Shipping a Painting?: Advice from Chicago Artists

A few months ago, Chicago Art Magazine stumbled upon a Facebook conversation initiated by Geoffrey Todd Smith, who asked the question that many artists ask each other: how to safely and inexpensively pack and ship a painting. He asked,

Work by Geoffery Todd Smith

“Any of you painters have advice for shipping a relatively big painting on canvas? Should I just make a crate or is there a cheaper alternative? Is there somebody I can pay to do this who isn’t too expensive?” Adding that the work he wanted to ship was “52”x 64.” Stretched canvas.”

In response to Smith’s question, many of his Facebook friends weighed in with excellent advice:

Multi-media artist and teacher, David A. Parker, jumped in first with a link to where to buy alternatives to expensive crating:

“A lot of people (including me) use Strongboxes – way cheaper than crates, and lighter too. http://masterpak-usa.com/hil_01_strong.htm If you think you need a crate I can ask a few folks, let me know.”

Cassie Marie Edwards was next, with advice on repurposing shipping material that you might already have around:

“I order my frames from American Frame company, and they send their orders in heavy duty cardboard boxes with reinforcement. I’ve reused their boxes to ship some paintings and they’ve been really great. I just use 1″ Styrofoam insulation on both sides of the canvas, and wrap the painting in bubble wrap in case it gets dinged. They’ve worked really well though.”

Painter Todd Chilton added,

“I usually make my own boxes. Wrap the painting in plastic, 2 layers of bubble wrap, then 2 layers of cardboard all around. Never had a problem. I shipped a 48″x60″ painting FedEx that way and it was fine.”

Cameron MacEachran suggested “blue insulation foam. Reinforce the corners. Use good tape.” While painter Bob Jones asked, “Were is it going Geoffrey? 52” x 64” can probably be slip cased, and shipped express.”

Geoffrey Todd Smith: “To Los Angeles for the art fair at the end of the month.”

Todd Chilton:  “That’s the other thing. Always ship express.”

Chicago-based artist Brian Kapernekas gave advice based on his first hand experience:

“Rate on the weight of a crate is steep. I’ve geeked out on a 6’x7′ canvas once by slipcasing the whole thing in cardboard and styro sheets, and reinforced the front with 1/4″ luan sheet. Wasn’t pretty, but lighter then a solid crate. Is it a 50/50 shipping thing between you and LA?”

Geoffrey Todd Smith: “I am just trying to cut the cost by keeping it light. It more than doubles costs for these robbers to crate stuff. I’m just not the most handy guy in the world and I don’t usually work this big.”

Ryan Travis Christian, a Chicago-based artist known for his drawings, suggested that a simple method might be the way to go:

“Pink insulation foam crate is the cheapest, easy to build, nice and light. I made one for a 4’ x 6’ framed drawing to send to LA and it was super affordable for them. Also I punched the foam crate as hard as I could and it held up quite nicely.”

Geoffrey Todd Smith: “Thanks everyone. I had a pretty good idea of what I needed to do but this helps. Just trying to streamline the operation and keep my costs down. I am not very good at dealing with the bullshit after the artwork is done.”

Michael Rea: “tisk, tisk”