Art that lives with you

Photo courtesy of Blake Israel

The sunlight filtered through the windowed corners of my father’s study, touching on the yellowed pages of legal pads haphazardly strewn about. 

A film of dust swaddled the forgotten frames of old degrees in the corner — enveloping everything in the room — except for his personal workspace. 

The thin layer was something more deep-rooted: a barrier to his world I wasn’t meant to cross. I didn’t know much about my father growing up. Even when he was around, he was much more of a stranger to me. 

The experience of fatherhood was something I grasped for only in Studio Ghibli and Bollywood movies, as one longs for fantasy. 

There were times when I ventured into the study, unsure of what I was even looking for. I would dig through old pictures of my parents, open old letters — trying to paint a self-portrait of my own history. That was how I came across the stack of comic books, creased and worn sitting in a nook of the room.

It was the entire Calvin and Hobbes collection, seemingly having been read countless times as the well-loved edges of the pages curled up invitingly. 

The set had once been a gift from my mom to my dad and a gift of my very own; as I laid on the floor I read and reread the whole collection over and over, picturing my father doing the same thing years ago.

When I turned 18, I became interested in tattoos. While growing up, when asked if I would ever get a tattoo my response was always no. I had always seen myself as the type of person who could never commit to something — someone who hated permanence. But that changes when you realize you have something you want to keep — something you want to protect by wearing it as an extension of yourself. 

One of my first and most important tattoos was of Hobbes. My dad laughed when he saw it, asking me why I would get such a thing tattooed, unknowing that it was a gift he gave me in my childhood. 

Some of my tattoos are like that — almost like little inside jokes with myself. Others are related to the Ghibli movies I treasured growing up, and

I have a couple that I just thought looked nice. 

Everyone can have their own justification for their tattoos, or even no justification at all. I think that’s the beauty of it. There’s a certain charm to getting a piece on your body and the type of courage that comes with it. 

Many students are reluctant to get tattoos because of perceived impacts on future hireability, or even just the fear of commitment. To anyone wanting a tattoo but worried about the stigma, I would say that your capability is already impressive. 

Being a Tech student, graduating from your field and being passionate about finding work: these are undeniable truths about you that you wear on your sleeve — truths that cannot be altered by changes to your body. 

To the fear of commitment, Sophia from “Tattooed Tealady” says, “create the tattoo design, then put it somewhere where you’ll see it every day. If you’re not sick of the design after six months, then get the tattoo.” 

The more tattoos you get, you’ll realize that just liking a design or thinking something is cute can be the answer as well. 

The beauty of tattoos are in their extension of yourself: the ability they have to transform parts of your body into a canvas — to make you appreciate the very skin you live in. 

Their ability to augment the parts of yourself that you show to the world, and just the humanity of it all — decorating your body like you do a laptop with stickers. 

Whenever my dad gets a new phone, he sets his wallpaper to the same image: Calvin and Hobbes together, staring at a sky full of stars. Blood runs thicker than water, and tattoos run deeper than skin.