The Art of Never Giving Up

The Art of Never Giving Up

artists never give up on creating art 


Ever have those days when you just can’t get song lyrics out of your head? Yeah, that happened to me yesterday. 

We’re no strangers to love

You know the rules and so do I

A full commitment’s what I’m thinking of 

You wouldn’t get this from any other guy

And if you ask me how I’m feeling

Don’t tell me that you’re too blind to see

Yes Rick Astley. Never Gonna Give You Up. In the UK and Europe, and in the US too, it was a massive hit for a vocal artist who famously once only made the tea in a music studio and who often performed only in backing tracks for other singers. That was 1987, and I don’t think I have listened to the radio without a week going by and not heard it playing somewhere... (and yes, I know you can't get that song out of your head now and ever since I wrote this, all I've been hearing is Rick!)

Never Gonna Give You Up is as eighties cheesy as it comes. Performed by one of the music industry’s most distinctive eighties artists, and is perhaps considered as his signature song. It just so happens the one time I sang anything someone told me I sounded like him, but in pain, and slightly drunk. 

His decision to quit the industry at the height of his fame was one of the most shocking moves ever by a singer who clearly had it all. He might have faded away into obscurity had it have not been for a trend which appeared on the internet back in 1997. 

Dubbed Rick rolling, it involved internet pranksters rerouting searches for unrelated material to videos of Astley singing his first major hit and redirecting people who clicked on a website link which then took them to a page with Rick singing his signature song and at this point the viewer has been officially Rick-Rolled.

That song is obviously about the love of the singer’s life and how he is saying that no matter what, he’s never going to give up on love. 

That’s just how I often feel about art. I’m never going to give it up, except that there have been a few times in my artistic life when I must admit I have thought about it and at one time I even did. Last week I spent the best part of three hours convincing an artist friend not to abandon their hope of ever selling anything. The art world is a merry-go-round at times, and these slow periods sometimes come back around time and time again. You kind of have to wait for it to slow down, then take a leap. 

winners are not those who never fail they are those who never give up 

In the early 2000’s I did actually give up on art for three days, it was the most tedious three days ever. I walked around as if I had lost a limb. I was tetchy to say the least, and it was as if I had been told I could no longer go out to play with my best friend. Yet I don’t think I have ever met an artist who has never thought about giving up on art.

I have said it many times before, we artists really love self-doubt. Is it good enough, no scrub that, is it perfect in every way? What do I need to do to make this go from okay to superb, and then we overthink. Overthinking is the very definition of creating problems that aren’t there in the first place.

I gave up for those three days because if I’m honest, I was getting nowhere fast. I remember at the time working on a couple of works and constantly switching between them not quite knowing what to do next. They weren’t perfect, they needed much more doing to them and I just didn’t know which direction to take them. I felt completely useless because I had never produced a piece of art and got stuck a third of the way through. I really thought that the creative tap had sprung a leak. 

It would be years later when I discovered that this is part of becoming an artist, and when you can finally say “I am an artist”, that creative block will appear frequently. It’s the process, it’s normal, and I truly believe that creative blocks like this are healthy, just so long as you don’t give up.

Art is actually very simple in what it needs. It needs an artist to care, and to care enough to do something that the artist knows might not work.  

If you approach your latest artwork with the mindset of ‘this really might not work’ then you are doing it right. Artists need to take risks, and staying safe has been done over and over again by artists and they never produce anything that disrupts the norm. The art looks the same as other art, and it definitely shouldn’t be the same as any other art. Your art should be about you just as much as the subject you are depicting, don’t ever be afraid that you work is different.

I have listened to artists who have said ‘I’m done with art’ but truthfully what they are asking for is validation and an out. I’m convinced what they want me to say in return is, yes I completely agree, and you should definitely give up.

Work might not be selling, galleries might not be lining up to take the work and display it, so it’s understandable that this perceived lack of recognition will make you want to give up. Dang, I haven’t sold a piece of art this week at all, but this week I have been lazy and haven’t done too much of the promoting my own art thing at all. 

I haven’t Instagrammed in around two weeks, I’ve only logged into twitter about three times, and I haven’t posted any of my art on my Facebook timeline for over a week. I’ve not uploaded any new art in a few weeks because I’m working on some new pieces. It’s not a lack of recognition though, it’s simply that I haven’t been on the surface and visible, it’s definitely not a reason to give up.

I do give up frequently on individual pieces of work. Well actually I don’t entirely give up I just put them to one side and move on to the next and maybe one day I will go back to them. The feelings of giving up art entirely are the very reason why you need to press on and keep creating and keep learning.

I learn more from the start of each piece of work than I do when I complete a work. If I’m halfway through I might decide to not carry on, but what helps is that I take that learning and use it in my next work. 

I also started to understand the creation of art better when I discovered that the creative process is just a series of problems. The thing is, there are very few problems that don’t have a solution.  

Sometimes the solution is to give up and start again, but if you do this you need to change your thinking. If you think in the same way that you thought when you created the first piece, the problems will come back. Take what you learned from creating it, and add new thinking to the new piece. Essentially as with anything in life, same thoughts, same results. Think differently and things become different.

Henri Matisse Creative People who never gave up on art 

I mentioned self-doubt earlier, and it is a constant for many artists. I’m not worthy, how does my work compare to artist X, why does artist Y sell more work than me, it’s not very good, it’s not what I would hang on my wall, these are normal thoughts for any artist. 

There’s a flipside to this too. Sometimes we can be so sure a work will sell because we gave it everything we have, and then it doesn’t sell and we go back to self-doubt only this time it is worse. It becomes a needless spiral which I call an emotional GIF. Constantly repeating itself, until we change the way we think, or pause it, or stop it.

If you are struggling with art and thinking about giving up, go and climb Mount Everest. 

When a climber gets to the Hillary Step they don’t see that as a failing, they see that as a challenge. It’s a pinnacle and a landmark of achievement when climbing the worlds highest and most brutal mountain, it is a landmark that says you are nearly at the top, just one more obstacle. It’s no reflection on you that it’s tougher than anyone described it, and all of those waiting in line behind you on that mountain will be having the exact same thoughts.

Not that I have ever climbed Mount Everest, I think I would struggle with my Crohn’s and the fact that I would probably break before I even got to basecamp, but hey, it’s still on my bucket list. Not to summit, but to see it. 

What I’m saying is that art is like everything in life. You just need to know how to get past the obstacles, learn from everything you have done previously, and figure out if you need a ladder to cross the Hillary Step.

If you decide to give up it should never be out of frustration or self-doubt, only ever give up if you feel way more passionate about some other creative path, but never abandon the idea just because you haven’t sold a piece of work in a while.


What I have also realised over the years is that so many artists have become sellers over and above artists. The art market is saturated with thousands of new ‘artists’ joining the art world every day. It’s difficult to compete when your work is saturated by a billion other pieces of work on social-media. So you ramp up the marketing efforts and before you know it you are entirely fixated on sales, and when you don’t get them you take it as though nobody loves your work enough to buy it. Maybe they just can’t see it, or maybe they see too much of it.

It’s at this point you have given up being an artist. You might as well go and get a job selling something else and forget about drawing and painting entirely. You’re no longer an artist, you’re a full time marketer. Get back to being an artist and the sales eventually will come, you just have to have some faith in your own ability. 

That’s not to say that you need to do one or the other, I personally find marketing a bit of a chore. I know it’s necessary and vital to earn a living, but I firmly believe that if you want to be an artist you should focus first and foremost on the art, and then set aside some marketing time, but take time to do both without one overtaking the other, and never let your art become consumed or it will be evident in the work you produce. 

What I also notice is that many new artists seem to focus way too much on marketing, and from my own experience, over promotion is as bad as no promotion. You need to thread a very fine needle between remaining visible and becoming so visible that you become invisible. A better way of promoting your work is to make your marketing smarter.

I occasionally see this in my Facebook groups. A wealth of drive-by postings are made by a single artist, and within multiple groups. We’ve all seen them, “oil, acrylic, 24x18 $300” and that’s it! Except that 20-seconds later, another “watercolour, 12x10 $250” appears from the same artist, and then twenty more. Facebook isn’t a completely soulless box store, there are 1.94 billion active monthly users, and the majority of them are people rather than bots and they want to connect with you as an artist and a human. 

So when it doesn’t sell the artist becomes disappointed, they wonder why on earth no one is buying this masterpiece, and then they burn out and eventually give up. It’s a whole lot of work to post multiple times, and it shouts out that “I don’t care enough, I just want anyone to buy my work and recognise me, and I have no clue who my market is and I’m most definitely not going to tell you anything else about the work or me”. It also says, “Trust me, my work is very good”.

People need to be convinced and persuaded and you can only do this if you use their language and you are clear about the benefits of owning your art, and the potential buyer places trust in both you and your work. 

One of the most interesting things I have learned over the past couple of years is how people engage to sell their art on social media. I’m going to say what I absolutely know my regular readers are thinking, but no one has probably said out loud yet. 

Are you ready?

There is a growing number of people who regularly post only me, me, and me, status updates when promoting their work. 

They never engage, they certainly never reciprocate likes, loves, and wows, and they never comment on anything even if you leave a comment saying their work is wonderful.

Recently I have had to ban a few members in my new Artists Directory Group for not following some very specific rules, despite repeatedly asking politely to spend a moment reading them. I have no idea why, despite the rules of the group stating that only the artists Facebook Business Page and Portfolio site should be posted, I have been stunned by the few who have disregarded everything written about posting, and gone ahead with just posting, “oil, acrylic, 24x18 $300” with no link to a Facebook Business page, or a portfolio site, and no building up of trust by contributing to the group more generally. The aim of the group is to build up an artists business rather than promoting specific artworks, and doing this really does work although it takes time.

These are what the film Toy Story and I call Seagull drive-by postings, me, me, me, me, oh and me, and oh so consecutive the group should be renamed after the artist. That's not really a rant, merely an observation that there are a few people who bulldoze through posts and that's not really the best way to build up trust or sales, and that's coming from experience. 

So when the art doesn’t sell they become frustrated that no one is buying. It’s not that the work isn’t good, often it’s great, it’s that there is no relationship built around trust, and this is what can put that exact same artist into a spiral of no sales and self-doubt.

There’s probably some psychology department running an experiment on social-media engagement and art sales, but I can see there is a link because a couple of artists who have done this in the past have reached out to me to ask me for the out I mentioned earlier. There is no pity party we can hold here, you kind of have to suck it up and keep creating and engaging. Don't give up, but only you can decide if the out is right. 

Essentially what I’m saying is that many of us me included have often looked for an excuse to not produce art and sought validation that giving up is the best option, but sometimes it can be ourselves who stand in our way of getting past it. 

There are hundreds even thousands of reasons why you can feel like giving up, but the biggest reason is because you are doubtful of yourself and you know what? That’s just plain crazy. You are the only you, you're unique, so build on that and own it. 

you are your only limit 

If this happens, think about why you started painting, remember the joy it gave you, and start engaging. Art can be a lonely business particularly if everyone close to you doesn’t believe in your vision either, but art can also be a wonderful opportunity to never be lonely too, you just have to work at engaging and creating.

The most important thing you need to do is never let your inner artist die only to be taken over by the need to become some kind of marketing machine who produces art for 20% of the time and markets it for 80% of the time. Spread the love more evenly. Bizarrely I sell more when I scale down promotion to a point. You just need to get the balance right between being seen and being overly seen. No idea what psychology is behind that, but most books I've read covering that kind of marketing seem to suggest that it's a thing. 

Once you tackle this and recognise those thoughts of quitting for what they are, then you will make it as an artist, or you’ll go broke trying, but if you do go broke, at least you’ll be an artist and you'll be creative enough to try and try again. 


Mark A. Taylor is an artist who lives in Staffordshire in the United Kingdom. He has been producing art professionally for more than 30-years. He produces primarily in digital formats but also paints using traditional methods too. 

His work is available from his Pixels site here, and every piece comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee.

He specialises in abstracts, landscapes, and surrealism, and also produces work for use in TV and Filming projects, and he has also produced many book covers.


How to produce authentic 8-bit digital art! It's an article you won't want to miss if you're serious about creating retro digital art with authenticity!


Popular Posts