Despite the name, the “ignorant tattoo” style isn’t indicative of a race to the bottom in the world of body art. On the contrary, it’s an understated style defined by wit and dry humor with no risk of any message being lost in swirls of color and intricate designs.
The ignorant tattoo style is, at its essence, a smart and relatively new take on the long history of body art. Briefly, the ignorant tattoo style is defined by clean, simple black lines, punctuated with words that often do as much, or more, than the drawing itself to communicate an often dark, or darkly humorous, message.
Read on to discover more about ignorant tattoos — exactly what they are, where they came from, where they’re going, who wears them, and what place they have in the world of ink.
Not ignorant, but definitely simple
The ignorant style tattoo originated in the world of graffiti, specifically with the work of French graffiti artist Fuzi Uvtpk. He literally made his mark — or marks, and lots of them — on the subway system in Paris.
By the 1990s, though, Fuzi had tired of the frenetic adventure of marking trains with the like-minded crew who joined him.
Because Fuzi began his adventures in tattooing with his friends from the graffiti world — who wanted rudimentary images like spray cans and subway cars adorning their bodies — his tattoos developed as simple line drawings.
That made his art markedly different from more traditional tattoos with a riot of colors and intricate designs. And as the ignorant style tattoo has matured, it has moved in a couple of directions.
Some of it is social commentary, its simple drawings and words carrying messages that are anything but simple, but are intended at least to be thought-provoking, if not outright disturbing.
Take, for example, the ignorant style tattoo design featuring a line drawing of a fork along with the words “Life is soup and I’m a fork,” or the design featuring “The Simpsons” character Lisa Simpson above the words “The whole damn system is wrong.”
In other iterations, the ignorant style tattoo can be seen to be reflected in the certainly more elegant minimalist approach to body art. In that arena, the simple lines of the ignorant style tattoo become something more and can be appreciated as intricate designs that are, in fact, understated works of art.
It’s a minimalist world, but Fuzi isn’t alone
While Fuzi undoubtedly is the father and the face of the ignorant style tattoo, there are a number of other minimalist tattoo artists who have made real inroads in the genre. Here are three of the artists whose work reflects the ignorant style tattoo:
Some of the work of Spain’s Alvar Mena takes on a decidedly cartoonish cant as he places his art inside the limits of a square drawn as a tattoo’s boundary. The effect, of course, is to make the tattoo look like a single panel from a comic book or a newspaper comics page.
There are, however, many pieces of Mena’s work in the ignorant style tattoo genre that are far from comical. An Instagram page showing examples of his work includes a drawing of a nuclear bomb exploding in a city, while in the foreground, trees are burning and two skulls are depicted lying on the ground.
Another of Mena’s darker works depicts a tanker truck carrying a load labeled simply “Tears.”
There are, though, elements of humor in Mena’s work, including a minimalist tattoo of a melting ice cube above the words “Ice Cube (Rapper)” and another simple line drawing of a dinosaur (or maybe a dragon?) sitting disconsolately on a skateboard above the caption “Bored of fun.”
Niklas Hallberg (Ryssnisse)
Another noted tattoo artist whose work shows influences of the ignorant style tattoo is Niklas Hallberg, also known as Ryssnisse. A former construction worker who became a tattoo artist to follow a personal passion, Ryssnisse is self-taught in tattooing.
Working out of Sweden, has admitted that he’s not that good at drawing. That has resulted, in part, in tattoos that are steeped in irony as Ryssnisse takes inspiration from his own past in his art.
Among his fanciful designs is one depicting a number of two-headed snakes entwining themselves in and around a polo shirt, emerging from its arms, neck and bottom.
There is also a Ryssnisse design featuring intertwined skulls, and his work also includes things as simple as a bottle, possibly with a message inside, set adrift in water.
Cedric de Rodot
Working out of Barcelona, capital of the Catalonia region of Spain, Cedric de Rodot is another of today’s tattoo artists whose work reflects a direct line from the early development of the ignorant style tattoo.
While some of de Rodot’s work incorporates color, even that departure from the strictest definition of ignorant style tattoo art retains the simplicity of the minimalist style.
A sampling of Rodot’s work shows a traditional monochromatic ignorant style tattoo depicting a simple line drawing of a heart fashioned from chains, along with another line drawing of a “smiley face” split apart by numerous jagged cracks.
On the other hand, the same Instagram sampling of Rodot’s work shows a color rendering of the Google search page, but with the search box reading “sad movie,” and a colorized line below that reading “Did you mean: your life”
Some celebrities who are ‘ignorantly’ tattooed
Fuzi has inked no less than Hollywood star Scarlett Johansson, who has had one of his tattoos — a horseshoe encircled by the words “Lucky You” — on her side for a decade.
One of the other celebrities whose ink includes representations of the simple line art that defines the ignorant style tattoo is singer, songwriter and actress Noah Cyrus, a daughter of Billy Ray Cyrus and Tish Cyrus and sister to Miley Cyrus.
Noah Cyrus’s body art, comprising nearly 30 tattoos, includes minimalist works such as a martini glass, a hand showing the “rock on” symbol, and a simple drawing of a broken heart.
Zoe Kravitz, a celebrity actress, singer and model, also has a number of minimalist tattoos among her splashes of body art. One of them is simply the words “Sweet Kid,” one of her childhood nicknames.
Another, by tattoo artist Dr. Woo, who has inked a number of celebrities, is a palm tree in water, with a couple of birds and the word “Bahamas” down one side of the tree trunk.
The future of the ignorant style tattoo
One interesting take on the future of tattooing holds that in a world of improving technology, where artificial intelligence manifests itself in machine-drawn tattoos, the true rebels will be those who ink themselves and their friends in rudimentary ways, with basic equipment and ideas.
In that world, ignorant style tattoos would stand as evidence of true creativity in the world of body art.
As for right now, it’s interesting to note that the measure of the quality of an ignorant style tattoo has little to do with what has denoted quality in the world of more traditional tattooing, such as straight lines and designs that are readily coherent.
In the world of the ignorant style tattoo, it is the irony contained within the drawing, and the sly nature of its messages, that defines its quality and its place in the world of body art.