Artist Matt brushes up on a new Korea

Examples of Morpeth illustrator Matt Ferguson's work during his time in South Korea.'.
Examples of Morpeth illustrator Matt Ferguson's work during his time in South Korea.'.

A MORPETH illustrator is using his Far East adventure to develop his ability of capturing culture on paper.

Matt Ferguson has been living in Masan, South Korea, for seven months and as well as teaching English at three rural schools, he works part time for a magazine based in capital city Seoul.

Three years ago he started doing ‘reportage illustration’, which is the art of recording real events and situations by hand on paper – just as a photo journalist would use a camera to record them for a publication.

The 24-year-old has been drawing most of his life and he wanted to have a career based around it from an early age.

“I got into reportage when I realised that my strongest work tended to be observation drawing,” he said.

“I’ve expanded into other areas since then (woodcuts, printing and editorial illustration) but I always kept doing the observation work and keeping a log of the things I saw, either through photos or quick drawings, that I could come back to later.

“I always wanted to live in Asia and because I don’t need to be in a specific place to work on my illustrations, I figured now would be a good time to go while the economy is terrible and do some travelling before coming back to get on with things properly.

“I’ve produced around 20 images since I got to South Korea – ranging from the architecture to people working and the traditional dance classes my kids take at school.

“Up in the big cities around Seoul people don’t notice you in the street, it’s just normal to see foreigners so no-one bats an eye.

“But in the smaller cities and rural areas I get people talking, saying hello, shouting, or looking afraid.

“I’m painting a mixed picture at the moment, but I’ve had a really good experience so far and for the most part everyone’s really friendly.

“The culture difference is huge. When I got here I remember waking up in the morning hearing people shouting outside (people shout a lot in the province where I live) and laughing to myself half asleep before realising they weren’t speaking my language.

“The housing is mad as well because the country is nearly all mountainous so they build upwards.

“At the moment I’m sitting on the 11th floor of my apartment building in amongst a massive jigsaw of other huge apartment blocks.”

Mr Ferguson grew up in Loansdean and did his GCSEs and A Levels at King Edward VI School before doing a foundation diploma in Art at Newcastle College.

He then went on to study the subject at Kingston University in London.

He entered into Kingston’s reportage contest in 2008 and as a result got included in a Coningsby Gallery exhibition at Tottenham Street in central London.

The following year he won the university’s Brill Award for architectural drawing.

He said: “I enjoy illustration because it’s a really inventive and exciting area to be working in. I don’t get tired of it as there’s a lot of variety and spontaneity.

“I get all kinds of articles sent to me (for the magazine), some are really out there and I’ve got to sum up the writing in a single image.

“I also got to decorate a coffee shop back in May, I took a glass marker to the windows and drew all over it.

“The only down side is money. I’ve been paid £400 for three hours’ work, but then sometimes you have to work cheap or there’s long periods where you just don’t get clients.”

Mr Ferguson hopes to stay in South Korea for at least another 12 months and he is planning to teach English part-time to help fund his career when he returns to the UK.

To see more of his work, visit or email