Robin, I had years where I only made art in my head
every day. I kept looking, thinking, feeling, even
mentally carving woodblocks when I just didn't have
time/space/supplies/ much less a "destination" for the
work - which makes it hard to justify the expense for
some of us. I missed it terribly, but some of us have
a hard time putting those needs ahead of others
(unlike, I have noticed recently, men who golf - they
sure find ways to put that first, don't they!)
Now that I can (and am) making art again regularly, I
believe I am on the same trajectory that I probably
would have been had I been working all along.
So, I guess I'm trying to affirm what you just wrote,
that if you keep art in your life, you can certainly
continue to develop as an artist even if you are not
getting regular studio time.
That being said....I do enjoy seeing how my students
keep up with my show preparations, or asking to see
what I've done in my sketchbook lately, or roll their
eyes because I spent the weekend painting ("you're
just ate up with it"). I get a lot out of modeling the
artist life for them, and they can see that being a
"real artist" can mean lots of things.