Book review. The essence of watercolour, by Hazel Soan :

So, today, I am really happy to offer my first watercolor book review! 😊

I admit that, a few years ago, I was not a lot into books anymore. We already have so much things to read on the internet! 😯😉
However, my love for sketching and watercolor painting made me start to buy some books again.

I love watercolor books because :

– It’s so enjoyable to be able to see and observe the sketches on paper, even if they are just printed! Of course, the pic have to be big enough, with sharp reproductions.
– That’s more handy and pleasant to have a book open besides your sketchbook as an inspiration than an computer or an ipad.
– There is no problem with luminosity with a real book. You can browse it outside, during summer, on your deckchair! 😍
– I tend to prefer real books (or even ebooks pdf files) better than ebooks on e-readers because, on the laters, the page setting is lost. And page design is really important for me. ☺️ (Note : ebooks can be a good option for too small books or not so great layout books as they allow us to enlarge the pics. They are suitable too, if the book you want can’t be shipped in your country).

The first book I decided to review is Hazel Soan’s book because it’s my favorite these days. 😚
That’s not a perfect book – I don’t know any – but I really like to browse it and to read some passages again these days.


The essence of watercolour. Hazel Soan

Let’s talk about the book then! ☺️
This is this book we are talking about.




By the way, I finally made a video with this review too.
You will be able to find it at the end of the article. 😌


The reason why I choose this book in the first place. 😊

I bought this book a few months ago (here is the link on where I bought the book) when I discovered Hazel Soan style.
I found it so fresh and so appealing!

I know that I am very picky about the teaching content of the art books (more about that, below) so my hopes were not so much to really learn something from the book but rather to feed my inspiration. I was hoping to get a few more clues about the wet in wet technique on a restricted area (not wetting the whole page), though, as Hazel Soan seems to be an expert for that. 😊


Watercolor style and approach. 🎨

Hazel Soan’s style is really straightforward, very “simple looking”. It’s loose but not in a melted complicated “messy” way.
Hazel’s is fresh and rely on her brushwork, her choice of color, her use of water and pigment mastering. No chance to see any overworking in her pieces! 😉

Hazel seems to catch the essence of her subject right from the first fresh wash (I admit that it’s exactly how I like to work too. 😊😉), adding most of her darks and details wet in wet. She may sometimes work with layers but very few and very simple ones, probably.

That’s a very appealing and creative style, in my opinion! Really sketchy. 😊







What I liked about the book. 💜

As you may have guessed, I just loved the iconography. It is a real pleasure to enjoy Hazel pure colors, amazing brushstrokes, simple shapes and wet in wet straightforward effets!

I like that Hazel Soan subjects are really varied (not only flowers and landscapes, or rainy cityscape by night 😂 😉 ).
Plus, except the African animals, she paints a lot of simple reachable subjects : fruits, flowers and plants, trees, urban scenes, landscapes, people, objects, animals… The subjects you may want to paint too!

Most of the sketches are at once stunning and simple enough so that you can almost think that you could paint like that too, which is very inspiring!

I like what is the content about, too : brushwork, wet in wet techniques, simplicity, achieving a sense of light in our paintings, using our colors wisely and so on. The book is so full of essential watercolor principles that you could probably write one of its sentences on the first page of each of your sketchbooks, for life!! (see the quotes, below) 😃
It offers plenty of watercolor truths to work with, and a lot of ideas to reframe or precise your painting approach.







A few disappointments. 😒

When I first read the book, I was thinking that the text content was a bit weak (disclaimer : a lot of watercolor books give me this impression…). I think that’s because the content isn’t as practical / concrete / useable as it could.
I am not sure I am a huge fan of steps by steps paintings (there are none in the book) but there is an impression, sometimes, that some information is missing. You know, the “but how the hell does she do that?!” feeling…

For me (but you know that I am too chatty!! 😅), each paragraph of the book (about 8 to 15 lines of text) about one painting topic seemed a bit like an introduction… 😓 I admit that I was expecting more practical information about how to master each topic, maybe with a 3 steps illustrations with pertinent comments, something like that. 😊

In fact, now that I read the book again (picking some information here and there), I realize that the informations is here. It is not really missing!
However, when each sentence is essential, maybe your brain tends to lose the thread because that’s too much in one shot?! (As English is not my original language, it may have been more difficult for me, too, for the meaning of the sentences to get into my head?!…)
Conciseness may not always be the best, after all…

Now, I most want to read the book, one small ten lines section at a time, reading just one sentence and thinking about it, trying to figure out what it actually means and maybe making a quick sketch to experiment it. 😉

As usual in this kind of books, the captions for the paintings are rather short. Maybe, some richer captions for the pieces could have helped for the practical issue.

At last, not really new in our art books either, there are a few slightly blurry illustrations (bad scan or too low resolution?) but, not much, fortunately. ☺️





Page design. Is it a book enjoyable to leaf through and read? 📖

The answer is YES, really! The page design is very good, the paintings are BIG, the fonts are nice yet not too fancy…
That’s a good job. The pleasant and efficient layout makes the book really enjoyable to browse and read.

The pages are neither packed nor empty. The text is displayed with the illustrations that come with it. 😊

As the content is divided in small sections, your can read the book, starting by the beginning of course, but also browse it to read just the small section whose title catch your eye or the one you need for now, for your practice. 😊









A few quotes 💬

As I said, I could almost paste the whole book in an “interesting quotes” section!! 😅
Here are a few, picked here and there in the book.

“Above all, do not destroy a lovely passage of watercolour for the sake of likeness to the subject.”

“The first wash is the freshest. Why not put all your energy into making that one stroke, that one wash work?”

“Much of watercolourist’s life is tryly spent watching paint dry!”

“The amount of water mixed with the pigment determines how far one colour travels into the other.”

“Sacrifice irrelevant detail to the overall tonal balance.”

Does these sound appealing to you? ☺️





Book bonus 😀

I said that the book was not the most practical but one of its special plus is the addition of the “Explore” pages, offering really simple sketches examples and advices to work with.
These page don’t show complicated paintings (with a background, numerous subjects and a lot of details and effects to achieve) but just some simple subjects, usually on a white background (or just a plain piece of background to define the negative shapes). They help you to understand how much you can achieve with a few strokes and are a real invitation to paint!

Plus, theses pages have a really appealing look, with color swatches, splatters, finger smudges… 😁 They really have a sketchbook page feeling. ☺️





Compared with other book from the same author? 📚

I don’t have any of the other books by Hazel Soan, for now, so I can’t really compare. I chose this one over some others because of its – apparently – wider content (not only about color mixing, for example, or about painting flowers) and big size.

Unlike some of the other books, I was able to watch a leaf through on Teoh (Parka) blog. That’s really important for me to know how the book will look, to see how it is inside, to try to feel if I will like it or not. So thank you so much, Teoh, for these kind of useful videos! 😊
You can watch it, if you want too, in addition to my own video review! 😉

About other Hazel Soan’s books, I was tempted by her book “10 minutes watercolours” in addition to this one for more quick and simple watercolors to look at as an inspiration (for some warm-up sketch, maybe) but I realized that this book may be the tiniest watercolor book ever!! 😱 It’s less than 5 inches tall! (What the hell?! 😭😂)
So, as someone suggested on the comments on, I will probably buy it as an ebook to be able to browse it at my iPad size and to enlarge the pics (plus, the ebook price is only 3,13$, with no shipping cost, obviously 😉 ).

At last, Hazel Soan is going to release a new book next year. It’s called “Learn to paint people quickly”.
It seems to be a small book too (but not as tiny as the other one, fortunately!!), 6 x 7,8 inches, from the same collection as her other one “Learn watercolour quickly” which seemed weaker (and smaller, for sure) to me than “The essence of watercolour” we are talking about today.
Maybe, if the book is only about painting people, it could contain more practical information about the topic, even in a small book? I’ll see if I decide to buy it. 😉





How did this book influence my watercolor practice? 🖌

Hazel’s book made me want to work more and more wet in wet, once again not wetting the whole sheet (I almost never do that) but adding strong pigment on some wet areas.
I tried to practice from her book, copying some of the sketches and trying to figure out how she did it.
It was fun and interesting and I was really happy that I tried to achieve some of the effects. ☺️



This one, above, is inspired of one of Hazel’s sketch – witch is not in this book – and it really shows a mix between Hazel Soan style and mine. 😉 I added more granulating effects and dripping pigments!


The greater effect her work had on mine, too, was an urge for even more simplicity.
My new mantra may be “Just paint the shape of something!!!”.

It’s a bit obvious, not a transcendent statement but, sometimes, we complicate the issue so much when we could just paint a silhouette with a few color variations, a few darks and that’s it!… Pure watercolor bliss. 😀




This sketch of mine was probably inspired by this silhouette approach with no background.
That’s not so common to paint a row of trees as a “real sketch” rather than the whole lanscape! I really enjoyed painting this, playing with some dark color variations and dynamic brushstrokes! 😝



Who is this book recommended for? 👫

Let’s be clear. My problem with this topis is “Does someone who don’t know how to do yet with watercolors could benefit from the content of the book, or would it be understood only by someone, like me, who starts to really grab what watercolor is about?”. I am not sure of that…

The thing I am sure of is that this book is so full of right content that, if you buy it now, as a beginner, and are not able to understand it all right away, you will probably keep browsing it and read it again every few months to grasp some new things, to put some words on your new learnings and, hopefully, to push them a bit further.

I would recommend this book, too, to most seasoned watercolorists as these principles I was talking about are always good to review, to read again, even if it’s a booster shot. 😉

Watercolor is not easy and maybe there is a risk that a better understanding of the subtlety of this awesome medium leads us towards a too complicated approach sometimes.
I think that “The essence of watercolour”, by Hazel Soan, may be a book that can help each artist to anchor its practice with the good roots. The roots of simplicity, of straightforward sketching with a brush, of enjoying the colors and the pigment, and of playing with the light more than with the details. 😊

So, yes, despite the reservations I expressed, I would recommend this book to all passionate watercolorists. ☺️


There are some watercolor spots on my book (at the top left)!… I think that’s a good sign!! 😝😉


Book info 📙

The book is a 128 pages hardcover. The size is 9.2 x 10.2 inches.
It feels like a big book with “enough pages” to me. 😊

“The essence of watercolour” seems to be at a special price, now, on At $19.96 (instead of $27.95, apparently).

You can click on the cover below to go to the Amazon page, if you want too. ☺️


Here is the review video I made to go with this article.
Do you think you like the article more, or the video, by the way? It would be interesting for me to know. 😉



So, that’s it! We talked about me offering some book reviews last July so let’s say that I took my time 😉 but I am happy that I, at last, managed to do this first one. 😊 I hope you found it interesting.
I tried to share my personal feelings and opinion about the book in addition too more pragmatic informations. 😉

Feel free to share your feedback about the review, to tell us what you think if you own this book too, of course and, if not, if you think you could be interested to buy it! ☺️

12 thoughts on “Book review. The essence of watercolour, by Hazel Soan :

  1. Thank you for a wonderful review of this book. I am always looking for books to add to my library and your review pointed out all the great things about this book. Your video was also great!

  2. I have two of Hazel Soan’s watercolor books I bought years ago. I am a watercolor painter and when I saw these two books full of her beautiful watercolor paintings, I knew right then they need to be in my home library. She has such a wonderful control over her loose style of painting which is very difficult for me to achieve but at lease I have her books to browse and enjoy. Her paintings are fresh and sparkle; values in the highlights and shadows are rich with color.

    • Glad you like Hazel style too, Lois!
      She provides a lot of inspiration in her book.
      Loose painting is the more difficult to achieve but that’s so enjoyable to work on it!

  3. Great review, and thanks for reminding me about this book, I recognized the paintings, and a search of my stacks of art books I found it. So it has been pulled out to enjoy again. I love Hazel’s style of painting, and yours too… someday I’d like to be able to paint like you too, even a little bit 🙂

    • Hi Elaine!

      That’s nice that my review made you pull you book out again!
      I think this kind of book is always useful and enjoyable to browse and study again.

      Thanks a lot for your kind words about my work.
      Keep painting! It will bear fruit.

  4. Je vais regarder ton vidéo cet après-midi..ce livre me tente dois admetter que j’ai quelques livres que je n’aime pas du tout:)
    Yuko Nagayama et Jean Haines..sont deux achats récents ..les deux sont inspirants..particulièrement pour moi..Yuko.
    Mais je ne suis pas une artiste accomplie.
    Merci pour ce “review”
    Tu es remplie de talents:)

    • Bonjour Monique !

      Il n’est pas toujours facile de trouver les bons livres, inspirants et intéressants.
      J’en ai quelques uns que je n’aime pas trop non plus…

      Le travail de Yuko Nagayama est très joli ! Je vais visionner certaines de ses vidéos, merci !

      Quel livre as-tu acheté de Jean Haines ?
      Ses livres seront sans doute ma prochaine review.

      Merci pour tes gentils commentaires !

  5. I liked both your article and video! Since I am a “visual learner” I would choose your video as the most informative, however I enjoy reading your comments – especially about buying a “real book”. I’m 67 years young and could never live without “real books” to flip through, smell, touch, and enjoy every single fleeting moment while reading them. E-books and the Internet don’t appeal to me – other than “art blogs” by people like you and I had never heard of Hazel Soan and have over 300 art books, so thank you for sharing. I will order her book because I love her “wet on wet” paintings, leaving whites, simplicity and basically everything you showed us on your book review.

    Anne Laure…you are an excellent artist and could actually write and publish your own ‘watercolor book’ …especially your urban sketching! Why don’t you? Thanks again for sharing.

    • Hi Karla,

      Thanks for your opinion about the review! ☺️
      I am happy it made you discover Hazel Soan work and book. I really hope you will like it!

      Thank you so much for telling I could write a watercolor book ! I am very proud!
      I think I would like to do so, yes, but it may be a bit too soon, for now. 😉 However, as I am an author, I am used to create books so I would really like to think about a watercolor book. So exciting!!  
      By tha way, I would have to find an editor for that!!… For sure, not so easy!

      I also have a project of creating a watercolor online course.
      I hope I will be able to do that next year.

      And stay tuned, I am going to announce a new watercolor workshop really soon!!

      So exciting!!!

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