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Work / Illustration

Tara Booth, the comic book artist breaking the grid with personality and poise

Tara Booth is a comic book artist from Portland, however these detailed pieces with their mix of drawing and painting cover much more ground than that title. Tara’s work displays such character that after looking through her work you already feel like she’s one of your pals. This is due to her inspiration often coming from her diary, “I’ve always felt compelled to document my daily experiences…now I do it visually” she explained, “A lot of my work is about living with chronic anxiety and depression. 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. It’s also super validating and therapeutic to see how many people deal with the same issues and have similar experiences. The more that people can laugh and relate to my work, the more compelled I am to make it.”

Her highly detailed pieces layered with textures and patterns begin with a pencil sketch, “Then I go in with gouache and start dispersing the colour.” Tara’s colour choices are key to the success of her work, which she explains is “almost entirely intuitive. If you could do an X-ray of one of my paintings you would see layers and layers of failed colour schemes and patterns. I try to work it out until it feels right.” The artist’s intuitiveness is what sets her apart from other works in her field, there is no grid, no forced structure, it’s natural. “The way that I work is pretty fluid and I don’t feel like I have many set rules, but I do tend to paint in layers. I’ll make a flesh tone, paint all of the flesh on the page. Then I make a hair colour and fill in all of the hair on the page, and normally the facial features as well. Depending on the image, this usually means that the clothing is left for last. I don’t typically have patterns in mind, so I spend a minute coming up with the clothing design, and then I dive right in”, she explained.

One of our favourite attributes of Tara’s work is the various poses that her characters adopt, it adds more of a humanistic quality to the work, poses we all hold (such as being slumped down in bed) aren’t regularly represented through illustration. This is a feature of her work she puts down to thinking “more like an animator than a sequential artist. I have a really hard time articulating or visualising a sequence of events unless each physical transition is put down on paper…I love figure drawings, and since my comics don’t normally include much text or language, a lot has to be expressed through body language.” Looking through Tara’s body of work it is also easy to spot recurring personalities, which Tara explains are actually based on herself: “My paintings derive from real life experience, so I feel uncomfortable including an obvious portrayal of anyone that the comic may be about. I don’t want anyone to feel embarrassed or hurt. Some of the men in my paintings are sort of amalgamations of different people I’ve dated. If the painting is about a more broad experience, I try to develop characters by thinking of people that I’ve seen on the street or had brief encounters with…but all in all it’s tough because every face I draw is basically identical. Two circle eyes, a dot nose, and a line mouth. Therefore I’m working on developing recurring characters that have distinct personality traits.”

Tara prefers to work alone at a drawing table in her room rather than a shared studio space, “I’m a socially anxious person, drawing or painting anyone else really just isn’t an option.” However while working Tara listens to a number of podcasts, “Radiolab, Stuff You Should Know, The Duncan Trussell Family Hour, oh and Make It Then Tell Everybody is a really fun one. It’s a podcast where other comic artists and illustrators talk about their journey, and their artistic process. If I’m stressed out, I’ll stream Planet Earth and let David Attenborough calm me down.”

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Tara Booth

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Tara Booth

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Tara Booth

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Tara Booth

Weakhorse

Tara Booth

Smash

Tara Booth