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A conversation with Tara Booth on comics, confidence, and keeping it real

Whether it’s melting off a full face of makeup in the sun or clogging your shower with hair, Tara Booth finds the comedy of everyday life in her paintings. Everyone can identify with at least one of her autobiographical comics. Her work captures the shared experiences of everyday situations and struggles that are mundane but Tara manages to connect her viewers with color and satire. We got a chance to chat with this Philadelphia artist about her journey as an artist, finding solace in her work and plans for the future.

A lot of people lack make art but, they often lack the confidence to release it to the public. When did you find that confidence or realize that your work needed to be seen?

Tara Booth: It was hard for me. Going to school for art was good for learning skills, practice, learning about color but, the experience made me shut down. I was really afraid of the art world, going to galleries and art shows. Criticism was hard for me to take even in school.

Five years out of college, Tara was a full time nanny but, still painted on the weekends. Physically relocating helped her share her art. She moved to Oregon to live on a farm and get out of her comfort zone. In being removed from her friends and family, she felt like a stranger in a new place. Her internet presence became separate. 

TB: I made the ‘peeing in a romper piece’ and it was getting reblogged everywhere…” so I got a sense of what people wanted. I was seeing how far I can go, how vulnerable I can be while still getting a positive response. Art shows are still scary but, behind the scenes are good.

Speaking of peeing in a romper, your work shows typically taboo topics like body hair, periods and the like, why is it important to be so transparent?

TB: It helps me own it, own myself…trying to be someone I’m not has not worked out for me so putting it all out there has helped. I’m not trying to make gross out comics, it’s autobiographical work and that stuff that takes up my life so, I come out with it.

Your work is also very patterned and colorful, is this simply an aesthetic choice or is it a contrast to some of the subject matter in your work that can get a bit dark?

TB: I love painting and the reason I paint is to get out of my head. The patterns become a meditative experience – hours can go by and I’ll just be in the zone.

With enjoying the work of artists like David Hockney and Matisse, she also agrees with it being an aesthetic choice. There are various aspect to consider when looking at her inclusion of colors and patterns. She feels like her paintings are never enough so, the patterns work like overcompensations. Booth can feel a bit self conscious about a simple painting so a part of the patterns is wanting to prove that she actually did something.

“Weirdly, I think its the same sh*t.”

Do you remember your first piece? Are their any significant differences between that one and the last one you have completed?

TB: I’ve had a lot of anxiety about art making and showing my art. So, I was just like strip everything and pretend that you are a little kid and just start making art from that place. Before you were afraid and worrying about what other people thought. In high school I was making autobiographical comics and my teachers said ‘this is nice but, its not fine art’. So now I’m just getting back to that place of doing what I love and want to do.

Being that you make autobiographical comics, do you think you would ever introduce characters in your work?

TB: My struggle with addiction and alcoholism has made me a pretty isolated person… I know myself best and I am most comfortable making work about my own feelings. My friends are always like ‘Put me in! Put me in!’ and the people I am f**king are like ‘do not put me in’. Hopefully in the future, I want to broaden my work and get more creative. Even make fiction.

What do you find the most difficult part about your creative process to be?

Although Booth finds that she can lose interest very fast on long narratives, she takes preventative measures. She makes notes all day so she has a catalog of ideas to flip through when it comes down to creating. 

TB: It sucks when you run out of ideas but, you can’t stop. You have to remind yourself that even if it is something stupid, you have to keep working or your sh*t gets all clogged. Yes, right now everything feels bad but, you have to work it out.

Creators are often multifaceted, creating and expressing themselves in different ways other than their primary art form. Do you have any in any other hobbies?

She really likes being outdoors and recently hiking for twelve hours on a Tinder date to the top of Mt. Saint Helens. This nature affinity is also shown in her work with backgrounds of foliage and the use of greens and blues.

“I’m a one trick pony, all I do is paint.”

You have a couple of books out the latest, Things to do Instead of Killing Yourself, and a collaboration with Lazy Oaf. You are doing a lot! Anymore projects to look out for?

For the rest of the month, Booth will be in India. She plans on making diary comics of her 2 month stay so hopefully we will see them soon. The idea of broadening her work is becoming stronger so, she is interesting in trying out textile design and even animation. She is not ready for either yet, but we are confident in her executing of these ideas once the timing is right.

By: Lindi Bobb