“It’s important for women and non-binary people to share their desires and sexual experiences since representations of eroticism in comics and illustration are dominated by the cis-male perspective,” comic book artist and illustrator Tara Booth tells It’s Nice That. “The moment I start to feel embarrassed or afraid to share an illustration, the clearer it becomes to me that I need to get it out there.” Tara, who has been based in Chicago but is set to move back to her hometown of Philadelphia, has been creating her signature bold and brave drawings over the past three years. In her upcoming book, Nocturne, Tara challenges conventional depictions of women’s erotic fantasies through her distinct style and relatable characters.
Nocturne tells the story of a young woman with sleeping difficulties who takes too much sleep medication and consequently enters a vividly surreal, dream-like state. Set to be published this autumn, the story draws on themes of mental health, anxiety and consent. Tara describes it as “a 60-page narrative comic illustrating an awkward sexual encounter, insomnia, and the effects of taking too many pills. The project,” she explains, “weaves together a bunch of experiences I’ve had in the last five years.” Her textured drawings cover a range of scenarios and delve deep into the artist’s fantasies, from BDSM sex complete with leather bodysuits and strap-ons to a girl huddled on her bed speaking to a butterfly. Through her confident, bold and striking depictions, Tara is single-handedly combatting the stigmas associated with female eroticism. “I wanted to push myself to be fully open about my sexuality, find power in it, but also continue to embrace the silliness of it all.”
Nocturne, however, is just one of the projects Tara has been juggling over the past year. The illustrator has been maintaining a daily diary, in which Tara routinely illustrates a scenario from her day-to-day life, as well as producing illustrated narratives that are confined to the length of a page. “It’s been good to practice drawing different characters and more mundane scenes. I try to keep up with my regular, one-page illustrations that are based on whatever internal struggle I’m having at that moment. They often draw on my anxiety, codependency or depression,” Tara says. From depictions of unsettling night-time thoughts to sincere representations of shaving, Tara’s approach to illustration is refreshingly honest and incredibly accessible.
Tara’s never intended to create body-positive art. The illustrator explains that she merely draws on her own experience and her perceptions of her “imperfect, pudgy, hairy body”. Yet her work has resonated with women worldwide, who have messaged Tara to thank her for presenting realistic body types in her work. “Broader representation in illustration is important. I struggle with that though as most of my illustration is based on my limited reality. I don’t leave my house very much so I can’t say that I have the most diverse well of experience to draw on. But I guess it has to do with more people sharing their personal lives. Illustration is a powerful tool because it removes the barrier of language – it’s simple and direct.”