Are you ready to go back to school? This summer I was enrolled in Birgit O’ Conner’s Atmospheric Landscapes interactive online watercolor class. Known for her dramatic landscapes and florals, Birgit was also an Artist Ambassador for World Watercolor Month in July. Her Atmospheric Landscapes watercolor painting class focuses on playing with water and color to create dramatic skies.
The Atmospheric Landscapes class I took was interactive for 6 weeks. I have lifetime access to the course, and can jump into another interactive Atmospheric Landscapes 6 week course any time in the future. The course video lessons and handouts are hosted on teachable.com, and the live lessons are on Zoom. If you can’t attend a live one hour lesson, the link is provided to watch it at a later time.
I found both platforms easy to navigate and use on both my laptop (HP EliteBook) and my mobile (Moto Z2). Although it’s Birgit’s oldest course, the video quality is sufficient to see and learn the techniques. Ms. O’Connor also includes a couple of bonus lessons that were filmed in an older video format. Like many teachers, Birgit O’ Connor has a private Facebook group where students can upload and show off their work. She uses both the Facebook group and her e-mail list to send announcements, discounts, and free lessons to students who have taken a previous course.
Sample class offered by Birgit O’Connor on Youtube
Birgit’s teaching style is well-developed, and she speaks clearly and slowly in a voice that rivals that of a radio personality. Lessons are well organized, and moved from simple, comfortable, small format exercises to way, way-outside-my-comfort-zone double full-sheet diptychs on 300# watercolor paper. She offers gentle feedback and assistance on any piece that’s uploaded. I had the ability to watch or read the critiques for other students, too (no names given). Unlike most teachers, she does not describe paint consistency in words, and expects students to have enough experience to gauge the consistency by how it handles. When a common problem arose during the week, we discussed it and she usually gave a special demo in our Zoom class.
Technique – Atmospheric Landscapes Class
The wet-on-wet atmospheric technique taught in this class requires specific materials that cost as much as the course. The recommended paper (Arches, mostly 300# CP), paint (Winsor & Newton professional), and large brushes (Da Vinci synthetic and natural blend set sold on her site) were necessary to achieve the same results she does. Many of the students were working with undersized, student quality, or different materials and struggled with the techniques. As a reviewer, I experimented with a variety of paper, paint, and brushes and only succeeded with the recommended supplies or those that had nearly identical working qualities to the brands listed.
The main “Birgit brush,” a size 30 (!) Da Vinci natural hair blend was provided by Da Vinci for me to use during this course. I could not get any other brush I owned to replicate the unique properties of this brush. While pricey, it is a necessity for her techniques, and she offers it at a discount with a 30 day money back guarantee on her website. Once on the Facebook group, it was not uncommon to see former students crediting their brushes and Ms. O’Connor’s brush techniques with their success in both landscapes and florals.
The large format method taught in Atmospheric Landscapes is challenging to learn. The class is best suited to audacious painters who enjoy experimentation and can think on their feet. While the basic composition is decided in advance, I had to learn to look at what the paper and paint had given me in each layer, and make decisions for the next layer. I wanted to give up more than once, but now that I’ve learned the technique, l use it all the time.
Truth Time for Doodlewashers
The value of a class is based on the quality and quantity of feedback received from the teacher. My group received abundant feedback as a whole and individually. Ms. O’Conner commented on every practice piece that was uploaded, and often kept the live class open past the designated hour for those who needed additional help. I received far more feedback in this class than I normally get in a live workshop. Seeing and hearing the critique for other students was also a nice bonus. All of her feedback is available to go back and review at any time.
If I had not been taking this class for review purposes, I would have used quarter or half sheets of paper. Like many of the students in my class, I painted the exercises multiple times. It was rare to “get it” on the first try. Ms. O’Connor was superb at keeping the class focused on learning atmospheric techniques, and designed simple pieces that scaled smaller easily. When directly asked, she did not recommend painting smaller, and asked me to step outside my comfort zone (9” x 12” before this course). While I’m glad I’ve learned to manage a full 22 x 30” sheet of paper, I most enjoy quarter (11 x 15”) and half sheet work (15 x 22”).
The techniques taught in this course require the student to transition out of small format habits. Full size paper, big brushes, tubes of paint, and a bath towel instead of a paper towel square all rocked my postcard sized world. My biggest lesson was learning to go with the flow, and let the water, paper, and pigment lead.
I am grateful to Birgit O’ Connor for allowing me to join her class for this review. I feel like I’ve accomplished the painting equivalent of an Outward Bound course. Hahnemüle also provided over a dozen full sized sheets of their premium cotton 300# Cold Pressed Leonardo paper so I could complete the course for this Doodlewash review. Thank you. Your sponsorship gave me the courage to pick myself up and try again each time I failed. As mentioned before, Da Vinci brush provided the crucial #30 round brush that’s the magic wand for atmospheric landscapes. I could not have learned Ms. O’ Connor’s techniques without this superb tool.
To Learn More About Birgit O’Connor’s Atmospheric Landscapes class, Click Here!
How about you? Have you ever taken a course from Birgit O’ Connor? Would you enjoy a course that challenged you as an artist, or do you use painting as a way to unwind and relax? Do you have questions about this course that weren’t answered in the review? Let me know in the comments!Recommended4 recommendationsPublished in
I’m a science and math educator who has been creating since childhood. I picked up watercolor four years ago and have been on a grand exploration discovering its playful and enigmatic personality. Follow my adventure on Instagram!