Updated 1/1/2020

Two minds – A duality of representation

I had an idea pop into my head while doing research this morning. I fell prey to the classic efforts of academics and non-academics alike in applying phylogenetic attributes to our industry and the people in it. I do this quite often (sadly) and I felt a bit saddened by the pre-formed ideals that I tend to apply (with wild abandon) to the people I see but do not know.

Sometimes while I walk about in public, I see see a person going about their daily lives and create some elaborate backstory about their person as they walk about. God knows how I come up with these stories. Some of the stories I have created contain themes such as:

  • Mafiosos at a sandwich shop.
  • Lion tamers who are stuck in line at an Apple store.
  • Defrocked clergy hiding in plain sight.
  • Zombies with makeup purchasing meat from the deli.

I do not know if I am alone in this creation of narratives, but this is the basis for how I chose to regard the artists/technicians roles in the industry. It was also the reason why, when applying the labels in the previous sentence, that I feel I must get the ideas out in the open. This short article goes along with another that is nearly done and will be linked here.

It seems funny to me that there are so many styles and fashions that people choose to align and design themselves with. Much like a neo-tribal fashion, society utilizes these “tools of self-representation” to answer questions. These questions can range from the mundane, to the personal but our “style” ensures we can make assumptions about people before any questions are asked.

These ideas offer a type of imaginary armor as we venture into the wide world. All humans are attuned to this idea of grading and judging our fellow citizens on the earth. In the generations past (like long past): we dress to impress and we “walk-the-walk” so people know who we are. This evolutionary aspect of self awareness acts as a way for outsiders to determine an association – historically, with a clan or secular identity that is geographically based -or as way to exclaim from the rooftops what is different about ourselves; how special or unique that we are and what possible values our idea of ourselves may carry with it (subjectively, of course) when comparing ourselves others.

Cognition and the Evolution of the Duality of Identification.

We have evolved to have different minds and independent thoughts. Those minds contain attributes that influence our actions and help us navigate our world in a way that is wholly unique to our experience. I am not going to try and tackle the infamous body/mind duality problem, or discuss cognition at any length but, needless to say, this application of the mind versus the body is a focus of researchers historically up to the present. What I am trying to identify inside this brief article is the types of personalities that have been attracted to the industry and why there seems to be an imbalance of types there within.

This may seem like a wild idea but look around you. We are all different. What you see and what I see right now are different (unless you are secretly camming my writing area!)

Would it be crazy to think that we also interpret the world and our lives differently?

Differences in Cognition

If I taste a cookie, is it the same taste that you experience?

What about colors? If I see this color and call it blue, do you see it the same way even if you know it to be blue? We can talk at length about the wavelength of light and how the mechanics of our brain interpret that light… Yes, that is very easily applied to biological processes but, what about how light makes you feel. Can you describe the effect that embodies your experience of a wavelength of particles?

Simple (yet very complex) questions like that above are some of the most direct ways we can question someone’s experience and compare it to our own. While science will most likely never have a good way to explain what the answer is (when discussing cognition), we can safely assume the answer to the above questions is, NO. You have your experiences and I have mine. Your physical makeup is not the same as mine.

Social Complexity

“Ok dude, I follow you so far but what does this have to do with tattooing?”

I have been hyper critical about tattooers and artists for a long time, or at least our actions inside this heteronormative, patriarchal society. This may be an evolution of sorts within myself but it wasn’t until recently that I started to be critical about my efforts to critique everyone. I am an asshole by nature so taking the time out to think about the why’s and what’s make me more centered. At least I think it helps put me in my proverbial “place”.

The idea that we are all different is key in our survivability as a species. If we all did feel blue the same way or tasted ice cream the same way, life would be boring. Not only that, we probably wouldn’t have made it very far in our existence on this planet. We, as a species, are constantly evolving. To do that we require a complex model of inputs and variables to equate functions, from or to, to ensure our species is adaptable in a positive way.

This description is attached to the idea of social contracts. We have an article about it Here and it goes down a meandering path attempting to describe in a Dungeons and Dragons sort of way how we are reliant on our interactions and assumptions in building our ethical interactions.

Why Our Differences Matter – A Tale of Two Minds.

As a human on this planet (which I will assume is how you describe yourself), would you rather explore the seven seas or stay back and make mad bank working a desk job? THe question seems trivial to you (perhaps) but the inverse choice that you may decide upon (or the timeframe in which you decide upon both) may be foreign or ignorant to another.

Individuals have little problem answering a simple question like the one posited above when aligning their social and personal trajectory as an individual. If you are apprehensive about wandering aimlessly, you would most likely enjoy the security money brings. Do you care little about personal effects and owning a home? If so, you most likely would enjoy a bit of bumming about. 

Simple, right?

If the entirety of our species over its existence had been focused on a singular method of security or improvement, where would we be now?

Society and Challenges.

If our society was purely focused on the improvement of social order and health, where would we be collectively?

…Most likely without anti-vaxxers or flat earthers. (yet if that is your belief, good for you. Seriously)

Would that be a good thing though?

Without a critical objection to any commonly held belief(s) we would be stranded upon our “proofs” that bind our progress. This world could very well be considered the center of the solar system still if people just took common assumptions and didn’t actively try to analyze them.

This practice is a core tenet to the philosophical beliefs in the West. We must question all that is around us to further understand the why of a problem. (This is a very deep aspect of social philosophy and should be further elucidated in another article. For now, let’s move on)

Benefits of Critical Thinking

When society choose to challenge our surroundings, innovation springs forth and propels us in new directions. These challenges are a necessary part of our existence. Much like the allegory of Plato’s Cave, if we accept what is in front of us and choose not to wander forth, we will be trapped forever.

This doesn’t come down to brain size or where you grew up (although external stressors can influence how we deal with information), however, this idea absolutely influences how you choose to interact with information in real time. It is always all about how you react and interpret your surroundings that make you unique.

Are you a person who chooses to look at the effect of something personally, subjectively? Or are you the type of person who wishes to know how things effect the population at large?

Onto a quick description of the two minds in our industry now. This is subjective phylogeny.

Here’s a list, in no particular order:

Mind 1 – The Artist

The first mind I am writing about is the mind of an artist. How can you spot these people inside in the industry?

They have a focus that is honed on the expression of a style. There is little to no effort being put into the understanding of why something is done, only how it can be completed. They want to make the best physical product, which in turn, helps them to realize their own perfection.

They choose to define their ability by the art that they produce on paper and skin. The ideals surrounding their actions is progress.

Their growth in the industry can be defined as linear and their mindset is almost purely subjective. They are the how of the industry and they are focused on results. The product produced only matters personally, which has little regard for outside input or critique.

Mind 2 – The Technician

The second mind we meet is the technician.

Their mind is focused on the way things are completed. The “why” in the process.

They choose to break down the aspects of any small thing inside the trade of study. Their wish is to understand what the reason behind an action are. Their focus is how best to approach solutions.

The technician’s goal is the total understanding of the process, regardless of the outcome. It is more scientific in its approach and requires an objective mind. The how of this mind is focused on determining the best actionable cause and effect, objectively.

What makes up the Industry now

I feel as if the industry has evolved towards a more art-centric voice, leaving behind the idea of technical mastery. If you are surrounded by artists in an industry, where does the technician fit in? They don’t, to be honest. The technician, while trying to understand they why, is left to focus on rudimentary applications while their competitor is innovating ideas. To the artist, they are stagnant in their efforts and are holding progress back.

Our industry is victim to the normal onslaught of social media and a need for acceptance. If your clients don’t like you or think you’re uncool, you will have a hard time gaining enough respect to build a career. Sadly, both minds are victim to these pressures and must tend to their egos while dealing with their individual focus.

Hipster with coffee
We are all victims of social trends.

Two minds and innovation

Look to the media and advertisements that surround us as industry insiders. You are told “professionals only” like there is some magical badge granted once you can fulfil an order from a supplier. The industry pumps out products of unknown quality that you happily purchase on word of mouth recommendation alone.

The lone practitioner will have a difficult time navigating these waters as there is no information about what is truly safe or what is of good quality. There is a disconnect between the information that is backed by evidence and that which is backed by experience.

The formula for success now is to blindly trust the manufacturer to provide a quality product. Your other option is to listen to an acquaintance about what they trust and base your purchases off their recommendation. You trust the artist based on the quality of their work when qualifying their recommendation and the technician based on the stories and experience they offer.

Where are the why’s in that formula? Furthermore, where is the science that backs up what could be considered “best”? Do we stand any chance when scrutinizing these manufacturers or the recommendation of our friends?

The reality of Innovation.

There are many artists and tattooers inside the industry now, their egos awash in social media support, pushing the envelope with what we see as finished work. Their ideals are similar to the practices of a modern painter, sculptor or computer graphics superstar. They are lucky enough to be sponsored by large manufacturers and carry the banner of these products to the undereducated, pawning them off as liquid gold.

That comparison makes me think of these superstars quite similar to the alchemists of far gone generations. Those ol’ alchemy wizards were trusted by the rulers to make a product worth more than what it is worth. They were given chunks of lead with the promise of changing its properties to something like gold which can be taken literally or figuratively.

Is the gold a physical gift given by the alchemist, or is the knowledge of the process what is truly sought after?

Questions about innovation

Concerning the current products on the shelves, we have seen a drastic increase in what we consider quality in tattooing. The colors are more vibrant and the work that is being produced is almost unbelievable. In some cases, it’s properly unbelievable.

Read more about this idea in our pigment safety article located @ Pigment Safety 

After That Lengthy Seque.

It is my belief that currently – those who are attracted to this industry are of one mind. It is appealing as all hell to know that you, as an artist, can focus your intention towards the subjective growth of doing something you love. You can walk into an industry and effect real change while not sacrificing your art.

We see this practice sought after in many industries. Look to the banking system, politics, professional sports; there is a mindset that prevails above those others that attempt to make entry into them. You are goal oriented, focused, driven and nothing matters more to you than the finish. (I was going to put in Finnish, but walked away from a bad pun. You’re welcome.)

“If you are not a shark, don’t bother working here”


Let’s say you are a person who is seeking studies in a trade. Your focus is to become the best from the idea inception. Whatever you decide the best may be is subjective, but that decision sets the tone and pace of your career. You incept your future by focusing wholly on the end result.

Are you willing to sacrifice your friends, coworkers or family to get to what you see as perfection?

What’s left?

I feel like, at least through my actions, I am neither a technician or an artist. Although, if I would have settled on one mindset or the other I would most likely have far more security in my life.

It makes me sad to see the focus of each mindset in the industry focused on the personal gains given to us by our clientele. There is little to no focus on the collaborative acts imbued in the trust given to us by our clientele. The trade has become a farce with no clear direction for the future. We may end up fixing what it has become. However, there may be a loss of trust from those we rely on to make us become great.

Final Thoughts

I am not writing this about you dear reader. The persons described herein are only figments of my imagination and my views are subjective. You’re allowed to contend this and toss actual logic my way. In fact, I welcome it. That’s the whole idea of thinking inside your own head once in a while.

I leave you with something silly:

Three conspiracy theorists walk into a bar… that can’t be a coincidence

One thought

  1. I enjoyed the article a lot, but my favorite part was a throwaway line: “I’m an asshole by nature.” Amen, brother. So am I.

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