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

#WorldWatercolorGroup - Watercolor by Birgit O'Connor - Doodlewash

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 - DoodlewashSo 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.


SPECIAL WORLD WATERCOLOR GROUP OFFER

If you’re interested in taking my classes, I’m pleased to offer my fellow World Watercolor Group members a special 25% Off discount to any course you’d like to take! Just enter the code SAVE25WWG at checkout. Click here to view available courses! 

(Once enrolled in the school, you’ll be eligible for any other loyalty discounts I offer!)


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
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Creator of Doodlewash® and founder of World Watercolor Month™ (July) and World Watercolor Group™. Sharing daily watercolor illustrations and stories while proudly featuring talented artists from all over the world! If you’d like to be a guest artist on Doodlewash.com, contact me!

Recommended9 recommendationsPublished in Featured Artists
49 Comments
  1. smzang 3 months ago

    beautiful

  2. glacken2016 3 months ago

    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

    • Birgit O'Connor 3 months ago

      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.

  3. Pam 3 months ago

    Your florals are stunning. I can feel the soft texture of the petals with my eyes. Thanks for sharing your tips.

    • Birgit O'Connor 3 months ago

      Hi Pam you’re welcome and thank you so much for your kind comment.

  4. Sandra Strait 3 months ago

    Birgit, I’ve followed you for quite some time and I love your work. It’s wonderful to learn more about you.

    • Birgit O'Connor 3 months ago

      Hi Sandra thank you and that’s just a little bit of the story…can’t wait to share more 🙂

  5. Saswati Chakraborty 3 months ago

    I love your floral artworks dear Brigit and I do follow your YouTube tutorials too!! Lovely artworks and lovely article!!
    Cheers

  6. Beautiful artwork, Birgit. I noticed your talent in the Watercolour Artist magazine.

    • Birgit O'Connor 3 months ago

      Thank you Violeta That’s very kind of you to say. Happy painting

  7. JM Hanson 3 months ago

    Your watercolors dance with movement! Beautiful, thank you for the encouragement to continue,

    • Birgit O'Connor 3 months ago

      You’re welcome and thank you for your comment, do what you love and the rest will follow 🙂

  8. Rod Fletcher 3 months ago

    I have admired your work for a while now – since I was introduced to it actually. You are an inspiration. Thank you for sharing.

  9. Pamela Smith 3 months ago

    Such vibrant,beautiful,realistic art….thank you for sharing Bridgit…

  10. MMcBuck 3 months ago

    Thanks for sharing your stunning work!

  11. Sylvia 3 months ago

    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

    • Fanna Turano 3 months ago

      I loved what you said about Doodlewash and a forum for all. Takes the pressure off of being perfect. Thank you, Sylvia!

    • Birgit O'Connor 3 months ago

      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:)

      • Author
        Charlie O'Shields 3 months ago

        It my honor and pleasure my friend! Thank YOU for the kind comments and being part of Doodlewash! 😃💕

  12. nutsfortreasure 3 months ago

    Love your work.

  13. Fanna Turano 3 months ago

    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.

    • Birgit O'Connor 3 months ago

      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

  14. Mary Roff 3 months ago

    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.

  15. Sharon Nolfi 3 months ago

    I’m very happy to read your story. I’ve admired your work for along time.

  16. Sharon Bonin-Pratt 3 months ago

    What a serendipitous journey to watercolor you’ve followed, and how fortunate for the rest of the world that you stuck it out and learned to do what you craved to master. Your art is spectacular.

    • Birgit O'Connor 3 months ago

      Hi Sharon thank you very much and you use the perfect word to describe it, serendipitous.

  17. Jill Gustavis 3 months ago

    Just beautiful! I love those white flowers!

  18. Birgit O'Connor 3 months ago

    Hi Jill thank you so very much I love doing white flowers.

  19. Lorraine Adler 3 months ago

    You are inspiring in your story and your accomplished watercolors! Looking forward to all of your creations to come.

  20. David Suresh Marumudi 3 months ago

    Gorgeous colors and fascinating art Birgit 🙂 Extraordinarily beautiful💐💐💐

  21. Beverly Wong-Kleinjan 3 months ago

    I loved seeing your work and reading about how it evolved, Birgit! Thanks for sharing it with us. Beautiful!

  22. Anita Sinha 3 months ago

    Your watercolour paintings are awesome..Thanks for sharing for story..!

  23. Anita 3 months ago

    So talented I love your work well done!!

  24. Birgit O'Connor 3 months ago

    Thank you so much, many of us have had the same basic journey through adversity and insecurity, ….there is so much more to say 🙂

  25. Janneke Booister 3 months ago

    Wow! Those flowers are great – and that is not about size 🙂

  26. Delores Azary 3 months ago

    What beautiful flowers! Thanks for sharing!

  27. Birgit O'Connor 3 months ago

    Thank you for your comments

  28. Susan Cuss 3 months ago

    Such beautiful florals and colours! Thank you for sharing your story.

    • Birgit O'Connor 4 weeks ago

      thank you 🙂

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