#WorldWatercolorGroup - Watercolor by Birgit O'Connor - Doodlewash

GUEST ARTIST: “Enjoying The Journey Of Watercolor” by Birgit O’Connor

My name is Birgit O’Connor. I was born in Hamburg Germany and came to the United States when I was 10 months old. My father was a master lithographer and my mother was a housewife and an amazing photographer. One uncle of mine in Germany was a gold medal watercolorist and another aunt here in the states was a graphic designer and watercolorist, so I guess you could say it runs in my blood.

#WorldWatercolorGroup - Watercolor by Birgit O'Connor - Doodlewash

I was an only child and never felt that I was very good at academics, but excelled with painting, arts and crafts, not to say better than anyone else, only what I was best at. Even with all of the creativeness that runs in my family, watercolor always eluded me.

#WorldWatercolorGroup - Watercolor by Birgit O'Connor - Doodlewash

After the birth of my first son, I would stay up late at night and do pointillism paintings of animals, which helped me with perspective. At times, I would try to pick up watercolor again but had no idea why my color was muddy, and the brush didn’t do what I wanted and why I couldn’t get that luminous stacking of color and transparency that I wanted.

#WorldWatercolorGroup - Watercolor by Birgit O'Connor - Doodlewash

So then I would try for awhile and then move on to something else, pastel pencils, (which really helped me with color) oils (but thought they were too thick and pasty) and then for awhile I created a line of children’s tee shirts with cute teddy bears and animals, then designed rubber stamps for a company, and always still wanting to figure out how to do watercolor.

At that time, there were no workshops, and the books were more academic than intuitive. DVD’s weren’t available, but there was Tom Lynch and Bob Ross, which I enjoyed. I tried one college class where the instructor placed a teddy bear and a vacuum cleaner in the middle of the room and said ok paint that – needless to say, that didn’t help, nor did I go back. The light bulb moment came when one artist said to make a color chart, which I did and was then mesmerized by the clarity of color I could get.

#WorldWatercolorGroup - Watercolor by Birgit O'Connor - Doodlewash

I just continued to do what I loved but never thought I could be a professional watercolorist. In fact, when I went to a local showing of watercolor paintings, I mentioned to a lady that I was starting watercolors, and she said, don’t even bother, the only ones that should do watercolor are geniuses and children.

Then others during that same period of time, other artists, told me how I would never make it as an artist, because I did not have the education or degree (as if that really makes you an artist). Then I would join some groups, but found that many times they could be a bit cliquey, so I retreated to my studio to paint and explore.

I really was pretty content to paint for myself but silly me I got a parking ticket, and my husband suggested that I show my work to pay for the ticket. To me that was a horrible thought. I gathered my evidence to fight the ticket, but the idea of going in front of a judge just made my stomach turn.

So, with both of those horrible options, I went to the next town over to ask if I could show my work in a small café on the beach which they were happy to do. From there, my paintings sold, I was offered a one-woman show in Hong Kong, and articles were starting to be written about my work.

#WorldWatercolorGroup - Watercolor by Birgit O'Connor - Doodlewash

When I first started showing my paintings, they were small in size, of local landscapes. Then, as I evolved, my paintings increased in size and my subject changed to florals, then later into more abstracted florals and even larger sizes that would take up entire walls. During this time, I experimented with paper and learned about the sizing and how it affected the results that I was looking for and found that the brushes I used made all the difference in the world.

#WorldWatercolorGroup - Watercolor by Birgit O'Connor - Doodlewash

Depending on the type of painting style that I want to create that will determine the materials I use. For instance, for my floral paintings I like natural white Arches paper 300 lb, along with natural, and (round) sable synthetic blend brushes. The watercolors I use are mostly Winsor & Newton and Daniel Smith watercolors. Then again, for looser landscapes, I like Fabriano 300lb paper and the same color brands with a synthetic flat brush along with (round) squirrel brushes.

I’ve also developed new e-courses that are available in non-interactive and interactive sessions (see below for coupon code!) which allow students to connect with me personally and navigate through this challenging medium of watercolor to find their own creativity, build confidence and be successful

For anyone just starting out, don’t let your fear get in the way. Don’t try to be perfect or you can hold yourself back. Try to think of every painting as an experiment and allow yourself to make those mistakes. And remember, it is the journey, not always the destination.

Birgit O’Conner
Online Classes

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50 thoughts on “GUEST ARTIST: “Enjoying The Journey Of Watercolor” by Birgit O’Connor

  1. I love your work Birgit. Thank you for the encouraging article. I had a watercolor teacher once tell me that I was never going to be good at watercolor. It was so discouraging that I quit painting for 12 years. I have been happily back on the horse for about ten years now. I love your brushes and have many of your DVDs which are so helpful. I hope to catch your workshop at Cheap Joe’s one year! Annie Glacken

    1. Hi Annie thank you so much I tried to reply earlier to you but for some reason it didn’t stick, I have heard comments like yours before and it always makes me sad, especially when it comes from someone that is meant to educate and inspire. The reality is people like that are talking about their own limitations and insecurities. I am so happy to hear that you’re back in the saddle painting again – I do hope to catch up with you and paint with you sometime soon, cheap Joe’s it’s a wonderful place and if you have a chance to meet Joe he truly is an amazing person, Thank you again for your comment.

  2. Hi Birgit, now everyone on a World Watercolor Group can get inspiration from your work. Charlie has made this such a wonderful forum and everyone is welcome no matter how new or advanced they are to watercolor
    Best wishes, Sylvia

    1. Hi Silvia and Fanna, Charlie has created a wonderful platform for artists to help inspire and support each other (everything that he does is amazing), I’m honored that he asked me to be a guest artist. Thank you again Charlie:)

  3. Birgit, I feel so blessed and fortunate to have accidentally found your book (that I couldn’t afford, but bit that bullet!) in Guiry’s that one fateful afternoon last year. I’d been floundering on my own for half a year, literally scraping student watercolor paint off of my student grade paper, wondering why it wasn’t beautiful. Your classes and instruction have been a godsend to me, carrying me through some difficult times. Your encouragement enabled me to keep going, even though I was so bad. And you know what? I got really good thanks to you. I value and appreciate your presence in my life (indigo claws–my claim to infamy) and with your kind encouragement, I paint so much better. But what’s most important, is that I BELIEVE in myself, in my paintings, and in my future thoughts and pursuits at being an even better watercolorist in the days and weeks ahead. Thank you for having written “Watercolor Essentials.” It came into my life at a most-necessary time. You saved me years of aimlessly navigating the art shelves, being sold expensive items I didn’t/couldn’t use. Because of you, I finally believe in myself, and value the woman–the artist, that I am. Thank you seems so insufficient, and I hope my paintings reflect my gratitude to you for having saved me from a life of mediocrity.

    1. Hi Fanna, I am truly humbled by your beautiful comment, (and yes I remember those indigo claws – a little scary…LOL) You have come so far in such a short time – It’s been such a pleasure to watch your confidence and painting style evolve. You may not even realize,… but you too have taught me quite a few things and how to even be a better instructor. I can’t wait to see more of your paintings and hopefully will see again in some of our online meetings, warmest of wishes to you Happy painting Birgit

  4. The white florals are breathtaking! Thank you so much for sharing your story. I feel very fortunate that the watercolor artists in my little area of Florida have always offered encouragement and help. So glad that you persisted.

  5. Hi Birgit, I’ve loved your work since I discovered you quite a few years ago and I still read your books, they are the prize of my artbook collection. The fun things you are teaching on Facebook are fun to look forward to!

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