Grace Helmer’s new comic is a wonky journey through space and time

A hugely relatable feeling – especially for any creative with growing success and, in turn, a growing pile of commissions – Grace recently decided to combat it, heading back into her folders of references compiled over the years. Dually re-reading stories she finds inspiring, Speck’s storyline began to take shape. For instance one “big influence” is Cosmicomics by Italo Calvino (a collection of 12 shorts which take a “scientific ‘fact’ and builds an imaginative story around it”) and Jenny Slate’s Little Weirds, of which Grace points to the line, “I was born as a breakfast pastry in the fancy part of France and hours after I was born I was still warm from the heat of the oven” as a key inspiration.
Refocusing on this almost philosophical narrative may come as a surprise to some of the illustrator’s fans, known largely for her autobiographical works or paintings depicting recognisable scenes. Across both personal and commissioned works, these projects were near and dear to Grace at the time, describing each as “stories I had an urge to tell, and the telling helped me figure out some things, so then I could move on,” she tells us. However, taking the quieter period of the past 12 months to reflect on the initial reasons and motivations for her craft, (as well as “my mind becoming warped by having to promote myself on social media”) Grace explains: “It felt like I had lost the part of me that used to dive into subjects I was interested in just because I was interested, the part that would take the time to research and try things out become coming up with any final artwork.”
“I suppose I just got bored with myself as the subject,” says beloved London-based illustrator Grace Helmer on the abstract focus of her latest comic book, Speck. Centring around a narrative with an oil-painted comic “about a blob that moves through space and time,” Grace’s latest title features all the illustrative details we’ve grown to know her for, yet with a beautifully conceptual subject.