where are you from, how long have you been illustrating?
I grew up in Mississauga, just outside Toronto. I did one semester at OCAD before I moved to L.A. and studied at Art Center in Pasadena. I graduated in '98 and basically was working right out of school so I'd say I've been doing this for 11 years or so now.

how does teaching at OCAD help you personally as an illustrator?
It gets me out of the studio! I tend to wind up working indefinitely unless I've got obligations and teaching a class gives me a reason to get out. It's nice to see people and get some sunshine, and be around people who are enthusiastic and energetic about their work.
what are you loving about illustration right now?
That companies and ad campaigns are using illustration a tonne. I feel like I'm seeing a lot more illustration out in the world and, whether it's decent work or not, that's a good thing. And I'm also impressed these days with the entrepreneurial spirit that I'm seeing illustrators exhibit. Branching out into clothes and toys and all these other divergent markets, it's great to see. And with all the crazy tools at our disposal now, I'm seeing illustrators doing it ALL themselves from the ground floor: marketing, advertising, distribution. Everything. That's awesome.

where do you see your work going in the future?
I've been working on a lot more advertising jobs then editorial ones recently and I guess I don't really see that trend ending in the next while. I'm also pretty passionate about motion graphics and I'd like to dive into that world some day.
how do you get such crazy perspectives in your work?
I think by not limiting myself to safe, easy ideas in the early ideation stages of a piece by thinking "how am I going to make this work?" I try to come up with the best solution I can and then worry about executing it after so that I don't write off good ideas before they get a chance. Studying the work of the artists and designers of previous generations hasn't hurt me, either. When I get stuck, I can reference some ridiculously talented, brilliant old designer and try the "what would he/she do?" approach.
any advice for new illustrators trying to make it in?
Don't expect to be doing full page pieces for national magazines within your first month out of school. It takes longer than you'd think and you're going to have to pay your dues. Don't sell yourself and your industry short by doing work on spec or under abusive contracts. Strive to be original because taking the short-cut approach of trying to mimic someone else's style is only going to hurt you in the long run.

any advice for older / established ones?
If they're established, they've got it figured out for themselves already! I wouldn't presume there's anything I could offer them in terms of advice.
all images copyright Tavis Coburn - check out his site: http://www.taviscoburn.com
there is SO MUCH good stuff on there!


  1. I'll just go ahead with the first comment and say that it was a real thrill to get Tavis to do this - seriously, as an illustrator just LOOK at his work...im so jealous 24 / 7

  2. Cute images i like them...!!!!

  3. i did my co-op with tavis last summer - the man is an absolute machine.

  4. Always been a fan of his work.

    Cool blog ;-)

  5. Boy, there's sooo much great stuff going on in Travis' work. His use of bold, colorful shapes, vintage-modern icons and the dot-matrix printing effect sorta make his work completely BADASS and AWESOME.

  6. One of those people that makes me think: "How do you get THAT good?" Incredible. I really can't wrap my head around the process, and the worst part is, he's explained it to me!