Notable Native: Isabella Rotman

Isabella Rotman

Isabella Rotman

By Metro Editor

For Isabella Rotman, drawing is a life-long passion. Rotman grew up drawing with her mom, who is also an artist, in a small beach town in Maine. Rotman’s talent and love of drawing have led her to some impressive feats such as creating a sexual health zine titled, “You’re So Sexy When You’re Not Transmitting STDs” that has been distributed to various college campuses, including Columbia.

A 2013 graduate of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago with a concentration in printmaking and comics, the 22-year-old artist lives in Humboldt Park, where she works full-time on her art, taking any freelance position she can get while maintaining her personal blog, “This Might Hurt, But I’m Hungry” and self-publishing all of her work, including short stories and comics.

The Chronicle spoke with Rotman about the Chicago comic scene, her art inspirations and sexual health.

THE CHRONICLE: What are your thoughts on Chicago’s self-publishing comic scene?

ISABELLA ROTMAN: I think the self-publishing scene is really amazing. There are all sorts of groups and resources who publish their own comic books, which is awesome. There is just a huge community for self-publishing, which I know I wouldn’t get in another city. I feel really lucky. The whole reason Columbia bought my zine, “You’re So Sexy When You’re Not Transmitting STDs,” is because I ended up meeting the head of Art and Activism, Stephen DeSantis, and we ended up talking about our work … and he liked [the zine] so much that he managed to get it into the school. [It’s] just wonderful that I live in a huge city and I’m still going to meet someone to help me out like that. People in the Midwest are nice. In Boston and New York this wouldn’t happen.

CC: Do you ever find yourself struggling to think of things to draw?

IR: The drawing comes easily, the storytelling does not. My comic “Dig” is about being afraid to graduate from college and having to be a real person, and the way I turned that into a story is by making a story about a circus bear who is asked to leave the circus because her services are no longer needed there. Every person I gave it to who was also graduating could connect to this. So that’s how I like to do it because no one wants to read a story about me freaking out about college because that’s just like, “Shut up about your middle class problems.”

CC: What brought you to write about transgender and gay sexual health in “You’re So Sexy When You’re Not Transmitting STDs”?

IR: I can’t tell you how many people have told me, “Lesbians can’t give anything to each other,” which is not true. Or they’ll say, “Girls can only give each other herpes,” which is not true. I feel like sexual health, most sexual material, tells you how not [to] get pregnant and it tells gays how not to get HIV and it kind of glosses over all the other stuff going on, so I really wanted to approach that by drawing queer couples. I did aim the book at art students, and most of the kids I drew are kids in my classes, so just the idea of couples looking like some of the kids that are reading [it] and mentioning things like, ‘You can spread STDs by sharing sex toys.’ I would never have thought that. I wanted to make something that was for everybody I also wanted to make it funny and entertaining enough that people can get through it. I wanted it to be light hearted. I wanted people to be able to read it on the train and not feel weird about it.

CC: What are your hopes for your artistic future?

IR: I would love for “You’re So Sexy When You’re Not Transmitting STDs” [to] be in all colleges for selfish reasons because it’s a queer resource and [I] think that’s really important. As for the rest of my work, I’d like to keep making as many comics, I’d like to work on something bigger and I would like someone to publish me so I can stop printing my own things.