I recently had a show of almost 50 paintings at the Society of Illustrators in New York (I live in California). I thought it might be a good idea to pass along some thoughts on how to pack and ship artwork efficiently and safely while minimizing costs.

Picking through piles of work, looking for things to send

Having a show requires knowing how much space may be available in a given venue or gallery, so the first thing is to get an accurate floor plan if possible. Whenever possible it is a good idea to get someone to photograph the venue as well. Luckily I was able to get all this with the help of Lindsay and Steve Compton at the Society of Illustrators.

Society of Illustrators  Gallery floor plan

Once I knew how much wall space was available I started to organize my list of work. Many post-its and scraps of paper later I put together a spreadsheet which I used to organize the information – dimensions, type of frame and whether it needed to be ordered, location or the art itself, client data etc. about each piece and any related tasks specific to a given piece (such as borrowing from a collector).

organizing stuff

I once I had the information and a general plan, I added up the widths of all the works and subtracted this from the total amount of running wall space, which gave me the amount of space needed between each painting. Then I re-edited the show list, adding and deleting work with the idea of making the best show I could while making the most of the space

spreadsheet #3

I ordered the frames I needed. (My framer supplies the frames with foam corners, which I highly recommend for both storage and shipping. – You can make your own foam frame corners using foam pipe insulation- the black rubber sleeves you put over plumbing pipes to keep them from freezing- from home depot.


I divided the art into two groups. Large (the biggest was 33×46) and small- 24×30 and smaller. Then I built two wood crates.

I was able to make two very solid crates from three sheets of plywood plus a number of 1×3 x 8’ furring strips. I have an aversion to using a circular saw (you should too), so I have the plywood cut at the lumberyard. I built each crate around the largest piece that would be in it, and tried to make it as light as possible to save shipping costs.

Voids in the crate were packed with foam insulation sheets, cardboard and foam wrap. I bought a huge roll of foam wrap and wrapped each painting in the large crate (making sure to have repro quality photos of every piece before sending). I attached label information to the back of each piece corresponding to the label info that I sent to the society, so that there would be no chance of cross-ups. I wrote the title of each piece on the foam wrap or the foam corner as well.

The crates are built using screws not nails, not only for strength but so that the crates can be disassembled upon return and stored flat.

crate construction detail. Pro tip: sand all the corners- you dont want a handler to get a splinter and drop the crate!


I researched many art shipping companies, eventually I was referred to a friend who owns an art gallery to U.S. Art Company art shipping (877)528-7278. I highly recommend them.

To avoid a hefty additional charge to have the crates picked up at my house, I had to bring them to a rendezvous spot in San Francisco. My friend, illustrator Brian Stauffer, has a Westphalia VW van that accommodated both crates, which we brought to the handoff spot in SF. A week later they were at the society. Steve and Lindsay Compton hung the show- knowing that the work would all fit in the gallery I relaxed and left the final organization of the show to them.

Handing of the crates to the art shipper

The show was up for three months. I visited in person for the reception which was a beautiful and moving evening for me. (pic) Many friends and colleagues came to the show. The society recorded a video mini-documentary which is available to view at the SOI website.


Everything got there!

People came to the show!

A few weeks after the show came down, the crates arrived back in San Francisco, safe and sound.

When you have the good fortune to have a show like this you want to be sure nothing goes wrong. I’m very grateful to have had this opportunity to show a large selection of my work at SOI all at once!

Thanks to

U.S.Art Company (Art shippers)

Wholesale Frame company (custom frames)

Society of Illustrators

Brian Stauffer

Lynn, Victoria, William, and Stephanie Hunt

Steve and Lindsay Compton, Tim O’Brien and Anelle Miller at SOI

Kevin Schreck Productions (Video)