Cool Skin: These Tattoos Hurt But Were So Worth It

Chris Foresman says it’s all Twitter’s fault. Five years ago, he answered a tweet from a friend who needed someone to do a quick post for Ars Technica. Now he’s covering Apple as well as patent litigation, online privacy, digital photography and visual perception.

But we’re not concerned with Chris’s tech life here. We’re curious about his tattoos.

Why tattoos?

My very first tattoo was a straight edge “X” on the inside of my right leg. This was approximately 1993, while I was still in high school. Several of my friends were straight edge, too, and into punk rock and skateboarding. One of our friends, Mike, had learned how to make a homemade tattoo gun.

I don’t know the exact origins of the design and for some reason, I feel like it had something to do with the Anarchist’s Cookbook, but it was basically the tube of a BIC pen with a motor from a small RC car hooked up to it. We each made our own needle by super-gluing a fresh, sharp sewing needle onto a coffee stirrer and putting into the shaft of the pen. The end of the electric motor would hook to a small hole in the end, causing it to move up and down very fast. It hurt like hell. Still, to this day the lines are relatively sharp and the fill is still as dark as the day I got it.

Tell me about the other two.

My friend Pat played in a number of bands growing up. Some are well-known, like Endpoint, Metroschifter, Tramlaw. Around 1998, he apprenticed at a small tattoo shop in our hometown of Lafayette, Ind. I remember he had a scare with a needle going through his gloves, or something like that, and was concerned he might end up with hepatitis. He ended up quitting after a few months, but not before he did maybe a dozen tattoos, including mine.

Foresman Shoulder TattooI have the honor of having the first tattoo Pat ever did, which is a rough outline of Radha Krishna that was copied from some cheap Hare Krishna paperback. I don’t follow the religion as closely as I used to but in my teens and early twenties I was pretty heavily into its philosophy, which is something I got razzed about more often than any tattoo. I also have the fifth tattoo he did, which I’m pretty sure was his first black-and-white portrait. It’s based on a painting of Sri Govinda, another name for Krishna, as a young boy. To my eye, you can see a pretty remarkable improvement in his work between these tattoos.

How do you feel about it now?

It may not be the best portrait work ever but it holds up. Hare Krishna philosophy is still important to me, which is probably why I never regretted getting those tattoos. The Straight edge tattoo is a little different, since I stopped being straight edge after a decade of drug-free life. It was definitely the right thing for me at that time, though, and the tattoo is a reminder of all those youthful memories.

Do you have any other art on your body?

I still have rings in both ears. I had let other friends apprenticing as piercers  give me septum and Prince Albert piercings but I’ve long since taken them out.

Are there more tattoos in your future?

I would like to finish what Pat started on my back. I had planned on eventually adding a black-and-white portrait of Radha, along with a full-color portrait of Radha Krishna. They’d be surrounded by certain Sanskrit verses and perhaps smaller images of Krishna incarnations, like Nrsimha, or various saints like Srila Prabhupada.

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15 Responses to “Cool Skin: These Tattoos Hurt But Were So Worth It”

  1. Let’s combine two Dice topics: Personality Tests and Tattoos!

    The person with the tattoo’s obviously feels inferior the way they were born, and hopes to elevate their self esteem. It also shows a lack of future thought – wait till you’re 50 – you’ll wonder why the hell you did it. It also shows lack of problem solving ability, since the tat really doesn’t do anything for the person: they’re not smarter, nor more educated, or stronger, or more attractive, or more anything – it’s just a pointless expression of frustration.

    These folks needn’t take the personality test 🙂

    • Hi Doug,

      Thank you for reading the post. You may be taking a bit of a leap here and making assumptions regarding Chris, who neatly outlines why he doesn’t regret the tattoos and how they continue to resonate with him, including the fact that he wants to add to the work on his back.

      People who decorate their bodies are usually seeking something less tangible than what you seem to think they’re looking for. While there are people who regret getting tatts, I venture that there are far more who see their skin as canvas and their tattoos as meaningful totems of life’s events.

      • elisabeth writes: “who see their skin as canvas and their tattoos as meaningful totems of life’s events.”

        Choke. Only in the 21st century can someone try to explain away why mutilating their body is meaningful. OK – cave men and savages did it – but they had far less awareness, socialization, and understanding. Hey, if you’re a marine or a pirate – a tattoo is OK. Otherwise I say tattoo = loser.

  2. I have one tattoo on the inside of my upper left arm that means the world to me. It is just my best friends name from aol that got me through a physically abusive 10 years from 5 to 15where my over reactive mother would punch me until i blacked out. You are the loser but i have a 10 year admin career starting at age 17. Now i am in my late 20s and i have a self made ballin out of control lifestyle. I have 10 car, 8 3rd gen rx7s a sc300 and a miata. Oh yeah, II have one tattoo.

  3. Keenan Turlough

    I admit learning of the contexts by which Chris obtained the tattoos in mention made me cringe, but respectfully I disagree with DOUG_B’s oversimplification of matters as well. One can make a distinction between body art — work carefully deliberated over, meaningfully composed, purposefully rendered — and some stupid glyph you got on a whim in college one night after you stumbled out of the bar.

    Clearly Doug’s exposure to the institution has been relegated to the cave men and savages of his social circle, and from I can infer of them, I’d be at first inclined to agree with his assessment. But tattoos are more than rites of passage for marines and pirates, and Pe’a and Irezumi, there are plenty of people from academia to business to medicine to politics to entertainment to technology — all gainfully employed professionals too important and too busy to partake in this discussion, all arguably ‘winners’ in their own right — who have wanted and gotten tattoos.

    • “and Pe’a and Irezumi, there are plenty of people from academia to business to medicine to politics to entertainment to technology — all gainfully employed professionals too important and too busy to partake in this discussion, all arguably ‘winners’ in their own right — who have wanted and gotten tattoos.”

      Yeah, and Dr. Tim Leary dropped / advocated tripping on LSD, while Tim Scully manufactured it – and got 20 years.

      • The fact that you hate people who have ink makes me even more glad that I have two tattoos (one of which I got today). They aren’t just representations of important life events–my latest commemorates my first half marathon–they are totems that ward off ignorant, toxic, judgmental jackasses.

        Anyone who hates me because of my ink is someone I dont want to be associated with, anyway. If it’s not the ink, then they’ll find some other issue. They are simply wretched, toxic people.

      • Keenan Turlough

        “Yeah, and Dr. Tim Leary dropped / advocated tripping on LSD, while Tim Scully manufactured it – and got 20 years.”

        Um, OK. I’m not sure how its relevant though. You can find criminals lurking in all facets of life just as easily as you can find say, opinionated close minded men. Neither have anything to do with the ritualism or aesthetic of tattoo art though.

      • In light of the comments regarding an alleged lack of self-esteem among the inked, my latest tattoo is especially ironic. In addition to commemorating me accomplishing something that very few people in the world ever accomplish (there aren’t that many people who’ve run 13.1 miles), the piece symbolizes the thing that gave me my sense of self-worth BACK. After I flushed five YEARS of my life down the toilet, and went into outrageous debt, to get a Math/CIS degree that turned out to be not worth the paper it was printed on, I hated myself. I felt that I was the stupidest, most worthless individual on earth. I had no self-esteem left. I felt I was a loser who could never accomplish anything (as well as an evil individual who deserved to be punished). I walked in darkness.

        Note that none of this had a bloody thing to do with what I looked like. I could have had a body like Drea Weber’s, and I still would have hated myself.

        Training and running this half made me feel good about myself for the first time in nearly two YEARS. I was able to work hard and accomplish something great, something positive. I still regret getting the degree, but I don’t hate myself anymore. I don’t feel worthless anymore. I’m a RUNNER.

        I will never regret the tattoo that symbolizes my emergence from darkness.

    • Obviously it’s gone down hill. The recession has gone on way too long. Too many people have figured out the lame a** recruiter. Also everyone has had their fill of the 10 things you should… [fill in the blank].

      Now we are being ‘advised’ by ‘professional’ writers who have never held an IT job. I doubt Dice pays them anything at all. Probably they do it just to get their name out there – for whatever that’s worth.

      Chris Foresman, the ‘child’ in this article seems be a ‘naval gazer’. If my daughter brought home something like that, I’d kick her a**. But she’s more savvy than than. At Chris’s age he should be thinking about a wife, children, building a family. Not some stupid sh*t tattoo that he got in HS.

  4. I know/have seen one person who looked good with tats; he is Samoan/Hawaii-n. I told him whilst we were lifting, “You the only person I’ve ever seen who did not look like a pasty-white houle who rolled around on a Jackson Pollock.”