Painter on the Roof

A short post about my beloved Land Rover Defender 110.

Anyone who has painted much outdoors realizes that often you would have a better view if you were only up a little higher. I ran across this photo recently in the New York Times which shows that I wasn’t the first person to think of using the roof of my car as a movable painting platform. Here is Ansel Adams:

Ansel Adams on his Car

Ansel Adams on the roof of his car (NY times).

I bought my Defender in 2005 and have been using it as a mobile plein air landscape painting studio ever since.

Land Rover Defender for Landscape Painting

Using my Defender to get up over the olive trees near Trevi, Umbria

The truck is high enough to get me up over the olive trees, which is the biggest problem when plein air landscape painting in Tuscany and Umbria. The choice of views is greatly increased if you can see over both the small trees as well as the vineyards.

Before getting this 4×4 I was using small 2-wheel drive cars to paint. While scouting off-road I would constantly get stuck and have to find a farmer to pull me out with his tractor. With this car I can drive pretty much anywhere I need to in order to get to my views.

Land Rover Defender as Landscape Painting Studio

Painting from the roof of the Defender near San Gimigniano.

If there is a bit of wind it can be difficult to work on larger canvases. A Land Rover Defender 110 is 90 inches¬†(228 cm)¬†high without the roof rack and couple of times I’ve had the whole set-up blow over. Luckily there has never been any damage as oil paintings (and easels) are quite tough.

When working in strong winds I usually restrict myself to small panels these days, just to be safe.


  1. Thanks for that link. I’ve been looking at ways of getting the canvas on the side of the car like he does as well.

    I don’t think I need to get up that high yet though.

    Thanks again.

  2. I have been having the same idea regarding to painting from the roof of my van. I am looking at home building my roof system.

    Did you purchase yours? Or was it a home build?

    We are a crazy bunch wanting to be up higher and painting from the roof top.



    • Hello David, mine was made specially for Landrovers as many people use then for safaris. They make special tents for them as well which I would like to get at some point so I can travel and not sleep with the paint fumes in the cabin.

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