Have you had bad experiences with plein air umbrellas that were flimsy, funky, poorly designed, or just plain hazardous when it gets windy? Often when my plein air group is out painting, a gust blows over an easel or two when the umbrellas attached to them turn into sails. When I felt my old umbrella about to carry off my easel I started attaching it to the tall handles of my rolling cart (which also got pulled over once) but I had a hard time adjusting my small umbrella to be in the right place, at the right height or at the right angle.
Now I have a ShadeBuddy Umbrella and Stand and the problem is solved. In the picture above the umbrella is set up in my backyard next to my Soltek easel. (Also pictured, is my trash container (a mesh pop-up laundry basket that folds flat to a circle about 8″ in diameter) clipped to my easel, a folding brush holder, and a plastic shoe box that holds my paint palette and paints. You can see the large area of shade the umbrella provides.
The pansies and pitcher on a table I was preparing to paint are on the far right.
The umbrella and the stand are two separate sections that fit together into the sturdy black zippered bag with a shoulder that comes with them. At the top of the stand is a white cylinder (above) into which you stick the umbrella’s wooden handle. There is a secure locking mechanism for keeping the umbrella in the cylinder and a knob that allows you adjust the angle of the umbrella and then holds it in firmly at that angle.
The cylinder is attached to a metal pole that has a pedal about six inches from the bottom that you step on to push the pointed end of the pole into the ground. When I set mine up for the first time I was surprised how well it all worked and how easy it was. I tend to be spatial-relations challenged and am always prepared for difficulty when assembling things but this was a snap. I was able to adjust the tilt and direction of the umbrella as the sun moved, and the vented umbrella handled the afternoon wind gusts with without even a flutter!
The umbrella is very well made, with a 48″ diameter with “wind vented construction combined with a nonreflective black lining to keep your colors true and a reflective silver outer shell to keep you cool.” Both the closed umbrella and the pole are 48″ long and, when stashed together in the bag, weigh a little over 4 pounds.
The umbrella and pole are manufactured and sold by Judsons Art Outfitters and are also sold at several major online art supply stores. I checked prices and availability on the web and bought mine on sale from Dakota Art Pastels. It was my first purchase from Dakota (in Washington state) and they provided excellent service. My new umbrella arrived two days after I ordered it.
Having the easel made my previously posted painting, “Pansies in Pitcher Plein Air” a pleasure to paint, even under the hot sun in my windy backyard.
Because I really appreciate good tools and well-made products that just work (and that experience is so rare!), and because I know that many other plein air painters struggle with lousy umbrellas that flop or fly, I wanted to share my positive experience. I have no other connections with the manufacturer or store (except that I think highly of both). Judson Art Outfitters also manufacturers the Guerilla Painter line of plein air products and is a family-run business with very helpful and knowledgable staff who can answer most plein air outfitting questions with expertise.