Over the past few months I've written vague sentences describing my so-called monster commission--the largest, most complex watercolor I've ever painted. I spent the bulk of the summer working on it and almost a year planning this 35"x36" painting. Since the end product was meant to be a surprise wedding present from a groom to his bride, I couldn't blog, tweet, or Facebook about it at all (sorry for using Facebook as a verb). And let me tell you, this gag rule has been killing me.
Well, Brian and Katherine are getting married today, and now I can finally write about it! But I thought it might be fun to save the big reveal until the end of this series of posts about Los Angeles. You see, that's where the wedding is taking place.
During the planning process for this painting, Brian said that he wanted to be able to open a box and take out a painting that was ready to hang. He didn't want to mess around with framing the watercolor himself, as that's not really his thing, and he wanted my input. Fair enough. I've had no problems framing my own work, and I figured that I could do this myself and ship it to Brian.
(Note: the next four paragraphs involve framing minutiae and will probably bore you. Feel free to skip.)
Except since the watercolor was oversized, I needed to special-order a jumbo mat to go around it, and I couldn't find a place that sold those one at a time. They were only available in bulk. The online place where I buy my nicer frames said that it would cost $180 to ship an assembled frame to me--again, the oversized nature of the project was making things expensive. Maybe I could save money by having someone in Champaign-Urbana frame it...? Prices ranged from $400 to $600.
Then to ship this monster to Los Angeles, safely packed by professionals and insured, I'd have to pay an additional $500+. And money was indeed an object in this case, as it was coming out of my profits from the commission. I had estimated paying around $500, not over $1000.
I asked my friends and acquaintences on Facebook to see if anyone might be headed to California during July or August--I came close, but no dice.
What if I rolled the painting in a tube and shipped it to a framer in Los Angeles? That seemed smart! Brian helped me search, and after dealing with framers who were more than happy to frame it for low, low prices such as $1,200, we finally found a framer (with excellent reviews) in Marina del Ray who could do it for $275. However, this tube-shipping idea was not going to be cheap, either, running around $150. And honestly, I didn't feel all that great about putting this irreplaceable painting in a tube, hoping that it reached its destination safely, paying some unknown framer to do the job without seeing it myself, and so on.
Jeff had an idea: what if we flew the painting to L.A. ourselves and took it to the framer personally? Earlier this year, he used his credit-card-points-accumulating-mojo to get us to Paris for (essentially) free, and we still had a lot more points waiting to be used. So after a tense hour or so looking for flights and hotels, that's what we ended up doing. We traveled to L.A. ten days before the wedding, delivered the painting to the framer, stayed in town for a couple of days while the painting was framed, and finally met Brian and gave him his painting. And by using points to pay for flights and our hotel, we did so for sorta-free, and happily Jeff's 45th birthday coincided with this trip.
Above: a dubious Bun hates to hear zipper sounds and watch carry-ons being packed. My parents generously offered to cat sit while we were gone last week. Jeff would like to point out that our carry-ons are small: mine holds 2.5 Buns and Jeff's holds 1 Bun.
My brother Ryan travels to China a lot for work, and sometimes he takes golf clubs with him in a padded gun case. He kindly let us borrow the case to provide a further layer of protection for the painting. The tube (4" diameter, 40" long) fit inside the case perfectly.
And I'm no gun person, but there was something so completely badass about carrying that case through airports. We were fully prepared to be thrown to the ground the second we set foot in our local airport, but nobody batted an eye. "Is that a gun?" the woman working the bag-check desk at American Airlines asked us casually.
"No, it's a painting!" we said giddily. We checked the case and were on our way to Los Angeles.