Plein Air Painting Retreats for the Experienced Painter


Painting retreats, unlike the all-level workshops, are for experienced plein air painters only. Because there is no formal instruction, you are expected to know how to paint and how to handle your gear.  (If you can use a brush, mix basic colors and set up your easel, and you are comfortable with painting outdoors, you qualify!) The goal of the retreat is to give the participant an enjoyable and productive experience in the company of like-minded painters. Camaraderie is the key to the success of the program. Retreats vary in size, usually depending on accommodations, they can be as small as 3 or 4 participants or up to 10 or 12 participants. (Best to inquire on the size prior to booking.)

Each day after breakfast, Michael leads a critique session of work done the day before. After critiques, we go painting as a group, led to a location that Michael either has personally painted at or has researched. (For some retreats, he engages local painting guides who may join in critiques and painting.) Lunches, depending on the location, are either in the field, back at the lodging, or at a local restaurant. Afternoons are more free-form. Participants may continue to paint as a group or go off on their own to paint or explore. Michael can suggest areas to paint in or optional activities. Depending on the retreat location, we may visit a local artist’s studio, a museum or gallery. Dinners are sometimes communal, sometimes at a local establishment.  If you have questions about a specific retreat, please ask!

Michael has hosted in retreats in many beautiful parts of the US and elsewhere:  Scotland, Nova Scotia (Canada), Maine, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah…and more!  Previous retreat participants and students always get first preference.  To get notified about upcoming retreats, make sure to sign up for the newslette!



Maine, Lubec / 2024

August 5-9, 2024 / $300 for the retreat, but does not include meals or lodging. (Participants will seek their own lodging.)  Beautiful bold oceanside cliffs, historic fishing villages, lighthouses, fishing boats, islands!  NEARLY FULL!

Payment Details

    • Cost of the retreat is USD $300
    • Full payment of $300 USD required at signup. Payment is non-refundable unless your reserved place can be filled by another participant.
    • Payment may be made by check or Zelle.
    • For the Maine retreat only: Before you sign up, please note that a passport, passport card or Enhanced Driver’s License is required. This will allow you to visit Michael’s Campobello Island studio and to paint on the island.
    • Contact Michael to make sure there is space, and then you can make payment either via check or Zelle.



Every retreat is different, but each has a few things in common:

1. Mobility

My retreats are not for people with mobility issues. You will need to be able to walk on sometimes-uneven ground with your equipment and carry your own gear. (You can always choose to paint from the car, but the best views aren’t necessarily there.)  There may not be picnic tables or benches available, so if you need a seat or a table, you should consider bringing your own. Make sure your wear sturdy shoes; sandals are unsafe. Restrooms may not always be nearby

2. You need to be an experienced painter.

This is not a workshop.  All that said, Michael will run critique sessions, offer at least two formal demonstrations and serve as location scout.  (Anytime he paints, you can also watch what he does as a demonstration.)   If you can’t paint on your own without help, this retreat is not from you.  Still, there is plenty to learn from each other

3. You will need a car.

Due to liability insurance, participants can’t ride with Michael; we also can’t guarantee that you can get a ride with a student. For retreats, we may sometimes drive an hour or more from our base camp.

4. What about travelling with paints?

Oil paints you can either ship ahead or put in your checked luggage. You shouldn’t have any problem with them, since they are “artist’s oil colors” made with vegetable oil and have a very high flash point. However, don’t take mediums (e.g. Liquin) or solvents (e.g. Turpenoid), all of which are highly flammable. These you will need to ship ahead.

Pastels you should take in your carry-on luggage. Put them in a container that will be easy for security to open. Make sure the container can be easily secured again so your pastels don’t go spilling down the aisle.

5. What if I’m not doing oil or pastel but using some other medium?

You may work in any medium for the retreat. Michael will use oil, pastel or gouache.

Special Note for Acrylic Painters Working Outdoors: Acrylics dry fast outdoors. Make sure you are prepared to deal with fast-drying conditions. Consider using a Sta-Wet Palette, retarder and mister. Or, try the new, slower-drying acrylics such as Golden Open or Atelier Interactive.

6. What should I expect?

Read the retreat description carefully, and if you have specific questions or concerns, please ask Michael.  Feel free to bring a snack or lunch, since our morning painting session may take us past lunch.

7. Can I get a supply list?

For retreats, Michael doesn’t require participants to bring anything other than what they usually take for plein air painting.  However, here is his basic list for oil and pastel.