Jeff Madonna is a nerd. Not just a nerd, a super nerd. And proud of it. He’s hoping to school his young daughter, Marlee, in the way of the nerd as well. He and his wife, Erin, spend all of their free time doing lots of nerdy things with her. He was an Eagle Scout, so doing things like making sure she knows the names of the trees in Latin, for example. They’re working on her Iron Man costume for Comic Con in June, and she has a Firefly hat. So, they’re on their way. (Jeff had to explain Firefly to me, though. As a Nathan Fillion lover myself, I knew he was in it, but didn’t realize it was a space western.) Jeff is a comic guy, preferring aliens and cartoons in his down time, although he ranked Airwolf nearly as high as Transformers as the best tv show of his youth.
The first tattoo that Jeff ever did was a rose on his own leg. He was told that one should practice on themselves so that they’d know how it felt to be tattooed by them. He learned a lot from this tattoo, but the most important thing he learned was that the machine should never go silent. You’ll notice that Jeff doesn’t have a lot of tattoos on his hands, his neck, anywhere visible. He said that Carl would always tell him that you don’t want your hands tattooed in case you ever have to go in front of a judge. Jeff himself tells younger people who come to him that they should think about the kind of jobs they want to do before they tattoo their hands.
Jeff is a big history guy. Whether researching the Hot Stuff Devil comics of the 50s and pedal cars of that age or to ensure the correctness and authenticity for a client’s Viking sleeve, Jeff definitely pours himself into it one hundred percent. Some people collect Pez dispensers, but Jeff and his wife Erin collect books. Their living space in their home is lined with bookshelves, as they both love to read everything they can get their hands on. He has learned a lot about drawing but also a lot about the history of tattooing as well. It seems to me like he feels that that pays respect to those who went before him and that he feels that a tattooer should know the history.
We definitely talked a bunch of non-tattoo stuff too, from all of the cool ways he helps make stuff for his wife’s classroom, to the time he spent as an armored car driver (ok, an armored Ford Escort driver, but let’s not split hairs), religion, the educational system, our children and the movie Percy Johnson, Lightening Thief. He explained to me how ATMs work and how they get filled, which is more fascinating than I would have imagined. He’s probably a really good guy to have around because he can take an ATM machine apart with a pen knife, so you never know when that could come in handy.
Jeff’s a really nice and really smart guy. He’s endearingly crazy about his wife, who he describes as his best buddy, and he told me about how lucky he was that she picked him to guard in a basketball game when she was a teeny little lady with dreads. The time went by quickly when we were chatting – I could imagine that a six hour tattoo wouldn’t be so bad with Jeff’s interesting stories to keep your mind occupied.
Jeff says he primarily does Japanese work and American traditional tattooing but with a twist, because he likes to do the color blending and also fine line work. He is starting to do a lot more geeky tattoos lately, like the 20-sided die he recently completed on a walk-in client. Scroll down to see more of Jeff’s work below, as well as photos of him in the area around his shop, Poppycock Tattoo in Wilmington, Delaware.