Business-minded artist makes en plein air painting mobile

Sometimes the best inventions are by those solving their own problems. Strada is no different.

Bryan Mark Taylor is a successful painter, with a 30-year career behind him. His work has won numerous awards, and hung in galleries and museums all over the country, including a current exhibit at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints Church History Museum in Salt Lake City. The exhibit is a study on the Mormon Pioneer Trail.

Taylor is also a successful businessman, addressing a unique issue for plein air artists — those that paint outdoors, capturing a landscape in its natural light. This style spurred his invention of the Strada Easel.

“This was an accidental business in a way. I was trying to solve my own problem. It’s intertwined with my career as an artist,” Taylor said standing in his Alpine home last week, surrounded by some of his paintings done all over the world. Taylor travels extensively so he can craft his paintings onsite, in the outdoors. “That’s how I got started. My wood easels would fall apart while traveling. So I thought, ‘What would Steve Jobs do if he were here to make this?’”

The compact metal Strada Easel is the result of both his pain point and channeling a famous inventor. The Strada attaches to standard camera tripods, and has a built-in palette. As Taylor likes to say, it is “almost bulletproof,” and can fall and take a hit, or be thrown around during travel, and still work.

“Everything folds up and can fit in your backpack. Back in the day, plein air painters had to use a wagon,” Taylor said.

Taylor launched the Strada Easel in 2011 at the national Plein Air Convention. The easel gained a lot of interest in the plein air community, because many artists experienced the same problems — wooden easels were cumbersome and breakable during travel. Recently, Taylor has seen a new market outside of the professional artist community for the Strada Easel: baby boomers.

“They are retiring and traveling, and it’s something everybody can do. It’s been fun to see people coming back from all over Europe, Africa and Australia,” Taylor said.

Taylor says plein air painting is a different experience than traveling to a place, photographing it, and then creating a painting from those pictures.

“Instead of a click and you move on, you’re studying a scene for hours at a time. It gives you an excuse to stay in an area for some time,” Taylor said.

Taylor started Strada in California while he was living in the Bay Area. He and his wife and four children moved to Alpine last summer, moving the business as well. The Taylors wanted to be near family in Utah, but Bryan Mark Taylor also wanted to live somewhere with “dynamic landscapes” to spur his artistic muse, and solid manufacturing to spur his business. He found both here.

Strada Easels are primarily sold online through the company website. Since launching his business, he’s walked away from major deals with large retailers, because he wanted to maintain control of the product. Despite this, Taylor said Strada sells more high-end easels than those top retailers combined.

“This easel has a wider reach than my name now,” he said laughing.

For Taylor, promoting plein air painting is the most important segment of his business. He shares plein air painting tips through his Strada Easel YouTube channel. He also regularly competes in plein air conventions, and lectures on the subject all over the nation. He will participate in Utah’s first-ever plein air rendezvous and retreat, Plein Air Utah, this fall in Midway. The goal with that event is to reach out to both professionals and introduce the art to rookies.

This article was originally published June 21, 2017 in the Provo Daily Herald.