If the illustrations from Iris van den Akker appear to have a shy and dreamy quality about them it’s no mistake.
“As a kid I was always a bit shy and dreamy,” said Akker during a recent interview with Done. from her home in Amsterdam. “So, I was always a bit in my own head and I remember not being a super social kid. I was more into reading and drawing and kind of within my own worlds. That changed a little bit when I grew up, but I always kept drawing and I noticed that I was really good at it compared to my peers.”
That confidence and talent has only grown as Akker now develops 2D illustrations for a mix of advertising and animation clients. Sometimes she’s able to incorporate her own creative direction and sometimes it’s about taking cues from others.
“Today I worked on a storyboard for a perfume retailer,” said Akker during a recent interview with Done. “And then, yeah, you just have to sell the product. I [do] always try to incorporate a little bit of my interests or my vision. But sometimes the client really says, OK, I want it to look like this and I just need to get it done. It really depends on the project.”
To stay fresh, Akker finds inspiration from sources like movies and books but also from activities like heading into the city or to nature.
“I walk outside, see something, and I sort of make a mental note to draw it later,” said Akker. “And sometimes I have that inspiration and I draw [with my] iPad. So I draw a super quick sketch in 10 seconds.”
She says her greatest struggle can be taking those sketches and finding the ideal concept to move forward. Akker says sometimes she goes through 10-20 sketches until she’s satisfied with the direction. And at that point she says her ADHD can challenge her to stay focused.
“I just start with one like the easiest task of the day,” said Akker. “And then once I finish that it's more natural to do the second task and then it sort of flows and it works itself out.”
Akker encourages anyone with ADHD to seek out the ideal treatment for them whether it’s medication, therapy, or simply finding new means of expression.
“Even if I have my dream job - and I think it's my dream job,” said Akker, “I still struggle sometimes in the mornings to get started. I call it a certain threshold that I always need to step over because once I step over it I get into a zone, into a flow, and then things come naturally to me.”