That Tattoo Show - Show Notes

The Popcorn Theory

By 30 May 2022 No Comments

The Popcorn Theory

The Popcorn Theory came to mind when I was reminded recently of a conversation I had in Boston with a very well known, much copied and well respected artist who will – of course – remain nameless.

We’d been talking the day before about the origins of our art and our respective passions for the individual styles we have developed and the contempt we have for the ‘biters’ who do none of the actual work in building their own but prefer to simply rip off another in order to pass their forgeries off as ‘inspired by’ when they are in fact, theft.

Oh, You’re Trained Too?

During the conversation it was clear that my knowledge and obvious education in my given discipline (graphic design) took him by surprise. When he realised that I, like himself, was trained and well versed in every aspect of what I was doing and that while he struggled to decode my work – he could after our conversation – see that I was making informed artistic choices that were critical to the success of the artwork and that the works I create have a big influence on many, if not all the artists within the graphic scene today. I, just like himself, am an influencer. Much copied, well respected but – in my case – largely ignored.
So the following day, after spending a few hours looking at my work with my explanation of the basics of what I was doing to assist him he expressed dismay that my work wasn’t held in the same regard as his own.Asking why I – unlike himself – wasn’t appearing all over the world in magazines and on share sites and being held in the same high regard?
Once I got over the shock of such a nice compliment, ‘out of the blue’ at from an artist that I have admired for many years. I told him it came as no surprise to me. He remained confused so I attempted to explain were I think I am in the world of tattoo using a popcorn metaphor, I think it helped so I’m going to use it again to explain the point of this months column. Bear with me, I’m getting to that.

The Popcorn Theory

‘Tattooing today is like a box of popcorn. At the top of the box you have all the happy white fluffy popped kernels that are just so happy to be there, all covered in butter and salt just loving it and desperate to be eaten as soon as possible. They’ll do anything, anything just as long as they can be the first to pop.
As you make your way through the box of happy white popped kernels you finally get to the bottom of the box. To the hard unpopped kernels who just sit there, refusing to pop under any circumstances. They just aren’t interested in what they’re supposed to do they just do what they want to do and they want nothing to do with those fluffy, greased up, happy, popped corn. They don’t give a rats-ass what you think about them no matter who you think you are.
Do you know why these kernels at the bottom refuse to pop?
It’s because they have integrity.’


He loved my Popcorn Theory and got what I was saying. Immediately understanding where I was coming from. Having been in the tattoo industry long enough to understand that it too has a ‘they’ and a ‘them’. Most creative industries do and ‘they’ are incredibly annoying most to of us. Because ‘they’ only help ‘them’.
Who am I talking about? ‘They’ are the people in the industry that run the system. It’s not a system like the Matrix. Its more like an ‘old school tie’ system. Your face either fits or it doesn’t. Or you might fit if you modify your behaviour a little.
Why would you do that? Well, The system benefits ‘them’ and the system only exists to maintain the system. If you want to become one of them you have to obey the rules. The rules produce solipsistic, self-contained selves. Creatures whose only public commitment is an absence of commitment to a public, a common culture, a shared history. Perfectly hollowed vessels, receptive and obedient, without any real obligations or devotions. Popcorn, if you will.

The Popcorn Theory – Integrity

I often say a bunch of stuff that I’m not ‘supposed to’ and talk about stuff that is ‘off limits’. This quietly annoys ‘them’ and ‘they’. That’s why I’ll never pick up a lifetime achievement award – even if I deserved one (and I don’t). Never get voted most popular anything. I’ll never feature on the front of any magazine anywhere in the world. Or ever be fashionable. Because I refuse to Pop!