INDIAN ROCKS BEACH — Recently we brought you the story of the Plein Aire Cottage Artists, a trio of accomplished painters who have produced a calendar featuring classic local cottages for the last 20 years.
While Mary Rose Holmes, Helen Tilston and Violetta Chandler have continued to release the calendar throughout the pandemic, including the now-available 2022 edition, travel restrictions have prevented the longtime collaborators and curators of IRB history from working together for more than two years.
But last week, the IRB-famous trio stood easel to easel on the sidewalk across from the Blue Heron cottages on Gulf Boulevard, spending some time painting the scenery and most of the time receiving kudos, posing for photos, and generally spreading goodwill for the community they love and love to depict.
“It’s been two and a half years since we last painted together because COVID stopped us and we were all separated,” Holmes, who lives in IRB, said of her international friends, Tilston of Ireland and the Russian native Chandler.
“We’ve been working together, just away in our own studios,” Tilston said, adding, “We’re always in touch. We’re like the Rolling Stones — we never stop touring!”
Spending a few minutes on the sidewalk with them, it’s easy to see the rock star comparison, as several cars honked, people (and pets) stopped to inspect their art and gab with the group, and one driver made a U-turn and stopped in the middle lane so his passenger could snap a photo of the artists in action.
“People encourage us when they do that,” Holmes said of the beeping, waving, and posing. “It’s nice!”
While some were irked at the sidewalk setup, one bicyclist who pulled up wasn’t there to see what the fuss was about or to cuss the ladies out.
Doug Pohl, a Louisville resident who winters in IRB, told the trio he was “such a fan of their work,” noting he’s purchased two of the Plein Aire Cottage Artists’ paintings and the past five calendars while adding he’s been “enamored with the whole IRB experience, and it’s people like you who keep it fresh and fun.”
Pohl said he biked over to meet the artists because as an architect he’s “fascinated and thrilled by what they do,” by painting and thus preserving the memory of the rapidly disappearing classic cottages.
“I renovate and rehab old houses so it’s in the same vein, and the way they are depicting and preserving these cottages is very special.”
While the trio said they planned to work together for a couple of weeks before going their separate ways once again, the artists said they would be willing to perform another IRB encore.
“We keep saying this is our last tour, but here we are again,” Chandler said.
“We’re having too much fun to retire!” Tilston added.
The Plein Aire Cottage Artists 2022 calendar is available at the Beach Art Center, the Indian Rocks Historical Museum and online at irbaction2000.com. Proceeds benefit the IRB Action 2000 nonprofit.