As someone who was an art major in college and who continues to work in the field of visual arts, these are questions I've either gotten asked, or have heard others around me asked. And yes, we do complain about them behind your back.
1. "I wish I'd taken more fun classes like art in college!"
I'm not going to argue that art isn't fun, because it is, but it's also hard as hell. Studying and producing art requires just as much time and effort as working on a paper or as studying for an exam. In fact, in college, it often it requires more time than other majors' studies do (I'm looking at all you law students). Just image how long it takes to study other artists' work; to brush up on art theories; to form your own original concept; and then to translate that concept into a successful work of art. It's hard to get this all right the first time, which is why an artist's work is often ongoing and can take years to complete.
2. "How do you even judge art? It's all subjective anyway"
Would you say the same thing about a film or a book? Because those are also forms of art, but most people don't have a problem saying whether they liked the movie they saw at the theater or why a book was so good that they couldn't put it down. Visual art is very similar--while everyone may not agree on whether or not a piece is successful, it's still possible to back up how you feel about it. You can look at the formal qualities of the work (does the artist have good technical skills? Is the piece visually interesting?), and then examine whether the work successfully communicates an idea to you.
3. "Oh, I bet you're super good at drawing!"
Being an artist definitely doesn't guarantee that you're great with a pencil or pen. For example, I'll take your photo any day, but don't ask me to draw a portrait of you! There are plenty of artists who are good at drawing, but there are other artists who don't care for it. Not everyone's chosen medium is drawing; artists can focus on sculpture, painting, ceramics, graphic design, video, and so on.
4. "So do you do crafts all day long?"
What are we talking about, Pinterest DIY wall décor? Don't get me wrong, crafting makes a great Saturday afternoon activity, but artists do a little more than craft when they work on their pieces; they create installations and bodies of work that are often displayed in galleries and museums. Keep your crafts in your living room, please.
5. "Are you a teacher?"
While teaching is a very valuable career, not every artist decides to be a professor. For example, you can be an artist and decide to freelance, or to work for places like advertising agencies, publications, galleries, or museums.
6. "But how do you make any money doing art?"
While this question is ridiculous to begin with (as I said before, artists can be employed at many different companies), for me, it also points to a greater issue: artists are neither valued nor taken seriously in society. We live in a country where art classes are being cut from schools and where artwork is stolen and used without credit or reimbursement by big companies or by celebrities who, ironically, have the funds they need to hire artists to begin with.
7. "You didn't really need to go to school for that, did you?"
Yes I did, along with many other people. An art education fosters creative and critical thinking, which strengthens the quality of the work you produce. While at school, I created an entire body of work over a period of nine months, a process was as informative as it was empowering. Let's get rid of the idea that artists' work springs into being without any training or practice. After all, you wouldn't question why accountants, therapists, or lawyers went to school for their careers.
Despite what some people may say, being an artist isn't an easy or irrelevant job. In fact, art permeates our everyday lives. Artists create the aesthetics behind what we see in magazines, what we wear on our bodies, what we drive, and the buildings we live in. But above all, they influence how we feel about the world around us.