INDIAN ROCKS BEACH — The Plein Aire Cottage Artists, a trio of professional artists best known locally for producing an annual calendar depicting classic local beach cottages, reconvened on Gulf Boulevard recently.

The international trio — Helen Tilston of Ireland, native Ukrainian Violetta Chandler, who now lives in Sarasota, and IRB’s own Mary Rose Homes — have been friends and collaborators for more than 20 years.

Despite the distance between them and other factors like COVID, they try to get together whenever they can.

“We go back so far — more than 20 years — that when we get back together it’s like no time has passed,” Tilston said after setting up shop across the street from the Kooky Coconut on Jan. 31.

“It’s like déjà vu all over again,” Chandler joked, adding being together “brings back great memories.”

Holmes had her foot in a boot from a minor injury, but she didn’t let that stop her from reuniting with her longtime friends, and she said they were thrilled to be painting one of the most iconic spots in IRB.

“Last time we were together, we were working on a triptych and that’s finished,” she said, pointing to the tri-paneled painting leaning at the base of Chandler’s easel. “Now we’re all working on our version of an IRB landmark that brings such joy to everyone.”

Inside the eatery at 750 Gulf Blvd. — which is more than 75 years old and best known for its Cuban sandwiches — Kooky Coconut owner Joanne Inguaggiato said the cottage artists have brought a lot of joy — and business — to her shop over the years.

“We have such a connection and love for all of them, and the tourists love them,” she said as a TV news crew, and several customers, crammed into her café while the nearby artists recreated it in vibrant colors. 

“They love to come in and look at the paintings, and year after year they come in to buy the calendar.”

Indeed, all the contributions from sales of the Plein Aire Cottage Artists’ calendar have gone to the local nonprofit IRB Action 2000, whose mission is to protect and preserve the history of the beach community.

“It’s our way of giving back,” Mary Rose said.

But on this day, the spotlight, along with the bright Florida sun, was shining on the artistic friends.

“We get a lot of beeps and waves, and people stop and talk to us,” Tilston said as the news crew prepared to interview the trio. “We can never get enough of it.”