People tend to think of artists as these outgoing, eternally happy, messy-in-a-cute-way kind of people. They go with the flow. They get paint on their clothes and don’t care. They lose their pencils behind their ear or in their bun. They wear an odd assortment of clothing that somehow works… or something they made themselves. They’re basically not moody hipsters, right? And they love to show off their artwork.

Nope.

Well, okay, some of us are like that. But there’s some things that we just can’t stand. Art is like other skills and hobbies and we need you to respect that. So for you to better respect your artist friends, here are a few things you should not do.

1. Watch us work

Everyone likes their space and everyone hates it when someone else breathes over their shoulder. I don’t mind if you’re sitting next to me and you lean over and take a peek at what I’m doing. But I do mind if you come and lean over my work and watch me draw for the next 10 minutes. I suddenly become very conscious of being watched and every tiny little line I make and every time I erase something. I feel like I have to fix my mistakes immediately because I don’t want people to think that I don’t notice them. I feel pressured to make those 10 minutes the best 10 minutes of my art process because I’m going to be judged on what comes out of those 10 minutes. Or 5 minutes. Or really more than 30 seconds. I know its mesmerizing to watch someone go at it with a pen, but personally, it makes them very uncomfortable.

2. Ask if we can draw you

Yes, I probably can. Will I? No.

3. Flip through our sketchbooks

Especially without asking. I make myself keep all my bad art because I want to learn from it. Even if I scrap something, I force myself to date it and write notes on what could have been done better before I turn the page. So I hate it when people just start flipping through my notebook because I promise you, it is full of crap. Yeah, there’s some stuff in there that I’m proud of and would love to show you but there’s a lot of stuff that I throw under learning experience. Maybe this is just a me thing because I force myself to keep everything. Maybe other people only keep their good stuff and love it when people flip through the notebook. But just to be safe, you should ask before you just start turning pages.

4. Ask if we only draw

No, I can draw other stuff.I am mostly self-taught but my skills do not apply to just one area. Maybe instead, try asking what else they like to draw. That’s a much better conversation starter. Or ask what their favorite thing to draw is because it is true that a lot of artists specialize. But they don’t just draw the same thing over and over and over again.

5. Ask if it’s finished

So it’s true that sometimes an artist will show you something incomplete and ask for advice on how they can improve it or what else they can do with it. But unless they specify that, they’re probably showing you something that they’re proud of, something that is finished. And if you ask if its finished, that makes us feel really invalidated really quickly. We know you don’t mean it but you’re telling us that our piece is not good enough and that we need to do more with it.

So basically just respect your artist friends. We are probably pretty insecure about our own artwork. So that means we’re not always going to show it off. We probably don’t want your critique unless we ask. And we don’t want you to judge our skills based on one piece or a half-finished piece. All we ask is that you realize that artwork is like any other skill, something we’re developing and building on, something we put our heart and soul into, and something that we will share with you when we are ready. So respect our space, and that means our workspace and creative space.