Since summer has arrived, I thought this would be a good time to look at some of the artist's umbrellas available out there. Previously I wrote this post, and as a result have received numerous emails from artists around the world asking where to find umbrellas, so I thought I would compile what I've seen out there into one resource. I'll leave the previous post to cover the reasons why, and designate this post to what's out there and where. As always, I'd love to hear your comments on this topic.
I recently tried out the newly available Best Brella (below, $100), designed by Patricia Kellner. Smartly designed, it is probably one the sturdiest and lightest of all the umbrellas, attaching to your easel (any type) via a heavy duty photography clamp. This umbrella was designed by an avid outdoor artist for outdoor artists, aiming to alleviate many of the issues found in other umbrellas, particularly their tendency to slip and fall over. It fits easily into a small carrying case that hardly adds any weight to your outdoor painting kit. This page on the Best Brella site succinctly explains the problem of reflective light. Standing in full sun will wear you out, but that's not the only reason to have one. Expect to see this new umbrella on location in the months ahead as it catches on.
ShadyBuddy by Guerilla Painter is a good free-standing umbrella, strong and lightweight. You can find it online at Guerilla Painter ($89.99), at Judson's Art Outfitters ($89.99) and Jerry's Artarama ($66.99), among others (prices as of this posting). It appears to be pretty popular, as many websites are out of their ShadeBuddy stock. Make sure you get the set with both the umbrella and the stand, not just the umbrella.
The most inexpensive umbrella ($29.95) that will still cover your needs is a fishing umbrella available through Bank Fishing Systems in Indianapolis. The interior is a dark green and it might be a little short for some folks to stand under, but you can't beat the price. Though quite wide, this one doesn't tilt.
And of course, the elusive Yarka - once imported from St. Petersburg by Jack Richeson, along with the Yarka field easels; unfortunately, neither of these products are being imported any longer (though the company still carries other Yarka products). Free-standing, made of aluminum and canvas with a black interior. You can call (800/233-2404) or email Jack Richeson and ask them to import these items again - maybe if they hear from enough people, they will change their mind. Or maybe not.
So, that should give you some choices. Remember, you get what you pay for. I can recommend the above; most of the other umbrellas out there aren't worth your time. (One extra tip for any umbrella, from artist Steve Mirich: sew key rings onto the points around the diameter of the umbrella - this will allow you to attach some small rope to tie the umbrella down.)