Artist Spotlight #34: Matt Telford


Matt Telford

Looking for someone to design your very first tattoo? Well look no further than Adelaide artist, Matt Telford! Specialising in delicate flower work as well as fierce animal images, Matt’s work is evocative of traditional Japanese paintings. In our latest spotlight, Matt tells us who his art and tattoo idols are, and his current SALA show.

Q: Hello Matt! Can you please tell us a bit about yourself?

A: Hi guys! I’m an Adelaide based aspiring tattoo artist. I’ve only been practicing art for a few years as I had previously spent five years studying a law degree before pursuing my passion in art. Just trying to create as much great work as I can whilst trying to pick up an apprenticeship!


Q: Who inspires you? What inspires your art?

A: I have so many inspirations! On a huge scale, I love James Jean; his complexity and blending of styles to create a truly unique image is beautiful to me. I love his surrealism and ability to blend styles that wouldn’t otherwise ‘mix.’

My biggest inspiration though would have to be Jeff Gogue; he’s a true student of art and approaches work with such a unique perspective that resonates with me. Gogue’s take on traditional Japanese work is so unique and deep but still fundamentally retains its identity; something I’d love to do in my own practice.

Q: Do you have a preferred medium?

A: I draw using pencil, conté, charcoal, pens, copics and a motley of other materials. I also recently found a love in oil painting.

I’m constantly trying to improve and grow so I try not to limit myself too much!


Q: How would you describe your style?

A: I love traditional Japanese work and surrealism. I haven’t really blended the two at all (yet) so I do a bit of both. I’d also say tattoo art influences my work in places as well, hence the heavy line work.

Q: Can you please describe your artistic and creative process i.e.: from lingering idea to putting it into practice?

A: I feel my best work is a result of in-depth planning and homework before I ever touch canvas or paper. I’ll have multiple draft mockups and try to hash out what the idea will look like and refine from there. I’ll sketch out designs and come up with a colour palette or tonal sketch before I ever touch canvas. I find that when I rush into things, I change my mind about so many things, so working out all of those things before starting really helps me get a firm grasp of what I want a piece to look like.

When it comes time to put brush to canvas, I just throw on Spotify and lose myself. I’m very much an ‘in the zone’ worker so once I’ve started, I’ll keep at it for the day.


Q: Where do you see your art practice taking you in the next five years?

A: 110% a tattoo apprenticeship. It’s what I’m grinding towards and I feel at this point, it’s just a matter of time.

I really want to continue to learn as much as I can about the craft and inform my own practice with many other artists around the world as well as Adelaide.

Q: If you could recommend one artist, who would it be?

A: Stu Pagdin, a tattoo artist at the House of Daggers studio here in Adelaide. He’s an absolute work horse and his Japanese work is so crisp, but still has his own personal effects on it resulting in some wonderfully unique pieces. His tattoos and paintings are always so detailed and well considered – definitely something to aspire to!


Q: What is your favourite gallery?

A: It’s not in Adelaide unfortunately – Outre Gallery in Melbourne! They carry some of my favourite artists such as Glenn Barr, Andy Kehoe, Horitomo and of course, James Jean.

The staff there are lovely to chat to and are always very well-informed. Definitely a place I love to visit!

Q: Where can we find more of your work?

A: I have an Instagram page and a Facebook page

I also have works being currently exhibited at Studio 613 for SALA until the end of September – check out my Facebook and Instagram for details!


Q: If Barack Obama came to you asking for a tattoo recommendation, what would you tell him to get?

A: This is the best question ever! Surely it would have to be meme related? “Thanks Obama” for a tramp stamp would have to be a winner haha!

– Masya Zabidi

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