Tara Booth, a successful comic book artist, painter and imaginative clothing and fabric designer, is not a natural athlete. Despite this, physical movement in nature is at the forefront of their comics, which attract us with their honesty, raw yet subtle humour and original art style. In her autobiographical work, she deals with alcohol addiction and the insecurities and anxieties of life as a young woman.
We can approach sport in many different ways, we don't have to immediately climb the winners’ podium and wear laurel wreaths. Exercise can also be relaxing or serve as therapy for various addictions. Or it may have no purpose at all - it may just be play. This is also what Tara Booth's work is about.
Tara Booth, a thirty-four-year-old Philadelphia artist, has gained her fan following through Instagram, where she posts her lavish art. Her followers (now numbering 142,000) are captivated by their humorous take on various subjects and her fresh take on the comic book genre.
Tara Booth's comics can do without the text component and the tabular grid that usually lays out the narrative chronology and dictates the way of reading, so that, unlike the traditional concept, the way of viewing her comics is much more dependent on the perceiver. The comic can be "read" classically from left to right, or the image fields can be scanned in various ways, focusing on individual details and connections. Tara Booth's comics' form and colour are highly stylised, reminiscent of the work of the Fauvist movement, Naive Art or the Autodidacts. The artist often chooses a contrasting combination of warm and cool colours. She is particularly fond of red, blue and green. They like to use the gouache technique in their painting.
Tara Booth's journey to comics was neither straightforward nor unproblematic. The artist, who looks confident in her recent photographs, graduated from Tyler School of Art in 2011 where she studied painting. However afterwards, they went through a several-year period of severe alcohol addiction. She had to hit rock bottom, so to speak, to understand that unless she made some fundamental changes to her life, she would not survive. During the period when her alcohol addiction, fuelled by psychological problems, escalated, it was drawing comics that helped her the most, so she decided to focus on it more intensively. It was a way for her to "draw" herself out of unpleasant feelings or traumatic experiences. These days, she doesn’t avoid negative or unpleasant feelings in her drawings and comics, on the contrary, she enjoys when her works are embarrassing or "kind of stupid". In an interview with the online magazine It’s Nice, she said, "Taking the parts of my life that leave me feeling hopeless or out of control, and being able to turn them into something sort of silly through painting helps to transform some of my negative emotions... The more that people can laugh and relate to my work, the more compelled I am to make it."
In their comics, the author tells micro-stories from their own life, which revolve not only around addictions (also to food) but also the pathological forms of relationships and the unhealthy expectations we place on ourselves. We're supposed to be more attractive, rational, and productive, and when that doesn't happen, we feel like failures. The author uses humour to undermine these unreasonable expectations. After graduating from art school, she also lived with the idea that she had to be constantly productive as an artist and, because of her fear of failure she ended up quitting and started working as a nanny instead. These days, however, she enjoys her work and does not stress herself with unrealistic ideas of what it should look like: "Five years after graduation, I still hadn’t produced anything solid. I had kind of given up, and finally decided that making a shitty comic was better than not making anything at all—that I should worry less about what I think a comic is supposed to look like, and more on painting within the realm of my own abilities. Once I threw all of my preconceived notions out the window and forced myself to get to work, I actually started to get recognition for what I was doing rather quickly."
She captures her comic alter ego doing everyday activities either inside her apartment, in her bedroom, kitchen or bathroom, or showing her character hiking with a backpack, riding a bike or working out with weights. Her favourite thing to picture is characters swimming and diving in the water.
In addition to creating comics and painting large format paintings, she designs clothing and fabric patterns which she sells through her Instagram and her website here.
Tara Booth (she/they) was born in Philadelphia and studied painting at the Tyler School of Art. She is the recipient of the Ignatz Award for comic book art. She has published successful comics How to Be Alive (2017), and Nocturne (2018), and co-created the comic Things To Do Instead of Killing Yourself (2019) with Jon-Michael Frank.