One in the Can

Film in canI’m writing this on a Wednesday. It’s the day I usually write the post for this blog. If you’re a regular reader, you know I’ve “Gone Fishin.’” In other words, I felt the need for a little break and took a two-week “Blogcation.” Still, here I am, writing on Wednesday.

Is it simply a matter of habit? Have I been so steeped in ritual I can’t take a vacation, enjoy a break? Nope. I just looked at the April calendar and realized it’s very busy and, well….

I need a couple in the can.

I’m not talking about delicate toilet habits, here, and certainly not the garbage. The saying comes from the film industry. Having wrapped filming and editing, they‘d put the product in a metal tin. For me, “in the can” is like building upon previous efforts, stockpiling, even. Hey, just look at all the links in this article that’ll take you to related topics. It’s smart to recycle…or up-cycle. Easy. Efficient. Here are a few examples:

  • Recently I taught a “Pain-free Business for Artists” workshop at Blue Line Arts in Roseville, California. (Psssst….there will be another in May and you can register here!). This full-day workshop was a compilation of smaller, 90-minute workshops I’ve taught over the years. I had to do a little editing and massaging to make it happen…but not much. Most of it was “in the can.”
  • A couple weeks ago, I got a call from a curator asking me if I’d do an art show in May. Well, I was quite happy for the offer and even happier I could say “YES!” because I have inventory in my studio. Since I paintIn the Can on a regular basis, I have a body of work to show on demand….in the can!
  • A friend was thrilled to reached an agreement with a prestigious gallery in a fantastic art market. She found herself up against a deadline trying to meet their demands and was frazzled because they wanted more pieces. Everything she painted was a disappointment to her, because she was forcing it (sound familiar?). It was very, very stressful for her to get the work together to deliver. I found her bedraggled and tense in the grocery store where she looked me straight in the eye and said, “This is NEVER happening again! I’m going to keep working even if there isn’t a deadline or a project.” Yes – she realized the value of….you got it! The can.

So here I am.

On my “Fishin’ break.”


because I think you might find life a little easier if you have some of your work “in the can,” too. Do you make a practice of staying one step ahead? How do you do it? Feel free to share it with us, by leaving a comment below.

You CAN!



Michelle Andres is a writer and artist. Michelle in Studio Chair CroppedShe writes this blog to share tips for a Well-Lived Life and a finely run art business…just for you!

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21 Replies to “One in the Can”

  1. Hmmm… Nothing has been selling and my studio is getting crowded. Had thought about just not painting for a while, but this makes me rethink that. Just keep plugging along to be ready for that now unforeseen opportunity. Thanks, the timing was perfect.

    1. Susan, I’m in favour of continuing to work for several reasons. First, I think we continue to develop and evolve. Secondly, fresh work can find a niche and resonate with people – you might get a series going that SELLS! Also, should the opportunity arise you will have a cohesive body of work for a gallery or show (providing you work in a series. ). Maybe you can consider an event to get rid of some of your previous work, like an open studio? Good luck and keep working! ~m

  2. Hi Michelle,

    Thanks to your “6 steps” blog I’ve pretty much kept to my new 2015 schedule (even telling everyone that I will not be available during the week; even my husband knows not to hand me the phone because a friend wants to talk) but I’m STILL getting knocked off my routine because of life things. Thankfully, I’m finishing all of that today and will be back to my work!

    I do delegate whenever I can and that has been the biggest help. Ritual has become extremely important too and I know when I lose that routine I find myself open to distractions.

    And now I am off to get more work “in the can.”

  3. Michelle your post hit me like a nail on the head. I needed this today. Let me tell you that I’m guilty of not being One step ahead at all times…I am working on the “in the can” but the process is slower than I imagined. This is one of the areas of my life that needs to be fixed and I am willing to give my best. Your post has definitely placed me one step ahead and I’m grateful to you:)

    1. Hema, I think half the battle is admitting you need to focus more strongly on something. What works for me, is knowing what tasks I must complete with any regularity. Look at your calendar, what needs to get done? Rather than simply racing towards deadlines, when you have a little lull spend less time “goofing off,” and work a bit toward completing one of those tasks. If inspiration strikes, jump on it. That way, sometimes you find yourself ahead of the game – and that’s a cherished feeling indeed. Best of luck and let me know how it goes! ~m

  4. I so wish I felt like I had “one in the can”. I set myself the goal of having one new piece per week, to add to my website and social media to keep interest and interaction. I have finished 2 book covers, designed and drawn a logo, taught 4 adult ceramics classes in both January and March, completed two small paintings and started another and have multiple ceramic pieces in various stages, all while teaching full-time. So yes, I have been working, I am just a hard task master on myself. How do you know when it is enough?
    I am showing at an art walk with month and wish I had a completely new body of work from last year, but that is not the case.
    I will keep pushing and hope summer allows for the fulfillment of my goal, and maybe by fall I will have that “one in the can”.
    Make progress, not excuses.

    1. Wow, Julie! You are accomplishing a LOT! I do think you’re being a little tough on YOU! Regarding your statement about new pieces – I would suggest you keep a good work pace, but focus on quality rather than quantity of work. This means, if the week is up, but you don’t feel good about your piece, continue to work until you do. Go easy in that area, would be my advice. Regarding your other activities – can you repeat your classes without having to re-develop them? If you can – you have one in the can! Can you use the book covers for greeting cards or small prints? Hey – one more in the can! When putting art out for the public, it’s smart to hit a variety of price points – you can sell prints for less than originals. That way people who might not be able to buy your art can afford it, and you can sell more of it without having to produce originals at a break neck pace. In the can, baby, in the can. Can you do that? (Pardon the pun). ~m

  5. Thanks for teaching me a new phrase. I like how ‘the can’ was related to your friend who was ‘forcing’ things to happen. I can totally relate.

    Sometimes, I can be known as a procrastinator and then end up forcing things to happen at the last minute. I like the thought of allowing it flow freely and have things ‘in the can’ as back-up. Excellent!

  6. Bravo!
    I am developing a new method of forming sculptures using hydraulic pressure in a closed vessel.
    I keeping making more pieces, I keep trying to refine and distill the essence of my method…
    As you say it’s about timing, having a body of work to say “I started here and look how far I have come”
    Best to all who make.

    1. I guess working is the key, Ian. You will have a progressive body of work – if you work. Good for you! And it’s always encouraging to see things moving forward!

  7. You’ve got lots of stuff going on, but everything seems so fun! I always intend to stay one step ahead and I always end up doing things at the last moment… Maybe I should just accept that this is how I do things and start setting myself earlier deadlines (and accountability) to get things done with a bit more ease.

    1. Tat, sometimes, it seems like too much fun! LOL! Starting early is a very good plan. Also, using things you’ve already done in different, creative ways is helpful, I find. All the best! ~m

  8. Hi! Popping in from Inspired Blogging. I’m a writer and I truly need to sit down and plan. Haven’t done that in a while and I find I’m missing submission deadlines. I like your advice to focus on quality, not quantity. Thank you for the nudge.

    1. Hi Kelly – happy to provide a nudge. When it comes to writing, I don’t necessarily feel the same. I once heard Anne Lamott speak. She blatently said, “The first draft is always crap.” I’ve carried that message in my heart ever sense. It’s easier to edit a manuscript (I think) than a painting – as long as the bones are good. I would schedule time to write with the intention of also scheduling time to re-write and edit. Would that work for you? It does for me. Let me know and go get those submissions! ~m

    1. Thank you, so much, Anna! OMG, Postcards From Around the World – you are going to save me a TON on airfare. Now, if I could just scratch and sniff your food pics! 🙂

  9. My “One in the Can” are all my photos of my art and I need to go through my website and put better descriptions on. In July it will be one year for the website business and boy does life run fast. With two little boys, running a home and I am still working outside of the home about 30 hours…it is hard to find the time, but the “One in the Can” is so very important and I need to do that very soon!!! Thank you for the push in the right direction!

    1. Good for you, Lindsay. It can be hard to find time – but so often we have lulls that we can use to get those little things that make a big difference done. Keep letting your art be seen. It’s important!

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