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Survival Tips For Street Artists by Give Up

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Leon casino, Art by Blake Jones

Surviving on the streets can be a battlefield for a street artist. Where to choose a location? Do police traffic this area often? Is the spotter for the artists protection is reliable? Over the past two years, Houston seems to have invited more street artists than any one town could handle. Houston owns the classics such as Give Up, Eye Sore, Dual, Daniel Anguilo, Coolidge, and Ack! who have honed their skill and have their own personality. Street artists accomplish their work by displaying it on buildings and billboards, where they can be appreciated from freeways, red lights, or driving through neighborhoods. If the street artist is lucky enough, they may be invited into galleries where prints can be sold, so that one doesn’t have to drive around town to see their favorite street art piece. While some artists in Houston feel that they’ve made their claim in town as a respectable artist with their bullshit feel-good words, they’ve not even come close to popping anyone’s cherry of credibility. It’s only the beginning of a dead end.

Give Up is one of Houston’s finest street artists. He won a Best Artist award in 2010 by Houston Press by reader’s choice. Utilizing billboards as his microphone, he leaves behind his “fuck you” attitude on society as a middle-aged woman who works from 9-5 pulls out of a Starbucks sipping on her non-fat caramel blah blah blah. She takes a sip, wipes the lipstick off the lid, and looks up during the red light. She’s appalled as she sees a black and white wheat paste poster of an unidentified masked murderer staring right back at her, with clenched rope in his hands ready to strangle the life from her. As the woman drives away feeling threatened, due to the content she just witnessed, she proceeds to work unknowingly ready to suck the day’s dick as she clocks in, pushing papers in an office without any windows. If it weren’t for her phone, computer, or the cheap wall clock that was given to her from her co-worker during Secret Santa, like prison she’d have no concept of time. What she doesn’t know is that she’s sentenced to death row while working for the big man who disallows her to see the light of day. As the time ticks by, she is being suffocated by society, just as if by the unidentified man she had seen while waiting for her life to go by at a red light.

As a street artist for more than a decade, Give Up not only has the book smarts, but also the experience in order to become great at what he does. He’s done his time, so for future street artists take note as Give Up would like to share his secrets so that someday, you too can become a respectable artist of the streets and have galleries and win awards. While Give Up takes a break from grinding rail spikes into knives that are hand-grounded and polished with the words “Give Up” stamped with a hammer on the handle which can be purchased on his website, he’s listed three must-know survival tips for up-and-coming street artists. Here they are.


Get a Tumblr, Instagram, Twitter, Vine, Facebook, and any other social media before you ever even put anything on the street. Might want to look for a dealer or gallery too. A street presence can come later.


Creativity, originality, and artistic ability are overrated. Just take two pop culture references and mash them together. Preferably one current and one slightly older. It should be really ironic and just slightly subversive, but still really fucking cute and accessible. Maybe include a cartoon ghost somehow.


Disregard graffiti rules. In fact, graffiti makes a great background. Go over other people’s stuff. Especially writers that have already put in years of work and made a name for themselves. Then you can say you collaborated with them.

“Congratulations, now you’re a street artist. Don’t worry, if in two months you haven’t taken both the internet and art world by storm, you can just move onto something else.” -Give Up

As for my tip, instead of being sneaky and dressing incognito while out “street artin’”, how about dress for jail, because I hope you get caught. Have a nice day!

*SPOILER ALERT: This is a damn parody!