Shipping Artwork FedEx Ground vs. UPS: What I’ve learned

I follow the blog of a wonderful watercolor artist, Carrie Waller,  she recently had trouble with shipping a painting to the NWS Members show. I had a similar experience shipping my two paintings to the WPSE show  about a month ago. I had intended to do a blog article on all of my escapades with shipping, so now I thought would be a good time while it’s all fresh in my mind. After many phone calls to FedEx and UPS I gleaned some valuable information from both companies I wanted to pass on to fellow artists because it seems I’m not the only one with shipping dilemmas. I don’t profess to be an expert on this by any means but was quite surprised what I found out after speaking with FedEx and UPS directly…

First, I bit the bullet and decided to get an Airfloat box to ship the two paintings.  I had recently purchased a small box to ship one painting to the Georgia Watercolor Society National show and since I get a small discount and I’m fairly new at shipping artwork, I decided better be  safe than sorry and get the Airfloat.  I know Galleries and Watercolor Societies prefer these for their ease in unpacking and packing to send work back.  I volunteered last year to do this at the Florida Watercolor Society Annual Show, and can speak first hand Airfloat, or something similar, is easier.

To ship the smaller painting to Georgia, I got an account with FedEx to ship FedEx Ground.  I highly recommend getting an account especially if you are going to use UPS, more on that later.  I have accounts with both.  It’s easy to do on line and it’s free.  I had no trouble shipping my painting to Georgia with FedEx Ground.  I did all the labels on line, and requested a return label to include with my painting so they could send it back, or my box back if it sold.  Airfloats you can use multiple times.

A few weeks later I needed to ship the two paintings to Tennessee.  Airfloat does not recommend you ship two paintings in one box.  I had seen it done before and calculated it would be more economical for me than buying 2 Airfloat boxes and sending two shipments.  I got a thicker box so that I could put an extra layer of my own foam to accommodate the second painting.  One of the paintings was large, therefore I needed one of the bigger boxes.  I got the 48” x 58” x 5.5”.  These aren’t cheap even with the discount.  The saving grace is they can be used again.  Since this box is BIG, I called both FedEx and UPS to make sure that it didn’t fall into their oversize category before I bought it just to be sure I didn’t pay more for shipping then I had figured on their on line calculator.

Now the fun begins… I packed the paintings and  went on line to do the labels through FedEx Ground.  No problem doing the label to get it to the gallery.  Clicked on the option for the return label and it would only let me put a declared value of $1000.  The two paintings together were valued at $4950 which I could indicate on the first label I created to get them to the gallery.  I called FedEx, the representative told me I could get around it by not doing the return label option, but instead doing a second label just reversing the address.  I did exactly as she said but then, the form wouldn’t accept the date I needed to indicate for return shipping.  I called FedEx again.  This time I was told that the labels you create are only good for 30 days in the FedEx system. My paintings were going to be in the show 2 months.   The way to get around this is to ask the gallery if you can email them a label closer to the date for return, which I did and they were not too keen on the idea because they have 150 artists to keep track of and it is just best to have your label in the box for packing day.  The other way to get around this, I thought, would be to go to my Mail Box store and get a FedEx way bill and put my account number on it and fill it out manually versus on line and the day it was sent it would be billed to my account.  After a trip to the store, I realized that wouldn’t work. They do not have way bills for ground service, only the express more expensive services.  I called FedEx back and asked to speak with a manager.  (More shenanigans ensued, which I won’t go into, because this article is getting too long as it is.)

After finally speaking with the manager, this is what I learned, pay attention here, even though, on the on line form they let me put a declared value of $4950 for  my shipment, FedEx will only honor $1000 for artwork and jewelry!  If your paintings are valued more than $1000, going and coming back,  you are taking a risk, if they should get damaged. Her suggestion was for me to buy a separate insurance policy to cover the work. Regarding the issue of the label, she didn’t have a solution, their labels are only good for 30 days once they are created.  If your work has to be at your show or gallery longer, you would have to work out an arrangement to get them the label within 30 days of the return ship date.

With the value of my work and the time issue FedEx was not an option this time.  Now on to UPS.  Their labels are good for 90 days, my problem was solved.  However, if your work has to be at a show longer, same situation applies as described with FedEx.  Regarding the value issue, here is the breakdown of how much you can declare with UPS:

  • If you have an account you can declare up to $50,000.
  • If you ship through and authorized dealer, like Staples or Office Depot the maximum you can declare is $999.99.
  • If you create your labels on line at with credit card, maximum value you can declare is $5000.
  • If you drop off at your Mail Box store where the driver picks up packages, maximum value is $5000, because you have probably created your label on line.
  • If you go to your Mail Box Store and do the label through them so it is recorded at the store, you can declare $50,000.

The moral of this story is if your painting is valued at more then $1000.00 you will not be fully covered for damage, unless you have a UPS account or you go to your Mail Box store and create your labels with them.  As long as your show is less than 30 days, FedEx ground is fine.  If longer then UPS is the better option.

Part Two of this article will cover what I learned about the  declared value and what happens if your painting is damaged. (I promise it will be shorter.)  Please leave a comment if you have had other experiences or insights. 🙂


Hong Kong Gatekeeper

Hong Kong Gatekeeper_for blog

Hong Kong Gatekeeper, 6″ x 6″, Watercolor on Paper

To Purchase this painting click here.

While living in Hong Kong I was so intrigued by the Chinese temples and visited quite a few of them in the area.  I was doing a sketch in the Man Mo temple on Hong Kong Island one day and the incense from the huge incense coils made my eyes burn and by the time I left I reeked of smoke.  One thing that was ubiquitous was the ornate lion head brass door pulls on the entrances to the temples.  Because I’m usually honing in on the details, I have quite a few photos of these and did many sketches of them on site.

Lori Putnam Demo

I was very fortunate to attend a demo given by plein air painter Lori Putnam during the Women Painters of the Southeast Annual Exhibit opening festivities.  Lori is an extremely dedicated and hard working artist and her passion for painting shows in her work.  She is also one of the nicest and most sincere artists you could ever hope to meet.  During the demo she painted a painting from a plein air sketch she had done on a recent “painting snow” trip to Wisconsin with Dawn Whitelaw,  and she also had many inspiring words of wisdom about being and artist and how she got started on her journey.  (Note:  She had the photo to her right on a screen just for us to see the scene she was painting.  During the demo, she referred to her actual plein air sketch, to create a bigger work.)

There were 2 take aways I have been pondering in my mind since the demo.  One is to think about the purpose of your painting before you get started.  Are you wanting to emphasize form, light and shadow, light and dark patterns, line, color?  The painting she did in the demo is a relative value painting.  Essentially just 3 values and how you make them relate to one another.  There is a lot to think about during the painting process and hopefully part of that process will be intuitive  but, to start with a plan of what you are going for instead of just haphazardly starting to paint resonated with me.

Lori was also the judge for awards for the show, which I can imagine must be a daunting task with so many great paintings to choose from for a select few.  She said while viewing all of the work she was “looking for paintings that had not been painted from ego, but from the soul.”   I have heard this same idea, not exactly in these words,  from other judges too.  If we try and paint from that place where as Lori says, “soul” or our personality is reflected in our work and we feel we have achieved that it in the work we show, maybe the judges will feel it too.  Something to think about.


Women Painters of the Southeast 2nd Annual Exhibition

 My paintings Bird’s Eye View and Pak Tai Guardian in the exhibition.  Please contact Imagine Gallery,, for purchase information.

Just got back from the Women Painters of the Southeast 2nd Annual Exhibition at the Imagine Gallery in Franklin, TN.  What an amazing show and experience!  Met so many wonderful new friends and talented artists.  What an inspirational demo by Lori Putnam!   Congratulations to a new friend and fellow Floridian, Rosalyn O’grady for winning Best in Show.  Such a wonderful event in a charming beautiful community!  Thank you to the Imagine Gallery and to all of those who organized the event and donated their time to make us all feel so welcome for the weekend.

You can view the works by in the show by all of these talented women artists here,

T Mode, Paris

For all of my Paris friends, this is a wonderful event that takes place every spring in the Marais.  Around 100 artisans will be exhibiting, hand made jewelry, clothing, purses, and all kinds of accessories.  All are very unique and one of a kind.  I have collected several pieces from a wonderful jewelry artist, Wathiny, who participates in this event every year.  For more information on her work, Wathiny Bijoux,

Exhibition Great Art on Screen: Manet, Portraying Life

Exhibition Great Art on Screen TrailerScreen Shot 2013-04-09 at 5.31.04 PM Screen Shot 2013-04-09 at 5.33.33 PM


This is a one night event nationwide in certain theaters, on Thursday April 11, 2013.    I am going on Thursday, Cinemark Festival Bay, Orlando.   It is an exhibition on screen of the exhibit, “Manet, Portraying Life at the Royal Academy of Arts in London.  I can’t wait to see how this is done on a movie screen!  For information go to, plug in your zip code and click on a theatre near you where you can buy tickets and see the trailer.  They will be doing a one night event in this series on Munch in June, and Vermeer in October.

Manet is one of my favorite French painters.  Many think he was one of the Impressionist but he never classified himself as such even though he was painting during the same time period.  Their were 8 Impressionist exhibits between the years of 1874 and 1886 and he did not exhibit in any of them.  His student and protege Berthe Morisot was in a few and was only one of three women to exhibit with the French Impressionists, along with American, Mary Cassatt and Marie Bracquemond.

If you go see this, please leave a comment and let me know what you thought!

Tuscan Olives

www.KimMinichiello.comTuscan Olives, Watercolor, 8″ x 8″

During a previous year’s Troupe 4276 trip to Italy, we visited the Roman Ruins in a hill town, Fielsole,  above Florence.  There was a small olive grove on the grounds.  I wandered  through the trees, taking photos of the olives dangling from the branches. That moment was the inspiration for this painting, “Tuscan Olives.”

I am donating this painting for the Live Auction at the Dr. Phillips Theatre Magnet’s 8th Annual Gala, “Giving Hearts for the Arts.”  Proceeds are also benefiting the American Cancer Society.  Come  join us for this  wonderful cause, and a fun evening with food, and entertainment from the award winning Troupe 4276!