DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am a young artist, and one of my art classes involves drawing all day in a famous natural history museum. The etiquette surrounding how to act around artists who are focused on their work seems to be varied.
I have talked to many of my fellow students who have expressed anger at the way they have been treated while working. A common issue is photographing artists working next to their subjects, especially including their work in the picture!
Artists are not zoo animals and have the right to be asked to be photographed -- not to mention not wanting their art to live forever in a stranger's memory card. If a patron enjoys the artist's work, please ask for their card or information.
Commenting on the work is fine for some (in my case, I appreciate it), but please try to remember that the artist is focused and does not want to be distracted by someone trying to instigate a full-on discussion of their subject matter!
GENTLE READER: Much as she would like to help, Miss Manners must point out that you work in a public place, doing something that is of particular interest to people who are there precisely because they want to look at what is also your subject matter.
It would not be a good sign if they ignored you, or asked you to move so that they could get a better view of the exhibits. And you are not indifferent to the possibility of admiration that would lead to your being asked for your card.
So please suggest that your fellow students drop their anger. Rather, they should devise "Artist at Work" signs that are so charming, both visually and in their instructions about not photographing or interrupting, that admirers will wait until they take a break to beg for their cards.