Tara Booths hilarious Instagram sheds light on mental health struggles

Theres a freeness to Tara Booths work that recalls the joy of scribbling outside the lines with a jumbo-sized crayon in your favorite color.

Booth is a traditionally-trained painter and art school grad based in Philadelphia. She could aim for perfection, but instead, she creates cartoons that are intentionally messy in content and form. Booth addresses body shame,battles with mental health, and substance abuse with bold colors and imperfect lines.

The star of Booths comics, which she posts to Instagram daily, is a clown-like version of herself. The character is always recognizable: She sports a tiny bun atop her head, wears loud mismatched prints, and contorts her large, amorphous body into pretzel-like shapes. She oftenbends over and grins at the viewer from between her legs, like a child who is happy to have been caught misbehaving.

In some ways, Booths art is an act of rebellion. My parents have always made me feel a little ashamed about, one, going to art school, and two, talking about mental health issues, Booth told the Daily Dot. Prior to attending art school, she considered a career as a psychologist. When she graduated from art school, she suffered from creative shame. I still had this guilt like Who am I making these paintings for? What is it doing for the world? And then I felt like, maybe theres a way I can give it a purpose.

Booth began sharing art that addressed the things she had been warned not to discuss: her body, her mental health. And she soon gained an audience.

Her first semi-viral moment happened in 2016, when she posted a portrait of herself grappling with the challenges of peeing in a romper.

Overnight, Booth found that she had over a thousand new followers on Instagram. Those numbers have been steadily climbing ever since. She now has over 96,000 followers.

According to Booth, revealing the less polished parts of herself has been key to her popularity. I feel like its the opposite of what most people experience through Instagram, she says. Its a place where you go and feel like shit about yourself compared to other people. But Ive found its a place where I can share the parts of myself that Im not proud of and people will say, Hey, I actually love you for that.

At the same time, Booth doesnt necessarily feel as though shes made it as an artist. As a classically trained painter, she hopes to be seen as such in the future. She envisions herself creating larger scale paintings.

The colors and lines of Booths art often mirror the exuberant openness of her content. If sharing her personal struggles was an act of rebellion against her parents, her artistic style could be seen as an act of rebellion against the norms she was taught in art school. When she first graduated, Booth said, she had trouble wanting to create at all: I felt artistically constipated. I didnt want to create anything because there were so many rules I kind of just wanted to get rid of all this extra weight and be totally free to make work. And that developed into a really exciting style on its own.

As her followership has grown, Booth has learned to take risks with what she shares. Some of her artwork explores broad relatable themes, like the woes of trying on a swimsuit.

And Booth sometimes dips into more vulnerable territory, expressing painful experiences like dissociation, or being unable to parse whether someone whos saying kind things secretly hates you.