Q: What your experiences in mailing original artwork… you know good ol’ snail mail. Any carriers to avoid? Any horror stories? Advice?
A: I’m pretty paranoid about mailing originals, so I have had very few issues with doing so. The most important thing is how you package it. Basically, you have to box it up anticipating it will be dropped, thrown, stepped on and otherwise carelessly treated from the beginning to end of the journey. If you package it securely enough that none of those things will damage the artwork, you will be alright. I used to (briefly) work in a UPS warehouse, so I have seen how parcels get tossed about. Better safe than sorry.
Any MAD originals I might ship are gigantic, typically needing a package size of 17″ x 22″ minimum. I use heavy foamcore or multiple layers of strong corrugated cardboard, and tape every edge with heavy-duty packing tape. The fact that they are so big precludes anyone trying to fold it to fit into a mailbox, so the size works to my advantage.
Horror stories? Just one:
Back in 2004 I did this piece of art as a gift for a couple of friends getting married:
It was about 12″ x 18″, acrylic and airbrush on illustration board. It’s a take on an old MAD cover by C.F. Payne, where Howard Stern and Dennis Rodman were being married… BOTH in brides dresses and by Alfred (in regular minister garb as opposed to an Elvis suit). The happy couple were and are both caricature artists I know who live in Las Vegas. The bride is Celestia Ward, who years later edited my book for me and did an incredible job on it. The groom is Robert Sundin III (a.k.a. Sundini), and together they are Two Heads Studios, still happily married and still drawing away in Vegas. I did the painting, scanned it and they used it for some of their printed wedding stuff. I Fed Exed them the original.
They never got it.
No one was home when the delivery truck stopped by so the Fed Ex delivery person just left the package on their doorstep, in a neighborhood in the outskirts of the greater Las Vegas metro area. It was a stormy, windy day. It was not there when they got home later in the day. We figure either the wind caught the large, flat and light package and blew it into the desert, or some nefarious soul came by and stole it. I never saw it on eBay, which is where you’d expect such a thing to end up if a thief stole it, so I suspect the former. It’s probably fetched up against a cactus in the south of Nevada being peed on by coyotes.
Anyway, these days I make sure I require a signature for delivery to prevent a repeat of that. I also never send original art via any form of delivery that is not 100% trackable, so either Fed Ex, UPS or USPS Express mail. Of the three I trust USPS the least, they are all overworked and understaffed. Despite the horror story above I still trust Fed Ex the most, and use that most of the time.
Thanks to Leo Kelly for the question. If you have a question you want answered for the mailbag about cartooning, illustration, MAD Magazine, caricature or similar, e-mail me and I’ll try and answer it here!