Give Up Interview
By Matthew J
Tell me a bit about yourself and your back-story, so the readers can get to know you better. Who is Give Up? Where are you from? How long have you been writing?
Give Up: I grew up in a chemical town just south of Houston, Texas. I’ve been living in Houston since probably ‘97. I started writing graffiti in the mid ’90s but realized a few years in that my ego was bigger than my ability. I still wanted to get up but wanted to do something I could really own as my shit so i started doing GIVE UP around 2000, 2001.
Every name has a story behind it and I’m sure a lot of people have theories behind the meaning of your name. I want you to tell me the significance to your alias? Where did it come from?
Give Up: I never really thought of GIVE UP as a moniker. When I originally came up with the razor image with the text underneath it I thought of it more as a stamp or identifier than a signature. I thought it was this kind of tongue in cheek thing that was both self deprecating and threatening that my friends might get behind but would be a fuck you to everyone else.
What’s the scene like in your area? How competitive are the artists?
Give Up: Houston is big so there’s a lot of real estate. Everyone wants to get noticed, you know, but there’s not a lot of need right now to go over anyone. There are only a handful of guys doing poster stuff. and even though most ’street art’ guys don’t really know graffiti rules they’re not trying to go over anyone so no one’s really getting mixed up or crossed out right now.
As far as Houston is concerned, who are some of the “illegal” artist out there whom you feel are truly putting in work to help keep the scene in Houston alive?
Give Up: As far as writers go ABELS, LINGO, and all the RTL and DTS guys are staying busy. For wheat pasting and the more ’street art’ stuff DUAL and EYESORE have been really active.
Everybody has their own reason for participating in this culture; whether it is fame, money, or just art for the sake of art. What would say is the main motivation behind your art? What is it about this particular medium that keeps locked in?
Give Up: Writing graffiti was all about getting up and getting noticed. When I crossed over to the GIVE UP stuff it was more about the expression. Being able to cultivate an idea and really push myself visually and artistically without the limitation of the spray can. I just wanted to create this stuff that I was feeling, try to develop more as an artist than a writer but my head was so locked in this graffiti mindset that once I had something it just made since to put it up publicly. Now at this point I think being on the street is as much a part of a particular piece as the image itself. I don’t think I could produce in the same way without the motivation of going out, but at the same time if I wasn’t fucking with art period, I wouldn’t know what to do with myself.
Continuing with the subject of motivation: I want to know who are some the artists that have inspired you to write?
Give Up: In the mid 90’s a lot of the skateboard videos and magazines would have graffiti in the backgrounds at skate parks and stuff and then a lot of hardcore bands were using hand styles on their fliers and t-shirts and shit. Being involved with those things, writing just seemed like the natural thing to do. When I was coming into the city around that time the DTS stuff really stood out. Also, I liked what AEROSOL WARFARE was doing with their videos and stuff like it. I remember seeing this sticker in probably ‘96. I think it was from SPACE crew. Everyone was just doing hand styles on postal labels and ‘hello my name is’ stickers, but they had photocopied a picture of some astronauts onto sticker paper. It just seemed so different than anything else I was seeing at the time. That really stuck with me.
For any artist worth their salt, with motivation follows longevity. You have put roughly ten years of your life into this art form. What do you attribute to your longevity? And how would you say your art has evolved over the past few years?
Give Up: I think it’s just that I still enjoy it. If the streets weren’t still holding my interest I’d stop.
As far as evolution within my own art I think whatever has happened as far as themes or imagery has come really organically. I think allowing your style to evolve is important so you don’t get stagnant, but at the same time you can’t force it; you just have to let things happen on their own.
Of all the styles, you utilize (wheat paste, stencil, and designing) which would you say is your preferred medium to work with and why?
Give Up: I like doing the wheat paste posters mostly now because it really allows me to develop the image in a way that might not be conducive with a can. Convey what I’m trying to do within my own art ideas or visuals that don’t fit into the format of traditional graffiti. Since the majority of my work is photo based and then since they’re just paper and ultimately pretty fragile it keeps with the temporal nature of the work. let’s me get on some ‘art’ shit but still feel like I’m getting up.
Let’s go a bit further into the world of wheat-pasting. I want you to explain the actual artistic process you go through when making this art. Some of your pieces are massive -covering full walls- while other pieces are small enough to cover a street sign. How the creative process differs between each individual piece?
Give Up: Other than rollers it all starts the same way. I’ll come up with an idea and then shoot photos that represent visually what I’m trying to do. Then take those photos and manipulate and arrange them with scissors and glue sticks at the photo copier. When I’m finished with that I’ll blow the final work up to whatever size and shoot positives and screen print them from that. more often than not the prints come before the wall since I’ll want to get multiple spots with the same thing, and then I’ll tile them or otherwise make them fit each spot but sometimes if I have a really good spot in mind I’ll work on something sized specifically for it.
Looking back at Houston, Texas. Recently, you were voted BEST ARTIST by the readers of the Houston Press. This is a good look, because few major cities will actually place a non-mainstream street artist’s work on any of the “BEST” list. What does that accomplishment mean to you personally and what do you hope to do with this recognition? Commissioned pieces?
Give Up: Getting that acknowledgment was pretty fucking cool, especially since it was a reader’s choice thing. There wasn’t a multiple choice type ballot or anything, people just wrote in. So it really meant a lot to me seeing that people noticed or gave a shit enough to do that. I didn’t even know it was going on or that I’d be in contention until a friend showed me the paper. I don’t really know what will ever come of it now, but it’s a pretty cool thing to have under my belt.
There is a lot of attention being given to you in Houston; books and other coverage are coming to light. How do you see Houston improving?
Give Up: There was never any kind of goal. There was never a thing that I was working toward other than producing this stuff for myself and then putting it up on the street. It’s really nice to see now that people have noticed and more so that some are into it. ‘Street art’ seems to be becoming more and more prevalent here. Houston graffiti has been going strong for a long time, and produced some writers that have gone on to garner fame in other cities as well. But now it seems more people are doing more other stuff. In the past not a lot of people were paying attention to what’s going on here outside of here. But hopefully now with the STAY UP book and the internet and STICK ‘EM UP that will change.
I’m glad you mentioned STICK EM UP, because I recently saw the trailer and am interested in seeing the movie. I know that you’re featured in it, but apart from that and Houston’s “illegal art” scene, what can you tell me about this film? And who is PRIMO?
Give Up: I met PRIMO, the filmmaker/editor/mind behind the movie, a while back when he was doing a short internet video spot to promote a show I had at aerosol warfare gallery. We kept in touch and he got the idea to do a film on Houston street art. Originally it was going to be like any other graffiti movie, except focusing more on wheat pasting and stencilling. But now it’s grown into this full on documentary. He’s shown me some of the edits and it’s looking really good. PRIMO kills it. We’ve gone out and gotten some good spots. There are some good billboards (and other stuff) so I’m hoping to have a good chunk of the movie. It’s supposed to premier early 2011 and then hit the film festivals.
What is Lonely Days and Wasted Nights book come together? Explain to us the story behind this book. Why’d you do it? What inspired it?? Etc
Give Up: Like I said before, I never had any ideas or intentions other than to make ‘art’ and get spots. at some point I started shooting photos of some of the stuff I was getting up. Mostly for proof of my own existence since sometimes stuff has a short street life and catches the buff real quick. Eventually I had kind of a ton of photos. And since so much of my work is photo based anyway, I had all these other photos of shit I was shooting in the process and along the way. I guess at some point my ego told me these photos needed to exist outside of a cardboard box in my closet and since graffiti and skateboarding and hardcore has always had this DIY kind of mentality I put them together in a book and put it out there. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever worked on but I’m really happy with the way it came together.
You’re expanding your resume more and more each day with t-shirts,prints and books on the go. Along with that you have done some graphic designing, too. How do folks contact you for merchandise or for your designs?
Give Up: I got a website going (www.ingivingup.com) with my contact and stuff on there. I never really had any intention of ever doing shirts or any shit like that, but people asked for it from time to time and it was pretty flattering so I made some. I have prints and stuff too. Yeah, I’m down to do design work for bands or whatever. I never considered myself a graphic designer but I can admit that most of my stuff definitely has that feel. So if anyone is interested get at me and if I’m feeling the project we can work something out.
Looking ahead to 2011, what’s next for you? Do you have any big plans lined-up for the New Year?
Give Up: I feel like I’ve done some work in Houston, now I’m trying to get on the road. Get out of town for a while and try to shit my ‘art’ down the throats of another city.
Ok, last question. I’m going to go full-circle and wrap this up by asking, how you would describe yourself as both an artist and an individual?
Give Up: That’s a strange thing for me. I guess technically I’m an artist. I create art works and support myself thusly. But I don’t really think of myself as the ‘artist’ type. For whatever the ‘artist type’ might mean. I push up rollers and catch tags, but I don’t think I can really claim to be a graffiti writer in the traditional sense. And while I do paint stencils and paste up posters and otherwise put my ‘art’ on the streets, I don’t really align myself with ’street art’. ‘give up’ isn’t a name, so I am not ‘give up’, but ‘give up’ is everything that I am. And from the concept to the execution to the spot on the street, it encompasses every facet of my life. Without it I’m nothing, but it is nothing in itself. I am just an individual and don’t hope to be anything more than that. But I am here now, and when I’m gone I want there to be something more left behind than a check stub.