Hazel Mead found her voice in feminist and activist illustration after graduating from Coventry University. She seeks to put her drawing to good use, making work with a feminist/political slant that helps move society forward.

Last month, Hazel joined us at art-K, leading the first session in our ongoing series of Guest Artist masterclasses! Hazel inspired our budding young art-K artists with her workshop: Character Design, Storytelling and a Career in Illustration. After the event, we caught up with Hazel to continue the conversation, exploring her artistic development and career path in more depth.

What steps did you take to become an illustrator?
I followed the very traditional route of studying art at GCSE and A Level, and then went on to study Fine Art and Illustration at Coventry University. My degree gave me access to learning new skills, trying different mediums such as screen printing, videography, sculpture, resin casting, painting, getting Adobe qualifications and so much more. My course was very career-focused: the practising lecturers gave us insight into the professional world and guided us on our individual routes to becoming practising artists. After that, we all went into different paths. I knew I wanted to become a freelance illustrator and worked very hard to make that happen, balancing part-time jobs with illustration for a couple of years, until I could build up enough of a client list and the confidence to become a full-time freelance illustrator.

How did your practice evolve and develop?
At school we had very good oil painting training, as it seemed to be trendy. I always knew I wanted to be an artist of some sort, and as I got older I realised I wanted to be an illustrator – I felt the fine art world was quite inaccessible; I didn’t have the patience to be an animator; and I didn’t have the speed to be a court artist!

Before university, I thought being an illustrator meant illustrating books. At uni I discovered a whole world of illustration: editorial illustration, advertising, comics, product illustration, storyboarding, all sorts – political cartoons and editorial illustration interested me the most. Towards the end of university I discovered digital art, but I struggled for a while to figure out how to add depth to my art and make it stand out. A few years later, discovering Adobe Fresco (software which is designed to replicate painting, to an extent), I realised I could bring in my oil painting knowledge into my digital work.

How did you find your voice?
At the feminist internship I met different feminist groups and I felt like I found a purpose for my art. I could use my art for causes I felt strongly about. This was an exciting next step for me, and I continue to create work with messages to aim to make the world a better, kinder, more tolerant place.

How do you protect yourself with respect to copyright, when working with bigger clients?
I belong to The Association of Illustrators, who are here to protect and advise illustrators. I also had a whole module on copyright at university so I am fairly well versed in it. I’ve had a few copyright scares, so I’ve found the best way to protect my work and copyright is to be as clear as possible with clients upfront in the paperwork and contracts.

Whoever creates the artwork owns the copyright, unless signing something which grants someone else the copyright. I work by giving clients a licence to use my art. I never sign copyright away (unless for a very large amount of money!). For illustrators, copyright is a massive deal as we often work on a licence basis and can make money from re-licensing artwork to other clients. If someone owns your copyright they can do whatever they want with your artwork and even sell your art without asking for permission.

When working with bigger clients it can be intimidating, but it’s important to remember that bigger companies often have bigger budgets. If I’m unsure of what to charge, I will ask some illustrators who have been practising a lot longer to see what industry standard is. It can be scary to ask for a large sum, but it’s essential to know your worth.

Huge thanks to Hazel for sharing her brilliant and informative masterclass, and taking the time to speak to us afterwards! You can see more of Hazel’s work on her website, https://www.hazelmead.com/, or find her on Instagram @hazel.mead