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Craig Foster (Ink Master)

Craig Foster: The Interview (Ink Master)
"You remember when you got that tattoo, who you were when you got that tattoo."

Craig Foster on why tattooing is so emotionally important.

Sitting in muted colors and hair pulled up in an almost Samurai-type style, tattoo artist Craig Foster begins work on his latest piece.  Foster recently returned to his small hometown of Carrollton Georgia, just outside of Atlanta, from his stint on Spike TV's Ink Master.
 
The tattoo competition show hosted by Dave Navarro returns July 16 with a fresh crop of new artists, and one returning favorite.
 
As we sit in Foster's studio, Skinwerks, one can't help but look around at all the wide-ranging artwork littering his walls.  From hand-painted skateboard decks to one of a kind framed art pieces, there is plenty to distract you from the impending needles that are about to penetrate your skin.  Foster's laid-back demeanor and sense of humor immediately makes itself present and any curiousity of why he was chosen as a reality show "character" is quenched.  It's no question why Spike TV wanted him on the show but why did a well-established artist like Foster agree to be on Ink Master?
 
"I went through years in this industry trying to be recognized as an Atlanta-based artist." Foster stated.  "So it's hard to get acknowledged when you're (not in a big city) so I thought that being a part of the show would be a good way to be acknowledged on a wider scale."
 
A lot of competition shows choose their competitors based on who can be more dramatic and Foster saw this as an opportunity to change that.  
 
"(Ink Master) is a representative of this industry.  Regardless of what happens on the show, you have to represent good tattooing.  But I think it was easy watching the show being extremely judgmental of the people that were involved with it but how could I be judgmental if I didn't offer myself to be a part of that." Foster continued.
 
Wanting to be part of an evolving show, Foster felt that he could be part of something that was only getting better as it aged.  "It was exciting.  I just feel like the first season you wondered how (some of the contestants) got on the show" Foster said, "But then the second season stepped it up with some amazing talent.  I felt a lot of pressure to go in there and perform."
 
As with any show, some tweaks were made from season to season.  Sometimes to fix things that were not working and other times to keep audience and competitors on their toes.  Ink Master is no different.  Season 2 saw the show expand in episodes and number of competitors as well as a, sometimes awkward, live finale.  But the biggest change from the first to the second season was the twist of allowing one of the competitors to come back for season 3, based on a fan vote.  That challenge fell to Tatu Baby, a seemingly controversial decision.
 
"That in itself was an advantage and a disadvantage at all times.  There were times that she had an upper hand because she had an understanding of certain things but there were other times that we all knew what her weaknesses were." Foster explains. "Last season it was a dragon tattoo that sent her home.  Every time a dragon would come up, everyone would just stop and look at her.  But I was happy for her."
 
Despite being happy for her, Foster said the end of last season left a sour taste in his mouth.  "I was personally pushing for Jesse Smith.  I just thought that his stay was cut kind of short more controversially with Sebastian.  I didn't think that he deserved to leave over Sebastian.  Just the amount that he won compared to Sebastian not winning any at all?  When they called his name to go home, my heart broke.  I was personally pushing for Jesse Smith to come back."
 
Foster didn't know what to expect as he entered the world of reality television.  After a change of clothes and hairstyle, he went into the show without distractions, determined not to get caught up in the drama that usually follows around the people on these shows.  Reminding himself that his purpose is to represent the industry in a positive way, Foster's goal was to make the "canvas" happy, even at the potential cost of his tenure on the show.


"I've gotta watch this with my family.  They know who I am and my daughter will be watching this with her college friends." He explained.  "I don't want them telling her that I'm an asshole because I decided to act differently on the show.  I don't really feel comfortable with that."

 
"Nobody knew who I was at all, I was totally an underdog walking in there." Foster continues.  "I could have really been anybody and I don't think anyone took me seriously.  So just to go into the first challenge, I really felt intimidated.  I really felt like I had to do something amazing to just kind of establish myself amongst the rest of the people."
 
If Tatu Baby's chance to return was the biggest change of season 2, the most surprising change in season 3 had to be the ability of the "canvases" or clients to help choose one of the worst tattoos.
 
"That was like a brick wall." Foster said.  "None of us saw that coming and it changed the whole game.  It made us nervous because the judges are artists and they have a history.  They understand the little details, the canvases' might not so it makes it difficult for them to judge something based on the challenge we were given."

Foster is happy with who he was on the show and he hopes that the world sees him for who he is.  "I was happy with my work.  It was nerve-wracking, but a great experience.  The live finale in October will be interesting."
 

Before tuning in this October for the live finale, Season 3 of Ink Master premieres on Spike TV July 16 at 10/9c.  Tune in to see how far Craig makes it and be prepared for all sorts of twists in the first episode.
 
Also, check out Pandora's experience getting tattoo by Craig in her blog.

Also, check out our preview of season 3.



EXTENDED QUESTIONS:
Shakefire: 
How do you feel about "popular" or "wall" tattoos?
Craig Foster: 
As soon as you start making fun of the tattoo, it becomes more popular. The Pinterest tattoo of the month is some anchor with the words "Refuse to Sink" somehow infused with an infinity symbol and a dandelion with the seeds blowing off into the wind turning into birds and the birds turning into a feather. The most annoying tattoo on the planet, but that's what young girls are getting right now.
Shakefire: 
Have you ever tattooed yourself?
Craig Foster: 
I tried it one time. It was horrible. To me, the hard thing is that you are kind of working against your reflexes. So your reflexes are telling you to stop but at the same time, you are trying to push to go a little bit farther.
Shakefire: 
What was the funniest thing that happened while you were on the show?
Craig Foster: 
One of the guys is really into dead stuff. And, he decided that some of his artwork were going to be dead cats. He explained the process and it was really weird but basically it was some kind of (taxidermy) type thing where they keep the actual fur and the look of the animals so it's that animal caught in their dead moment. And he had a few of them. But I think the (crew) were afraid to take them out of the box so they didn't bring them out, they just left them in the back and this guy complained forever about his fucking cats. And one day, the cats came out by accident. I guess they mistook one of the boxes for somebody else's box of stuff, so one of the guys opens the box, he's like 'Uhh, this isn't my stuff". I'm like "what is it?", he's says "Well, the box says dead cats" and they say "what's in it?" "Well that's a strange question too because there are some dead cats in this box". And everyone looks like, what the fuck are you talking about and there's dead cats in the box. We're like, what in the fuck?
Shakefire: 
Did you leave the show with anything that you have included in your resume?
Craig Foster: 
Single-needle tattooing. I had never done it before but after tattooing it on the show, I actually found an importance within my tattooing regiment. So basically, I used it pretty much, every tattoo I did, I used a single needle with whatever I was doing.
Shakefire: 
Who was the most difficult judge?
Craig Foster: 
Chris Nunez. It really seemed like it was very difficult to please him all the time. If you did please him, it was really exciting because you really didn't get that out of him too much but he definitely expected a lot out of us most of the time.
Shakefire: 
What is the weirdest request you have ever received?
Craig Foster: 
I had a client get "That's all folks" on his eyelids. "That's...all folks" on his eyelids. Basically, he felt that he wants to have the last joke. When he dies, sitting in a casket, and that's what people see. "That's all folks" written on his eyelids. Last jokes on him because he just wants to give everyone a chuckle when he moves on...and I helped him do that.
Peter Oberth
Interview by Peter Oberth
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