About Kelly Telfer. I guess you could say I’m a car guy, an animal person, and a storyteller, and an “Ambush Artist.”

My Story 

I guess you could say I’m a car guy. 

I attended my first car race at age four. My parents took my brother, sister and me to Laguna Seca Raceway in 1959 (I still have that old race poster packed away!) in our 1952 MGTD. My dad volunteered as a SCRAMP corner worker.  Throughout my childhood, I got to watch the races on the outside of the old wooden fencing, sitting on the hill at Turn 4. Right next to the track!  Once, a Ferrari spun out just a few feet away from me. While my Dad and another corner worker push-started the car, the driver looked over at me and said “Slippery, eh?” Then he zoomed off! I enjoyed many races at Laguna Seca Raceway while growing up. My heroes were great drivers like Sterling Moss, Dan Gurney, Carrol Shelby, Mark Donahue, and Rick Mears. 

At one point, my parents had two sports cars, the 1952 MGTD, and my mom’s 1962 Austin Healey 3000. Yes, everywhere we went as a family, us three kids were piled into the tiny back seat of either the MG or the Healey. On one occasion, our family was camping at the Pinnacles National Park and we were asked to leave by the rangers. My Mom was spinning donuts in her Healey around a tree in the campground! 

Maybe this is when I started drawing cars. I just know that from kindergarten on, most of my school papers had cars drawn all over them! My childhood has left a major imprint; a first-hand love of motorsports, cars, race drivers and the very interesting personalities that have shaped my career as an artist. 

My brother and I started racing VW’s at Fremont Raceway when I was 15 years old, then later Super Modifieds at San Jose Fairgrounds Speedway.  I designed and printed our race team shirts and soon, everybody else wanted me to design their shirts!  I started a T-shirt company, O.Tee Shirts, when I was 20 years old- based on my art and new-found race contacts. This turned into one of the largest T-shirt companies specializing in motorsports in the country. Over the next couple of decades, I created art and apparel for many top racers, tracks, and manufacturers; including Mears, Andretti, Petty, Earnhardt, Senna, Mansell, the Daytona 500, Laguna Seca Raceway, Monterey Historics, Long Beach Grand Prix, Indy 500, Monaco F1, as well as Chevrolet, Ford, Dodge, NASCAR, Indy Car and F1. 

Born with my foot on the gas, I’ve always had creative energy to spare and have never stopped drawing and painting cars.  My motorsports artwork is in the collections of race drivers, sponsors, and featured in national art shows. My paintings have been featured at Canepa Motorsports Museum (Scotts Valley, CA) for the last 10 years. 

My recent work has sped into big, bold, acrylic on canvas, bursting with vivid color. I’m not getting old, I’m racing to the finish line! 

I guess you could say I’m a car guy (that would be an understatement!). 

Want a painting or giclee art print for your event, garage or for a friend? Go here and spend money: www.kellytelfer.com 


Reflection and Memory Paintings a story teller on canvas. 

I have added a new feature to my paintings recently, an image of my client’s past, such as a favorite time or place, reflected in their favorite car’s paint or windshield. I’ve found that by incorporating cherished memories as reflections on my clients’ cars, I have tapped into a new level of art and emotion. 

Whenever I attend a gallery opening or art show, I’m touched by the stories of passers-by who can’t help but share the memories my paintings have triggered. When I am painting commissions, I love to learn everything I can from my clients about why the car they want me to paint has meaning for them. What happened in that car? Where do they see the car in their imagination? What were they doing in their life at that time? 

For me, the story is as important as the image. And I’ve heard so many wonderful stories…the couple who drove that Porsche to the hospital when their baby was born, the couple who drove away from their wedding in that Ferrari, the family who camped every summer in that VW bus, the woman who drove to Monaco in that Peugeot, the man who polished that Camaro listening to Led Zeppelin in his parent’s garage. 

Has a special car been a significant part of your life’s journey? I’d love to paint your story. 

I guess you could say I’m a car guy and a story teller — on canvas. 

Want to capture your memory in a painting?
Let’s talk: www.kellytelfer.com


 Ambush Art:  An Art Surprise

This whole ‘Ambush Art’ thing started innocently enough when, in 1995, Steve Lewis (founder of Performance Racing Industry tradeshow and magazine) commissioned me to do a painting to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Chevy V8 Engine.  Steve created a memorable event, gathering Herb Thomas (the first race car driver to win a race with the new 1955 Chevrolet V8), Zora Duntov, Smokey Yunick, seventeen of the original Chevrolet engineers, and many other Chevrolet notables. We surprised (ambushed!) Chevrolet with the painting (and yes, I do have one of the 10 serigraphs with all those signatures on it - inquire for availability). This was the start of Ambush Art. 

I have collaborated on many Ambush Art projects since then.  In 2010 I worked with Brad Lackey (In 1982, he became the first and only American to win the 500cc Grand Prix Motocross World Championship) to ambush Danny ‘Magoo’ Chandler (professional motocross racer) with a painting for auction to support getting him a new handicap van. Also, in 2010, Brent and Bud Kaeding brought my ‘Do It- Hewitt’ painting to the Jack Hewitt (top sprint car racer) roast in Eldora, Ohio and the painting was auctioned off to help out Jack. Then, in a complete surprise to everyone, the buyer of the painting handed Jack the cash AND the painting. Jack was deeply grateful to have been “ambushed” with both the painting and the cash. 

In 2014 Jimmy Carr, Brent Kaeding and Tony Iacobitti restored the Doug Wolfgang sprint car, and we plotted together on an ambush art collaboration. Tony Stewart (3-time NASCAR Champion and Team Owner) thought he was going shopping for antiques in Scotts Valley, CA when he was in town for the Searspoint Raceway for the NASCAR race. We surprised him with the restored race car, my 48” x 60” Wolfgang painting and over 100 people that were part of that era in Wolfgang’s and Stewart’s life. Another successful Ambush Art collaboration! 

A March 2018 Ambush Art event was a collaboration between race car driver Michael Lewis and myself, to surprise his Dad, Steve Lewis, with a painting. I painted Steve and one of his best friends Ed Pink (the founder of Ed Pink Racing Engines, in LA, CA) tuning the Strombergs on Steve’s 1932 flathead hotrod.  When I walked in Steve’s house with the original 30” x 40” painting and handed it to him, he said “I’m a guy that likes to be in control in my life, and right now- I’m not.” He loves the painting. 

The most recent Ambush Art episode took place at the Luftgekühlt 5 Porsche event at Ganahl Lumber, Torrance, CA in April 2018. Mark Pribanic drives his 1958 Porsche Coupe - from Florida to LA, and all over the US! I saw his story on Instagram and decided to ‘surprise’ Mark with a painting of his Porsche.  Having never met Mark, I orchestrated presenting him with the painting of his car, while journalists and videographers captured the event.  Mark is a great guy and was truly surprised and appreciative! 

And if you are wondering, yes, I am working on more Ambush Art events right now! 

I guess you could say I’m a car guy, a story teller, and an “Ambush Artist.” 

Let’s talk if you would like to discuss ambushing a special friend with an Ambush Art painting: www.kellytelfer.com 

Artist Statement

Artist Biography