You know when you go to someone's blog to find a recipe and you have to read their entire life story before you get to the recipe? You just keep scrolling and scrolling thinking "omg, I don't care about your life story, just show me the recipe!"? Well, sorry to say, but this is kinda like one of those! If all you want is the bottom line, scroll down to the last two paragraphs just above the photos.
Seriously! An amazing week!. This is going to be a long post so grab your beverage of choice and read away or, skim away, whatever you choose.
I should mention, because I am still over the moon about this experience and am gushing...this post is not sponsored, I am just still on my workshop high.
A little background: I've been painting flowers and rocks pretty much since I first picked up a paint brush. Acrylics used to be my medium of choice and when I made the switch to watercolors, I wanted to keep my same style and subject matter but, being self-taught, I needed guidance in how to keep my paintings as large and bold as I like them without being too "detail-ey" and fussy while keeping within the confines of standard watercolor paper sizes.
(someday I will write more about why I moved from acrylic to watercolor but this post is long enough already!)
I found that when doing acrylics I could do broad, sweeping strokes of paint. I could blend my colors - or not - as I chose. Watercolor is such a different medium and the flow of the paint is controlled by the water, the amount of water, the amount of pigment and less brushstrokes than I was accustomed to. Yes, I could do a very detailed painting mimicking the methods of acrylics and there are many artists who do this and do this well; however, I wasn't aiming for a realistic style and I didn't want my paintings to be worked too much - I really wanted to learn to let the water and paint do their thing.
After watching numerous youtube videos and finding inspiration and influence by too many talented watercolorists to name individually in this post, and numerous videos on artistsnetwork.tv, I googled something along the lines of "large floral watercolor" and found Birgit O'Connor and wow! Was I blown away! Her style of watercolor florals is bold and striking and reminded me of my acrylic florals (but much, much better!). Her rocks reminded me of how I did my acrylic rocks. Her method of teaching was clear, helpful and made sense and translated so well into my own way of doing things. I also loved that she used the word "simplify" a lot and "breathe". All things I tend to forget to do as I get waaaay too caught up in the details and the self-doubt and self criticism. So long story short, I am a HUGE fan of Brigit's work and Brigit's teaching style.
And now (finally) onto the week at the workshop!
Birgit in person definitely does not disappoint. I was worried I was going to totally fan-girl out and make an absolute fool of myself. Who knows, I may have; however, from the minute Birgit walked into the room, she did not disappoint. She has a way about her that makes you feel like you have been friends forever - we all know people like that - who just instantly can make a room of 27 women feel at ease. Well, that is Birgit in a nutshell. She is funny, warm, kind and on top of all of that, she is the most wonderful instructor. Within the first hour, I knew exactly what I had been doing to make my work frustrate me so much! Not enough water, not enough pigment and being waaaay to fussy with details. Not simplifying enough, not breathing enough and worrying way too much. Yep - I learned all that within the first hour!
And, while being funny, kind, warm and inviting, Birgit also managed to keep 27 women on track, give each person individual attention, answer questions, tell stories, demonstrate, compliment, critique (kindly!) and leave us all feeling each day that we had learned something new, pushed ourselves outside of our comfort zones and elevated our painting.
The ladies of the Southwest Washington Watercolor Society (SWWS) are so welcoming and warm and I left the week feeling as though I had made many new friends and wishing I lived closer so I could spend more time with so many lovely women!
Prior to going to this workshop, I was in the middle of a three week long artists block brought on by stressing, overworking and freaking out about a painting not being perfect. I was literally frozen with the fear of ruining my painting and because of this, I decided to only work on the paintings we did during class hours, not take them to my hotel room to work on later or work on them during lunch hour because I wanted to really stick with the "don't overwork" way. I have a tendency to fuss over every little detail and that is a habit I made a decision to break during this week. Had I worked on them outside of workshop hours, I felt I would have gone back to old habits and I really wanted to leave the weeklong workshop with that fussy habit gone forever. Because of this, I didn't finish even one painting completely and I am totally happy with that!
While we learned many techniques during this workshop and lots of tips and tricks - for me, the biggest takeaway was a newfound sense of freedom, joy and confidence in my painting. Definitely time and money well spent!
If you ever get the chance to attend a workshop in person, definitely go for it. You will not be disappointed. Visit the workshop tab on her website https://www.birgitoconnor.com and keep going back checking for new additions to workshops until you find one that works with your schedule (It took me three years to find one that didn't fall during a work deadline!). If you can't attend a workshop in person, Birgit's online workshops are the next best thing - even if you're like me and you just watch them over and over and over again! http://birgitoconnorwatercolors.teachable.com
And now onto the paintings!
Our very last day with only a few hours left, we started a new piece - also unfinished. This has just one layer of paint and is only half of the actual painting. The original painting was a 1/2 sheet and I used a 1/4 sheet and only used part of the image. Because of the lack of time, Birgit ended up doing the remainder of this piece as a demo and it was wonderful to watch her paint