Straight Faced: Miranda Tacchia on Heartbreak and Laughter

September 22, 2017

Miranda Tacchia's illustrations explore the timeless themes of loneliness, heartbreak, pain, and navigating adulthood. Her work follows characters whose facial expressions speak volumes, and her captions give an added depth to these emotive faces. We had seen her work around the internet, and then her presence in Spoke Art's NSFW show exhibited how much her work can not only jump off a web page, but also a wall. Read the interview below to get some insight on her and her characters.

Where are you from? When did you start making art?
I grew up in San Bernardino, CA until the age of 20 when I moved to Los Angeles to go to art school. The lifestyle here differs significantly from that of San Bernardino, as I learned very quickly. The expectations were so different from what I was used to and I remember initially feeling very out of place. I don't feel that way so much anymore but I think San Bernardino still is and will continue be a big part of who I am.

I can't recall a time when I wasn't drawing because I was always doing it from a very young age. In elementary school I did a science fair project on Botulism that won first place and I don't believe it was because the experiment was particularly good, but more likely because I made the bacteria into cartoon characters on my display board and created an entire story out of it. I probably spent more time drawing them and writing dialogue than the experiment itself and I think the judges got a kick out of that.  I was constantly looking for ways to incorporate drawing into any academic thing I did.

1 margarita
"When your friend says she's ready to go home but you come back from the bathroom and she has another margarita in front of her"

When did you start making the type of work that you make now?
A couple of years ago. I started drawing characters on sticky notes and making short comics during my breaks at work as a departure from the nature studies I'd been doing obsessively the year prior. I feel incredibly fortunate to be doing what I love professionally, but I can't come home from the office and call it a day. I think it's a waste of time to not be using my own voice, so now it's become a habit. For a while, I would draw characters and post them on Instagram, but I felt something was missing. They needed some kind of story, so I started writing captions to go with them. The captions were what people seemed to respond to the most, so the writing of these has become an integral part of my work.

9 bra
"When you decide to go out but now you have to put on a bra"

What message do you want your art to convey? What themes do you try to explore in your own words?
My focus is on moments in everyday life and the stories are usually told through facial expressions. Most of my work is meant to make you laugh, although sometimes it can be a little intense. In particular, I like exploring the subject of love and the subsequent and inevitable misery. Heartbreak and loneliness are two topics I feel most people can relate to deeply, and I often gravitate toward them in my work. I always ask myself a lot of questions and ponder things endlessly, and one concern I repeatedly come back to is whether or not I'm actually comfortable with loneliness. My answer is always divided – Half the time I am and half the time I'm not. Regardless of my feeling toward it in any given moment, it's never a boring topic. My heavy usage of facial expressions comes from having things repeatedly said to me throughout my life regarding my demeanor.

Since childhood, I've been told that I look mad, regardless of what I'm doing or how I'm feeling. The photos of me sitting in front of birthday cakes and at parties – or all manner of circumstances in which most children find amusement – looking straight-faced and unamused are numerous. It always made me self-conscious when people commented on my face, but as an adult, I've come to embrace it and as a result, my characters tend to be perpetually unimpressed. For the most part, I just like to make people laugh. Role reversal in sex is also a thing I find very entertaining. Additionally, I love the notion of someone looking scandalized over a completely innocuous situation so I'll frequently draw people with gaping mouths and think of some banality for them to be outraged about in the caption.

4 heldyourhand
"When he held your hand one night and you haven't been the same since"

Who were some artists that inspired you when you were young? 
Growing up, my dad always had New Yorker magazines around the house and I was amused by the cartoons in them. I know how odd it sounds for a child to like New Yorker humor, but I really did. I was also incredibly fascinated by David Levine's caricatures in the New York Review of Books (which my dad also had lying around the house,) and his knack for distorting faces. He was probably one of my earliest influences. In my twenties, I had the opportunity to visit the Picasso museum in Paris and I remember that day sort of altering the way I viewed art. I had never understood the appeal of Picasso's work up until that point when I was physically standing inches away from his drawings, and was moved beyond words. His work has been a huge inspiration to me ever since.

5 hurt 
"When you hurt"

What programs have featured your art? Have you ever animated your own work? How do you feel about animated work going forward?
I've worked on a variety of animated shows for different networks, including Star vs. the Forces of Evil (Disney), Pickle and Peanut (Disney),  Powerpuff Girls (Cartoon Network), the upcoming Pinky Malinky (Nickelodeon), as well as Apple and Onion(Cartoon Network), along with a few others that are yet to be announced. I made three short films when I was in college studying animation. It's an arduous process and many emotions are involved, but I think making my own film has been one of the most rewarding things I've ever done. For now, I'm enjoying making illustrations and comics, but I have no doubt that I'll be animating something of my own again in the future. I love animation and I don't think I could see myself parting ways with the art form, even if I explore other artistic avenues in my career.

10 misc
Collection of drawings without captions

What are your plans for the future? Do you have any shows planned or going on now?
I currently have work on display as part of the Neighborhood Girls show at The Hive Gallery in downtown LA through September 30th. Aside from that, I have many other projects in the works that I'm not at liberty to discuss, but am very excited to see unfold.

Thank you Miranda!