Meet Grace Helmer

July 2020

Grace Helmer’s work whisks us away to bustling cities, calm forests, deep under the ocean and up in to the mountains with her deft brushstrokes, using thing layer of oil paint to create dreamy compositions. Her work encompasses people, places, animals and food and drink. We asked Grace 10 questions to get to know the illustrator.

1. Do you listen to music while you draw/paint/illustrate? And if so who or what gets the most plays in your studio?

I usually listen to a podcast or audiobook while I’m painting. They help me to sit still and concentrate. I listen to a lot… things like Reply All, 99% Invisible, Growing up with Gal-Dem, The Racist Sandwich, This American Life, Breaking Binaries, Radiolab, 10 Things that Scare Me… so many (maybe too many). Music is usually for when I’m sketching or doing admin as I need to use a different part of my brain. Depends on my mood and what type of work, lately it’s been a random mix of artists like Chloe x Halle, Haruomi Hosono, Princess Nokia, Fiona Apple, Sudan Archives, Portico Quartet, and the soundtrack to Succession.

2. Which other illustrators or artists do you most admire and why?

These questions are really difficult… I love the work of illustrators/artists like Jillian Tamaki, Eleanor Davis, Molly Mendoza, Bendik Kaltenborn, Tove Jansson. Their work always seems so fluid and effortless to me, full of depth and life.

3. What is the best thing about being an illustrator? And the worst?

The freedom.

4. How do you overcome a creative block?

Stop working and thinking about it and go do something else. Sometimes you have to work through it even if you don’t feel like it, but if there’s time it’s always best to just have a break.

5. What are 3 of your favourite films? Which one would you illustrate the poster for?

This is the sort of question where my mind goes blank. The films I’ve seen the most are probably The Wedding Singer, Clueless, and Heathers. I’d do the poster for any of those! I do watch more serious films as well I promise.

6. If you could illustrate the book cover for one book which would it be?

The Solitaire Mystery by Jostein Garder. It’s just such a calming story, and could probably do with a cover update… or Cosmicomics by Italo Calvino.

7. Dream studio location and set up?

I’m lucky to have a nice studio set up already, sharing with other illustrators and artists. To make it even dreamier we’d need to install a proper kitchen. A good lunch is very important.

8. Best trip you have ever been on?

A couple of years ago I went to Japan and travelled about, visiting friends and doing a bit of exploring. It was the only trip I’ve ever properly kept a sketchbook on and it helped me rediscover making work for myself. I was incredibly lucky to be able to take the time out to go and have that freedom, and it changed the direction of my illustration work afterwards. Often I will revisit the sketches I made during that time to remind myself of that feeling.

9. Best meal you’ve ever had?

Can’t choose! There are lots of meals that are special to me because of everything, not just the food. It’s the company you share it with, the location, what you’ve done that day, that all feed into it.

10. If you could have any artwork in your home what would it be?

I’d love some of the original backgrounds from Akira or Ghost in the Shell. Or an Anni Albers weaving. It would be quite fun to have your own Yayoi Kusama infinity room.

See more of Grace’s portfolio here.

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