REVIEW: Atmospheric Landscapes Watercolor Class With Birgit O’Connor

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.

Technology

Atmospheric Landscapes With Birgit O'Connor class example

A screenshot of Birgit O’ Connor painting from one of the class sessions.

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.

Teacher

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.

Atmospheric Landscapes With Birgit O'Connor class example of vivid sunsets

Techniques to capture vivid sunsets were part of this course.

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.

Atmospheric Landscapes With Birgit O'Connor class example fog and mist

Rendering the soft colors and edges of fog and mist were my favorite part of Atmospheric Landscapes with Birgit O’ Connor.

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.

Atmospheric Landscapes With Birgit O'Connor class example values when painting clouds

Learning to manipulate edges and values to create layered clouds is one of the first lessons.

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”).

Atmospheric Landscapes With Birgit O'Connor class example

A 5 foot folding table worked perfectly for my lesson set-up.

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!

Click here to view all of Birgit O’Connor’s available classes. 

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 Art Supply Reviews

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!

38 Comments
  1. birgitoconnor 2 months ago

    Thank you Bekki for this wonderful review on my Atmospheric Landscape e-course I am so happy that you enjoyed it. Your paintings and article are so well done you are welcome to join me anytime. Happy Painting Birgit

    • Author
      Bekki Page 2 months ago

      I really enjoyed the combo of play and challenge with this course. Thanks for giving me the opportunity to join in!

  2. Les Grindey 2 months ago

    I like the video story and the point of getting it right first time and thank you les

    • Author
      Bekki Page 2 months ago

      Thanks, Les. Try the free mini course in the video I posted–it’s a lot of fun.

  3. photoscientist 2 months ago

    Very nice to see water color painting. This is an art form that doesn’t receive the credit and attention that it deserves.

  4. Sharon Nolfi 2 months ago

    Thanks for the review. I’ve often wondered about Brigit’s classes.

    • Author
      Bekki Page 2 months ago

      I had, too! I admire her work a great deal. Thanks for reading and commenting, Sharon.

  5. Kathy M 2 months ago

    I have taken a couple of Birgit’s courses, this one and Waves and Water. I love the way she teaches and the feedback is invaluable. I hope to take more soon!

    • Author
      Bekki Page 2 months ago

      The wind and waves class looked great! I enjoyed Ms. O’ Connors teaching style a great deal, too.

  6. christine Wodham 2 months ago

    That,s a great review! I have gone to 3 of her full week work shops its so nice to have a small class size with her and the socializing after ! I do find her online just as good as in person too , her down to earth style is a real help with confidence, and she is firm that there is no wrong way! Truly my mentor

    • Author
      Bekki Page 2 months ago

      Oh, you are so fortunate! Do you have an Instagram account where I could see your work, too?

    • birgitoconnor 2 months ago

      Hi Christine, thank you so very much, I am so glad that you have been able to join me in my on location workshops. We all learn so much from each other and I so enjoy spending time with everyone. It’s been really fun to expand my teaching into the digital courses, by doing them I am able to provide a lot more content then on a DVD, and be so much more creative with new content. If you have made it to the live meetings (where we all see each other) then you know..I have said that feel like Miss Nancy looking through the magic mirror. I love that now there is no need for students to feel isolated and be part of a larger community.

  7. Susan 2 months ago

    Bekki, thanks for the great article. Question, where did you find your 4 space, round water container?

    • Author
      Bekki Page 2 months ago

      It’s called a Vitaminder and has a snug fitting lid. There’s a phone number on the base 1-800-858-8840. I picked mine up at the dump shop.

  8. Lisa 2 months ago

    Thanks for the great review Bekki, i’ve taken that class and am currently taking the waves and water class. Birgit is an amaxama teacher. I’ve taken many other classes, live and online and she is one of the best. Very generous with her time and passionate about the work. Will definitely be taking more classes with Birgit in the future.

    • Author
      Bekki Page 2 months ago

      Thanks for leaving feedback, Lisa. Her generosity is overwhelming. Did you get a chance to view the free hydrangea class yet?

      • Frances Turano 2 months ago

        Bekki and Lisa: there’s a free hydrangea class? Where can I find it? Thank you! 🙂

        • Author
          Bekki Page 2 months ago

          It’s on the student Facebook page (it was uploaded Wednesday).

          • Frances Turano 2 months ago

            Thank you, Bekki. I found it quite by accident. White hydrangeas and negative painting–2 things I’ve never done.

  9. Frances Turano 2 months ago

    Hi Bekki! Loved your terrific review! Spot on. I began my watercolor journey with Birgit O’Connor a bit over a year ago. On my own, weeks prior, I’d painted several abysmal indigo-colored “peninsulas.” (more like fright night claws) Having taken Birgit’s class at the onset, I now feel completely at home using large brushes, half or full sheets of paper, tons of water, and lots of vibrant, wet paint. “Big” is my preferred method in order to feel fully engaged, involved, connected, challenged in a piece. Of course, I paint every assignment numerous times, until I’m happy with the final result. For me, I find small brushes difficult, I fuss too much, and love the “mud pie” style of painting that I began with Birgit. Any day spent painting is a wonderful day, but for me, painting with a #30 (I now want her #40 Cosmo) is as common as my large mug of rich morning coffee. I feel blessed to have begun with Birgit, as I have no fear of tackling any piece of paper with confidence. I struggle with composition constantly, but there’s nothing more exciting than clearing my studio table for a full sheet, with a fully-loaded #30 in the ready. Glorious!

    Fanna Turano
    Denver, CO

    • Author
      Bekki Page 2 months ago

      Well said, Fanny! I got a taste of that during this class and have set aside a day a month to keep playing with large format full sheets. I knew I was starting to catch on to her technique when the #30 started feeling normal.

    • Author
      Bekki Page 2 months ago

      Fanna, I am so sorry my keyboard autocorrected your name!

      • Frances Turano 2 months ago

        LOL Bekki! That was hysterical! I literally laughed out loud!

    • birgitoconnor 2 months ago

      Hi Fanna, thank you for your comment, you have come such a long way from when you first started, it has been a delight to have been part of your process and watch you evolve to where you are today, and am so excited to see where you go with it Warm wishes Birgit

      • Frances Turano 2 months ago

        Aww thanks, Birgit. I hadn’t realized you’d be hooked into comments here. But–all true! 🙂

  10. cjwaterfieldart 2 months ago

    Lovely tutorial. I love how we can use watercolour to achieve so many techniques. I think I’ll be trying this out myself! 🙂

    • Author
      Bekki Page 2 months ago

      Thank you! Pushing through to learn a new technique is satisfying and fun.

  11. Elizabeth Reich 2 months ago

    One of my first books was Birgit O’Connor’s Watercolor Essentials with DVD. I still refer to it, and it has been a few years. With a small space 9×12 is what I can paint, but I keep trying the techniques with smaller brushes. I love Birgit O’Connor’s paintings. Thank you for this review Bekki Page, I now understand that maybe some of my failed attempts might be paper and brush size, and not just me. Not enough room to just let the color flow. Time to take another look at my desk setup and seeing if I can gain just a little more space.

    • Author
      Bekki Page 2 months ago

      I had the same problem. My usual desk wasn’t big enough, so I moved to my kitchen counter, and eventually set up a folding table. You’ll have a lot more success if you can get a bigger space, even if you can’t leave it set up. Good luck! The techniques are fun at smaller sizes, too.

    • birgitoconnor 2 months ago

      Hi Elizabeth I am so happy that you enjoyed my book Watercolor Essentials, we just released a new one in June “Paint Watercolor Flowers” https://shop.birgitoconnor.com/t/books or you can look for it on Amazon or North light… when struggling with a painting, it can easily be the materials that you are using (paper & brushes) 🙂

  12. birgitoconnor 2 months ago

    Thank you Bekki

  13. Sharon Bonin-Pratt 2 months ago

    I love your creative approach to watercolor, allowing the medium to help direct your painting as much as your talent and intellect. Beautiful results.

    • Author
      Bekki Page 2 months ago

      Thanks, Sharon. I feel like I’ve just scratched the surface with the possibilities. I look forward to exploring and playing with the techniques more as I go forward. Have you seen any of My. O’Connor’s landscape work? It’s stunning!

  14. Sandra Strait 2 months ago

    Excellent review, Bekki! You gave me a good idea of what I might expect from one of Birgit’s online classes and what I would need for it.

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