Stopped Making Art? Kicking an Artistic Hiatus

Returning to the office after maternity leave from the birth my second child, I admit a preoccupation with feeling like I am behind. For one, I haven’t written for this blog in a while and hope you will forgive me. I have seen a similar anxiety in many artists when they haven’t been able to make as much artwork for one reason or another. 

I requested stories from our members and have been amazed at the response. From sudden illness to post-graduation doldrums, many complications slow artists’ studio practice. Many artists already overly fixate about quantity of work produced and a hiatus really frustrates them. In the following series, artists will share how they kick started their studio practice again. 

Stuart Asprey with his twin babies 

Stuart Asprey, Norman 
Many things, both unexpected and planned for, often creep up in one’s life that cause momentary occasions (or long periods) of non-art producing phases. I find these times to be both frustrating and motivating. The trials and tribulations of life force one to evaluate what is truly worthwhile, and hopefully for you (since you are reading this) one of those is making art.  

My best advice, (coming from a dad of twins) is to take every opportunity to get to the studio, even if it is only for 30 minutes every couple of days. Don’t pile your excuses on top of your reasons for not getting to the studio. You have to tap into that creative period at the drop of a hat, no room or time to procrastinate when you only have a small window of opportunity. Time in the studio will add up and eventually there will be more time.

It helps to have easy access to your studio, even if it is a temporary one.  Driving 5 minutes just to get there is not worth it when time is precious.  My studio is in my garage, allowing for quick access between feedings, burpings, changings, play time, and that thing called sleep. This truly enables work to be consistently produced, albeit at a slow pace.

Another solution could possibly lie in changing the medium, if you work with a labor-intensive, process-oriented medium then perhaps a simpler, quicker approach to art-making is the answer. That being said, if you truly love your medium (say porcelain clay for instance) then you will do anything to preserve your relationship with it and somehow find the time.

Asprey loves porcelain clay and also draws. He is also a professor at Oklahoma City University. See more of his work here


Art 365: read more about the artists’ ideas and work

Read more about the Art 365 exhibition in the catalog available online now. Guest Curator Shannon Fitzgerald’s essays highlight each artists’ work. Also, five of the Oklahoma Art Writing & Curatorial Fellows  wrote essays focused on one of the artists’ projects. As well as our excitement about the exhibition, we are pleased with the analysis of the work.  

Art 365 opens July 1 at Living Arts of Tulsa. Join us at the opening reception held July 8, 5-8 pm. Art 365 is sponsored in part by the National Endowment for the Arts, George Kaiser Family Foundation, Jean Ann Fausser, Oklahoma Arts Council, Elizabeth Firestone Graham Foundation, Oklahoma Humanities Council and National Endowment for the Humanities. 

Artist, Teacher & Community Leader: Dana Helms

Guest Writer: Lesley Montgomery, OVAC summer Intern

The ever growing art community in Oklahoma is present not just in the bustling areas of downtown Oklahoma City and Tulsa, but also in the nearby suburbs as well. Dana Helms, founder and teacher at The Upside Down Artist, instructs children and adults on the fundamentals of art in Historic Old Town Moore. I had the privilege of communicating with Helms via email and ask her some questions concerning her vision for this one of a kind art program in Oklahoma. Below is the question and answer session from that conversation.
Dana Helms, Butte Mountains, Acrylic Paint
Leslie Montgomery: In your own words, please explain exactly what The Upside Down Artist program is and what your goal is as far as its place in the Oklahoma artistic community.
Dana Helms: The Upside Down Artist program is designed to take students for any age into a full time “working artist” career locally or world wide.  My goal is to create artistic opportunities through film, animation, commercial, and upside down performance.  If my students have a small business up and running before they leave high school, they have a greater chance to continue in that career.  

LM: What initially gave you the idea for the premises of The Upside Down Artist?
DH: I didn’t have a lot of support while growing up.  My dream was to own and operate an artist business but no one provided me with any guidance.  I had to learn a lot on my own.  I am a very determined person, but a lot of young people are not.  They simply give up!  I do not want that to happen so I have designed my classes to be goal driven, not just a “daycare” activity. 

LM: When students sign up for your art classes, what is your goal as far as progressing their interest in art as well as their artistic skills?

DH:  I start them off with a group of lessons that assists me in figuring out what kind of artist they might be (commercial, 3-D, computer, painter, etc.).  Then after they complete the lessons, I design projects that will bring out their creative ideas

LM: You’re starting what I believe is the first film festival in Moore, Oklahoma. Could you explain a little bit about what will be taking place as well as the type of films you may be looking for?

DH: I am proud to announce the Moore Reel International Film Festival – July 21 thru 23, 2011.  It is a Thursday through Saturday event and will start at 10am and go until around 9pm on Thursday and Friday. 10am to 5pm on Saturday.  We will have an awards ceremony on Saturday evening around 7pm in the Old School Building Auditorium.  For more info, go to my website at and go to the Moore Reel tab. 

We are looking for all kinds of films (categories are on the website).  We specifically want to bring in local filmmakers (students of all ages, independent and novice). 

These films will be judged by Sean Murphy and Audrey Hendricks with Trifecta Communications.  They will also be reviewing and promoting the event on the Friday before the festival.  It is really exciting!!!

LM: You transitioned from a government employee to a full time artist in 1995. What advice would you give to those who are seriously considering that same type of transition?

DH: I always recommend three types of income when you are pursuing a working artist status.  My job description is A) art instructor, B) performing upside down artist, and C) commissioned artwork.  This gives a balance to your earning power.  You also have to be prepared to work 24/7.  It is a very time consuming career, but you are working for you.  That’s the big reward!

The Upside Down Artist is located in the Old School Business Center at 201 North Broadway, Suite 208 in Moore, Oklahoma. Many new events are occurring within this program including a new and interactive Website slated for July 1st. For more information on events and classes call Dana Helms at 405-203-2834 or simply click on one of the links listed in the interview.