Every Artist I know has dealt with that one person who just can't seem to keep their negative opinions to themselves. For whatever reason this particular breed of individual missed all lessons in class, social propriety and never saw Disney's Bambi. While I tend to abide by the rule, 'unless you have something nice to say, don't say anything at all,' not everyone has tact. Even after years of exposing my work to the scrutiny of the public eye, I still need to remind myself not to be hurt by someone's negativity.
In general my bubbly and fun art is accepted by most, ignored by others, and some just shake their heads. I appreciate that not everyone is going to like what I do, and that is perfectly okay. Still, every once in a while, I will come across an individual without class, and I am not talking about an educated art critic with a valid opinion.... This happened recently at one of my art shows. Not only did this man decide that he did not like what he was looking at, but he was upset with anthropomorphic animals, bold colors (which animals obviously ought not be) and the whimsical positions of the animal characters. He pulled me away from a group of customers to ask if I meant for the giraffes to look like they had broken amputated limbs. I appreciate that he has an opinion about my work, but I'd have rather not heard it.
This is a conversation that resonates with many of the artists I know. Displaying artwork is a form of expression, an exposure of ourselves to the public. In many ways our work is an extension of our person, and to insult it, is to insult us.
I have met enough critical or confused souls (one being my own father) to survive the occasional onslaught. However, I'd like to pass on a few things that you might say in case you too have trouble following Thumper's advice...
Rather than saying, 'my toddler (or even adult child) could do that,' say, 'I appreciate art that requires a great deal of technical skill,' or 'this is inspiring!'.
Before speaking, consider this, many times art is significant because a person has created something unique unto itself. The artist dreamed up something and created a piece that did not previously exist; Maybe your toddler could do it, but, did they do it? No.
Also, to fully understand a work of art, sometimes it is important to hear the story behind the piece. Take for example Felix Gonzales-Torres work, 'Untitled' (Perfect Lovers), 1991. A piece that has powerful significance because of the artist's loss.
At the end of the day we are subjected to 'that person' no matter our career choice. I write this in hope that I might deter at least one uneducated critic, or maybe this will help to ease the hurt of an artist who has been subjected to said tactless fool.