Tackling themes of love and desire, Sarah Böttcher's illustrations are intensely personal
When taking ink pen to paper, Sarah channels her emotions and creates a bundle of comical, self-referential and responsive drawings.
- Ayla Angelos
- 4 February 2020
- Reading Time
- 3 minute read
Human emotion runs wild throughout the work of Sarah Böttcher. By looking to her immediate surroundings, the German illustrator is able to effortlessly pluck her inspirations – whether it’s relationships, social conditions or the certain ways in which we interact with one another – and transform them into a bundle of joyous and anecdotal illustrations. “I always try to find something beautiful or at least humorous in situations that at first seem tragic or awkward,” Sarah tells It’s Nice That.
Sarah’s outlook on art can be traced back to her childhood. At the time of her birth, for example, her father was studying fine art – “I basically spent my first years at his university,” she says, and often she would accompany him while he was preparing for exhibitions. This fuelled an early passion for attending museums, galleries and various art events, and motivated her to switch from graphic design and pursue her studies in illustration at the Universität der Künste Berlin. “It was really important to him to teach me how to draw from a very early age, so it was always there.”
One of her most recent works is an orange-infused zine titled Watching Porn, Thinking of You. Based on the concept of desire – the moment of “desiring someone so much that it feels like you’ll never feel anything else again” – its pages are completely and unashamedly relatable. We’ve all been there – you know, that moment when you can’t stop thinking about that certain someone. But it’s also one of those emotions that is inadvertently polarising. “From observing them, examining them in your mind, trying to find out every little detail about them, to trying to consume them entirely; [this zine is] about this unique and intense feeling of unrequited or unknown love, which is extremely beautiful and unbearably unsatisfying,” explains Sarah.
Comprising a collection of comical drawings framed in non-linear panels, Sarah has chosen a minimal colour palette to tell her story. As you turn each page, you’re greeted with orange tones, simple line drawings, friendly – yet oddly terrifying – characters and the physical act of squeezing an orange. “The motif of the orange seems quite fitting to me. On the one hand there’s the aspect of peeling it, where you’re making yourself vulnerable or trying to disenchant the other one. On the other hand, there’s the possibility of squeezing it, trying to get everything out of the distant observations while trying to fill yourself up,” she says. “Fluids play a huge role: the protagonist consumes the juice and cries some tears, but it isn’t a loss, it’s more like an exchanging act.”
Arranged in an intentionally monochromatic and care-free manner, Sarah explains how the zine’s aesthetic is based on imperfection. “I don’t want [my drawings] to look perfect at all, more like they were drawn in one of these intense moments without any further consideration.” This is quite the contrast to her previous works where, for example, Sarah recently illustrated a graphic novel – a clinical, line-drawn and pastel-hued comic that tells the story of a summer in a suburban outdoor pool. “It’s about misunderstandings and two people who clearly do not connect with each other,” she adds. “In the end, one of them drowns in the pool for no apparent reason and no one notices.”
Even if her aesthetic varies, Sarah’s themes still remain the same. She references American author and graphic novelist Nick Drnaso as one of her biggest inspirations, simply because of his ability to present feelings of “discomfort and weirdness” in a beautiful and calm manner. So when Sarah creates her drawings, this is her way of understanding the world around her – and rest assured that she’s looking for some kind of emotional response. “I try to make people feel something or at least laugh a little about the stories I tell with my drawings,” she concludes. “For me it’s important to address themes that are not so delightful and sometimes just a bit too private to discuss with a greater audience. I would like to create some sort of intimacy.”
GallerySarah Böttcher: Watching Porn, Thinking of You
GallerySarah Böttcher: A Suburban Pool Story