Jack “Ajax” Kelly says he can be a fountain of ideas. As an artist, that’s often a blessing. But he says it can shift to a curse when he struggles to shut off the flow.
“Like my brain just never shuts off and it's always, well, I should be doing this and I need to be doing that,” said Kelly during a recent interview with Done. “It ends up becoming this cycle where … nothing gets done.”
Undaunted by any effects from his ADHD, that constant source of creativity has resulted in an exciting career for Kelly as a designer, illustrator and muralist. He’s done apparel design for some major companies and within the past couple years branched out to create his own works.
“I'm actually in the process of making my own t-shirts and stuff, which aren't available yet, but hopefully soon,” said Kelly. “I ended up getting furloughed when a lot of other people did [during COVID] and it kind of worked out nicely just because I'd been wanting to kind of quit my day job at the end of 2020 regardless.”
For Kelly, art serves as a way to channel feelings that can’t be expressed in any other way. He also needs to find humor in his work and seeks it as a form of inspiration.
“When I'm sketching [or] I'm drawing or I come up with a phrase or something and it just sticks in my brain, it just makes me laugh every time I think about it,” said Kelly. “ I'll just start cracking myself up because I think it's the funniest thing.”
Kelly admits that his ADHD may have affected his level of commitment when it comes to staying employed at certain companies. But he adds that his constant curiosity and exploring new forms of inspiration - from matchbooks to gadget prototypes - help elevate his work to new levels.
These days he’s enjoying a return to his roots in Columbus, OH, after spending the past four years living in California.
His advice for anyone juggling ADHD with their creative pursuits?
“I tend to go full tilt into whatever it is that I like,” said Kelly. “And it's an all or nothing mentality. I'm trying to be better about stepping back and being like, OK, you know what, maybe we can do this at 25% and, you know, have a little bit more balance.”