Sunday Mailbag: Storing Original Art?

April 12th, 2015 | Posted in Mailbag

Sunday Mailbag!

Q: Do you have any tips how to store original art? How do you store your drawings? How do you protect them against men, mice, bugs and time? 

A: Everything on your list of things to protect against is quite easy to do after you have completed a piece of art… the exception is time. That you need to think about before you draw a single line.

Protecting originals is pretty easy and straightforward. You simpy keep them dry, clean and contained so nothing can get to them. Container stores and places like Target or office supply stores cary a wide range of plastic tubs or organizers withing which you can stack many pieces of art, and then seal up nice and tight. That protects the art against dust, bugs, mice, water damage and pretty much anything else that cannot open your container. The only thing I would recommend there is place a piece of acid-free paper or two between each original. Also, store it in the least humid place in your house (not above the bathtub).

Time is another matter. How well your art holds up against time depends largely on what you created it with. Using archival materials like acid-free paper or illustration boards, good quality paints or real inks will last a very, very long time. Many lifetimes in fact. Introducing non-archival materials like marker, some dyes and chemical-based pigments like Dr. Martin watercolors, glues, etc, will not last long no matter how you store it. I have some wonderful old MAD originals from the 1950’s that are in pretty rough shape thanks to the rubber cement they use to glue the typeset words on the art. Not only are the cropped typeset pieces all yellowed and fallen off, bit where they were pasted on to the art there are big, brown “burn” shapes. Back in the day no one gave a thought about the longevity of original comic book work. Once the comic was printed, the art was disposable. MAD publisher Bill Gaines had the foresight to save all the originals from EC and MAD, but no one considered (or likely knew about) the archival quality of the materials they used.

It’s becoming a moot point these days as more and more work is produced digitally with no originals at all. Sad. You can’t hang pixels on the wall. Prints are nice but there is something about having the physical piece of art someone whose work you admire actually touched and slaved over.

Thanks to Dominik Zeillinger 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!




  1. Michael E. Vernon says:

    Thank you! As you said, you cannot hang pixels on the wall. There is nothing like art work that you can physically touch. To be able to look at a piece of work that has a part of the artist in it. You don’t get that anywhere else.

    Unfortunately, I myself have spent the last ten years, creating art on bristol board with tempera paint. If I read you right, it sounds like my works will disintegrate in oblivion.


New profile pic courtesy of my self-caricature for the Scott Maiko penned article “Gotcha! Mug Shots of Common (but Despicable) Criminals” from MAD 550

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