The space where a creator works can be one of the most personal spaces they have at their disposal. Whether you create from home or you have a studio somewhere else, where you create has a direct impact on what you create. Our column “Where I create” will take you where Teachable creators do their most important work. We’ll feature a new creator’s space each month to inspire others.

Becoming an online creator isn’t an overnight process. For Birgit O’Connor, it was one many years in the making. The watercolor artist, author, online course creator, and instructor started teaching painting courses in person in 2000. She now runs multiple six-week courses on Teachable at a time. Helping others learn the joys and challenges of watercolor painting.

Her studio

“It’s pretty wonderful to do what you love and I love my studio,” said Birgit. Her studio is in a coastal California town a few miles north of San Francisco. She has tailored it to perfectly fit her needs for painting, and for teaching. 


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For teaching, she has two webcams set up. One for when she’s just talking to students but not demonstrating and another to film her painting from an aerial view. So her students can see her painting and get a good, well-lit view. Her studio is full of beautiful paintings she’s worked on. Of course, she’s got plenty of supplies too: paint, brushes, canvases, paper, and easels.

But in a broader sense, her studio is anywhere she’s painting. If she’s working on a landscape piece, her studio could be the beach that day. For florals, it might be a field of wildflowers. She can go where the art takes her to create. 


Just starting out

With a family history in the arts, Birgit didn’t find it difficult to pick up a paintbrush. Her mother was a photographer, her father a lithographer, her uncle was a gold-medal watercolorist, and her aunt was a graphic designer. She grew up surrounded by people working in the arts.

“My mom would always talk about art and how much she admired my uncle. So that inspired me, because I was never great in school. And so I think, I just have a different way of looking at things, right? The artistic mind,” Birgit told Teachable.

After having her first son, she really started exploring art at home. But she was having a hard time figuring out how to layer her colors well and to make the connection between her brush and the image she had in mind.

So she ended up going to a one-day workshop on color charts, which helped her get her colors right. Then she upgraded the materials she was working with. “That’s the beginning of how I understood how to be a student,” she said of her experience teaching herself and understanding what works for her.

Making her first sale

Of all things, a parking ticket ended up being the thing that prompted her to make her first sales. She had gotten a ticket, and her husband suggested she try selling some of her paintings to pay off the ticket. “And I thought, ‘No, that’s a terrible idea.’ And I thought I’m gonna go ahead and fight this ticket,” Birgit explained.

“I thought the idea of going in front of the judge or showing my work, both felt absolutely horrible because I was so insecure,” she said. But she ended up going into a local cafe and asking if they would consider displaying her paintings and offering them for sale. Every single one sold. “So art has been an incredible journey of removing insecurities,” said Birgit.

The student becomes the teacher

After making her first sales, she started expanding her horizons from landscapes to florals and beyond. She started entering art shows, and soon her art made its way to galleries and shows in other states and countries.

She later started making instructional DVDs and writing books on painting too. For a time she would travel and teach painting as well. But it took three or four weeks at a time.

However, once Birgit went online and started teaching from home, she had all her materials at her disposal, she said. “The wonderful thing about Teachable is that it gives me so much flexibility,” she added.