If there is one thing Miranda Bruce endeavours to capture in her work, it’s the “essence of a feeling”. But the illustrator is the first to acknowledge that some sensations are very hard to pinpoint, and this, she explains, is why her drawings often end up being so surreal.
This approach and philosophy is particularly present in her recently self-published zine FEEL, which was born a week after the illustrator tested positive for Covid. Wanting to express “this burst of anxiety that ends up turning into what feels like a lifetime of continuous overwhelming feelings”, Miranda turned to her sketchbook for comfort. During the period of her quarantine, the illustrator deviated from her trademark colourful aesthetics and instead explored “light and dark” and “contained and ample spaces” solely with a black pencil. Originally a series of desperate drawings, as the words and drawings progressed, Miranda recognised the presence of a narrative and set herself on forming a zine. The resulting project, with its rough edges, surreal, nightmarish quality and evocative word choices, both artfully and powerfully represents the turmoil and claustrophobia of isolation.
As a child growing up in San Jose, Miranda tells us that she carried around her colouring book and crayons pretty much everywhere she went. While out and about, her and her mum would make up their own stories and draw them together. This, Miranda explains, is where her love of drawing really began. But alongside her drawing, she was always attracted to nature – so much so that she originally wanted to be a biologist – and found that her drawing “helped me create a bridge between my expression and what caught my eye in nature”. She continues: “At the end of the day, my drawings just end up being a direct translation of how I perceive things and I’ve always felt this to be so magical.” Eventually deciding to pursue her love of drawing, Miranda moved to New York to study for BFA in illustration at Parsons the New School for Design before doing an MFA at the School of Visual Arts.
Miranda allows for conflicting styles and influences to feed into her work. Alongside her childhood love of nature, Miranda has always been attracted to the “raw and spontaneous vibe of 90s punk gig posters”, their visual characteristics instantly apparent in her hectic and gritty pencil style. But it is perhaps Miranda’s “vivid” dreams and nightmares that serve as her biggest inspirations. Keeping a dream journal throughout various points in her life, Miranda sees the surreal elements of her work as coming from “trying to connect with that emotional part that I have a hard time expressing”.
It was through one of her dreams that Miranda developed one of her stand-out pieces, Bachelor Pad. After experiencing “recurring images” in her head “that basically felt like an assignment I was giving myself”, Miranda decided to try and bring the piece to life. But it proved much harder than she originally expected. “It was a lot of trial and error, repeating the same drawing multiple times from different perspectives and lots of character exploration,” she says. Luckily, her perseverance paid off, and the piece is a brilliantly realised scene of culinary chaos.
Upon viewing Bachelor Pad, you’re probably not surprised to hear that coming up with characters is Miranda’s “favourite” creative activity. Often going outside to sit and watch people, Miranda revels in “making up my own ideas in my head of what their life must be like”, then using these images to kickstart a piece. “Many times the whole concept of the piece develops around the character,” she notes.
GalleryMiranda Bruce: FEEL (Copyright © Miranda Bruce, 2022)
Miranda Bruce: Compartmentalizing (Copyright © Miranda Bruce, 2021)
About the Author
Olivia (she/her) joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in November 2021 and soon became staff writer. A graduate of the University of Edinburgh with a degree in English literature and history, she’s particularly interested in photography, publications and type design.