(Left to right) Andre Lucero, Olena Babek, Beth Bathe, Mick McAndrews, and Patrick Lee

The power of friendship and passion for outdoor painting overcame several logistical obstacles for five Northeast painters who gathered at Topsail beach for a painting retreat. Their tale of triumph is just one click away.

In late April 2017, Andre Lucero, Olena Babak, Beth Bathe, Patrick Lee, and Mick McAndrews were determined to realize a magical week of plein air painting in beautiful Topsail Beach, North Carolina. Over the past few years, the five northeastern painters have formed a special friendship through several nationally juried plein air events. What better way to escape the cold and gray of the Northeast than to head down south to the sandy beaches of North Carolina and its iconic Outer Banks?

Beth Bathe and her sunrise — that sand looks soft!
The artists together at the sound; what a fascinating critique that would be!

There were several logistical hurdles that had to be overcome, however. The week before, Andre Lucero was busy participating at the Olmsted Plein Air Invitational and Mick McAndrews had a date with the Plein Air Convention & Expo in San Diego. Olena Babak perhaps had the most treacherous path, driving close to 20 hours from Maine through a snowstorm. How on earth could they pull all this together? Friendship, passion for plein air, and warmth — perhaps.

Andre Lucero paints the surf.
Mick McAndrews captures some beach architecture.
Patrick Lee paints the beach from the comfort of the porch.
Olena Babak braved the elements to be with her friends and paint — looks like it was worth it!

The story has a happy ending: It all worked out. The five painters made it happen and were together at last, painting every sunrise and moonrise on the beach. “We painted together, cooked together, read art books, talked art history and stayed up to the wee hours of the morning,” Beth Bathe remarked. “Some mornings, we were the only people on the beach. Just us, the waves, and the break of dawn. We can’t wait to do it all over again, and again!”

Beautiful results from the trip by Beth Bathe
by Patrick Lee
by Olena Babek
by Mick McAndrews
Andre Lucero, “The Deep Blue Sea,” oil, 12 x 16 inches
Andre Lucero, “A Peaceful Morning,” oil, 16 x 20 inches

Stories like this seem to characterize well the culture and family of plein air painting: like-minded artists with a love for outdoor painting find community and belonging, making memories — and paintings — together that will last a lifetime. Do you have a painting gang? If not, this might be a perfect time to discover something new.


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