Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Art of Shipping Art

Yesterday, I finished up a batch of original art for my next picture book. I'm really pumped about this particular book. But that's not actually why I'm here today.

I'd like to share a part of the illustration process that's likely been neglected. Too boring? I guess. But I take it very seriously. It's the part of the process when the art is completely done, yes, but it still needs to make it to the publisher. Seeing as this illustrator lives nowhere near his publisher, the art has got to be shipped.

What to do? What sort of packaging is worthy enough to hold these precious pieces of paper I've lived, loved, and screamed at for the past several months?

Here's how I do it.

Exhibit A: The "original art". As you can see, my work is done on paper. And that, my friends, is why it's gotta be shipped. If I worked new-fangley and on the computer (think J. Otto Seibold), I could just zip it all out via email. But I don't roll that way.

Here's the whole book. I think for this particular one, there's about 45 or 50 originals in this pile. I need to divide this up so I can get it in a not so shuffley state.

So, first I separate the big pile into little piles by size. At the end here, I usually have a variety of paper sizes to accommodate for different size drawings--smaller stuff (spot illustrations), medium size (one pagers), and big ones (full spread drawings). Hmm. Looking at this picture, it sure looks rather insignificant. Hard to believe there's about a year's time laying there on the rug. Ah, well. Moving on...

Once the piles are stacked and jogged, I unroll a large roll of white butcher paper...

...and tightly wrap up each stack like little Christmas gifts (Hanukkah ones, for my Jewish family). Tightly wrapped because I do not want any papers sliding around, rubbing ink or color up on each other. That could get ugly.

Then, I'm off to find some large pieces of cardboard.

Luckily, with a 19 month young babe running around the house, we've had lots of recent purchases that came in large cardboard boxes. Large panels of cardboard I've hoarded for just these occasions. I cut down four identical oversized panels of cardboard and set them aside.

On one piece of board, I then slap strip after strip of white paper tape to each xmas gift, securing each into an unmovable position. I don't want anything sliding around in transit. Like I said, no papers sliding around rubbing ink or color together. And none of those xmas gifts should be sliding around either, getting knocked corners or bruises. I sometimes include a full set of the latest round of sketch revisions for the art director to refer to when laying out the book. I did that here. And I always include a letter with some (meddling?) notes to my A.D..

Next, I squeeze all four cardboard pieces together like a tasty sandwich--two boards on each side of the art, for extra-double protection. Then tape, and, tape, and tape some more. Re-re-reinforce.

All that's left is to slap the shipping label on the top of this hopefully-sturdy-enough, custom-made carton.

The package is dropped off at the shipping center by my house. A whole lotta faith. A little bit of prayer.

And there you have it. Tomorrow, I will be tracking the package to check for its delivery, followed by an email or two to my lovely editor, Liz, until I know the mailroom has brought it up for a final stop at her desk.

But now, for some much-needed studio clean-up time. What a dump.


Paige Keiser said...

Thanks for this post! I've never been happy with my packing procedures - I actually cut out tracing paper and cover each art piece with it, but this looks like a much easier way to do it! Very neat and professional looking. Can't wait to see this book, I love your limited color palette.

Matthew Cordell said...

Thanks, Paige! Glad my method could be of some use to somebody out there. I've kinda fine tuned it over the years. A packaging work in progress...

tom lichtenheld said...

Thanks for this posting. It's one of those little things that's SO important to what we do and, by chance, I am in the middle of making a custom-made box to ship off a new batch of art to Chronicle.

Matthew Cordell said...

Thanks for checking in here, Tom. Godspeed and safe delivery on yours! I just sent a piece of art out today for a jacket. Never gets easier...

Renea Luong said...

You did a great job in packing your artwork! Where did you learn this packaging technique? Aside from just placing it in an envelope, you still made a custom carton to secure your item! It shows how much you value your work. Very inspiring!