. My studio is right next to my bedroom (not always a good thing as sometimes one forgets to get dressed!). I check email and online stuff, get tea, feed the dog, cat and horses and then usually settle in to whatever is on the agenda. If I have a book on, I will be straight into that. I am not very good at splitting my day up, so if I am working on something that’s the main focus. I’ll try to go out sometime in the day, for a swim or a walk, but that doesn’t always happen. I am trying to get better at having breaks! I will stop for lunch and probably watch a bit of tv (BBC). Then it’s back to work until hubby comes home about 6pm and then it’s dinner. If I am on a tight deadline I will work in the evening. As deadlines get closer I get up earlier and bed later!
 In the Studio

23.) When you are creating, what music is playing ?
I listen to BBC radio most of the time … check out their iplayer!
I also listen to Spotify or books downloaded from the library. When I am illustrating I prefer the spoken word.

24.) If you had to describe your work in terms of your artistic influences, you would say it is...
Victorian/early 20th century art and illustration.

25.) Who are your favorite artists ? Illustrators ? Authors ?
Atkinson Grimshaw, Van Dyck, Van Gogh, E H Shepherd, Edward Ardizzone, Quentin Blake, Pauline Baynes, John Tenniel, David Small, Matt Phelan, Tolkein, Daphne Du Maurier, C S Lewis, Brontes, Austen, Phillip Pullman, Michael Morpurgo, Alan Garner to name but a few.

26.) What new projects have you got coming down the pike? 
I am working on illustrating a new book for Charlesbridge/Mackinac Island called ‘Imani’s Moon’ by JaNay Brown Wood that is a legend about a Maasai girl. Release Fall 2014.

I am also working on a graphic novel that is very much a WIP and not under contract (yet).

(click on the link above.  then click on each book to see more about that book including book trailors)

Imani's Moon (by JaNay Brown-Wood)                         Charlesbridge Publishing 2014

One Word Pearl (by Nicole Groeneweg)                         Charlesbridge Publishing 2013

1,2,3 by the Sea (by Dianne Moritz)                               Kane Miller Publishing 2013

Double Crossed at Cactus Flats (by Rich Williams)          ABDO 2013

Hidden New Jersey (by Linda Barth)                             Charlesbridge Publishing 2012
All Star Cheerleader Books 1-4 (by Anastasia Suen)        Kane Miller 2012
How to Talk to an Autistic Kid (by Daniel Stefanski)       Free Spirit 2011

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