To call these tattoos “ignorant” is a total misnomer. When the word ignorant is thrown around, it is typically in reference to a lack of awareness, or education, and it is usually aimed at bigots or children being scolded by a parent. To understand the name, we have to understand the style and its tongue and cheek origins. The style centers around simple designs, mostly line work without any extra coloration. Ignorant tattoos tend to have a DIY look, because they are mostly performed at home, not in a parlor. They also take on qualities of graffiti art and cartoon-like features. This is because the style was pioneered by a French graffiti artist who goes by the name FUZI UVTPK.
FUZI wanted a style that was “wild” and “without rules,” so he created a style that allowed him to express something free. When asked about the style, he said “Ignorant Style was based on how graffiti looked in the beginning in NYC, and it was meant to look like it was made by a child who is just learning the art form — naïve but pure. Ignorant Style is a reaction to the standardization of graffiti.” So you see, ignorant tattoos aren’t about a lack of an education, it is more of a reaction or a rebellion against rules and standardization. It is an homage to freedom of expression without being tied down by convention or guidelines.
The style has been an underground hit, and over the past decade, ignorant tattoos have only become more popular. Oakland based artist Galen Leach has adopted this style himself. He had formerly been a bike messenger, only performing these donation based home tattoos on the weekends. After three years of this, he realized there was a high enough demand for his art that he could make rent with ignorant tattoos, so he quit his day job to become a full-time ignorant tattoo artist.
Galen’s art is similar to many of the other “ignorant” artists. It’s not easy to pin down a theme in an art form that is based on rejecting rules and standardization, but even so, it must have a few identifiable characteristics to exist as a bona-fide style. Many of Galen’s tattoos are comical and tongue in cheek, which is a theme that stands out among ignorant tattoos. Surprisingly, Galen hasn’t experienced negativity or criticism that is often levied against DIY tattoos. Instead, when he posted his work on instagram, he found a huge network of support and more clients.
It looks like ignorant tattoos are here to stay. I can’t personally suggest going out and getting a tattoo in a random person’s kitchen, there are too many health and safety issues to worry about, and you want to be sure you work with an ethical artist who uses good quality ink and sterilized equipment. However, having said that, these designs are both cool and hilarious. So it may be something worth looking into if you are interested in a new tattoo that embraces simplicity and rebels against standardization.