Firefly Freedom

Firefly Freedom

It all started in Japan. Seven years on a base surrounded by American children in a country so far distant from the U.S. April Elizabeth spent her early childhood in Okinawa, Japan because her father was in the military. As a white young child with the height of an American, April stood out, but she loved the attention.

April Elizabeth isn’t afraid to try new styles of art. (Painting by April Elizabeth)

She spent her first six months of life in California and then was immediately moved to Japan, and you could say Japan's culture is forever in April's heart. April is a visual artist who started off drawing anime.

While in Japan, April thought of America as a "vacation land" because whenever she came, she would visit her grandparents in Wyoming, and all they did was have fun. Yet, when she came to the states to actually live, it was a difficult transition.

"It was really hard because I didn't have any friends."

Although April was surrounded by American children back in Japan, it wasn't the same culture nor environment. She wasn't taught the slang side of English, so when she met American kids in America, she sounded different because she only knew proper English. Language wasn't the only barrier she had to overcome. Even small things like drinking powdered milk in Japan to switching over to American dairy milk was a major life change for April.

April Elizabeth has a creative imagination. (Painting by April Elizabeth)

Yet, not everything new she experienced was hard to adjust to. April met a friend in the states that had a similar experience to hers of growing up on a military base. That friend taught April how to draw anime and now she's expanded her talents into mixing anime with realism and color.

For a while, she's been in a rut, which has caused her to stop drawing from time to time over the years. She'll be 30 this year, and whenever she's down and not in the mood to draw, she likes to tell herself "keeping going and don't quit" because that was her biggest problem growing up.

She let the thought of failure hold her back, but now she sees that without failure there's no success, and with a change of location she sees the brighter side of life.

April's obsession with never seeing a real firefly and the need to change her scenery led her to Wisconsin.

"It was the most liberating experience of my life."

She's lived in Virginia, Florida, and Colorado, and because of the dry temperature fireflies aren't able to live there. Because she's never seen fireflies in real life, she thought they were a myth like unicorns. April jokingly told her friends that if they could prove fireflies were real than she would move to that place. Well, Wisconsin has fireflies.

Three years ago, April came to Grifton, WI where her friend lived. She stayed with her friend until she found a job, apartment, and eventually a car, which didn't take long. Within 72 hours she packed up her stuff, drove about 45 minutes to Milwaukee and started a new life.

"I finally felt like I could be myself," said April. "I left Wyoming and became an adult. I began to love myself for the first time."

Butterflies are a recurring animal in April Elizabeth’s art. (Painting by April Elizabeth)

April lived a life of trying to live up to expectations that took away from who she was. April dealt with anxiety and felt like a "box of shit," for a long time, but she's finally broken free.

"Don't quit even if you hate your yourself."

Milwaukee has brought April something she'd do anything for: her son, Bishop. When she found out she was pregnant that only made her work harder. She was working 50-60 hours a week while eight months pregnant, but she soon realized she wouldn't be able to do her job once her son was born, so she asked for an office job.

April's job at Hi Hat was extremely supportive of her and her upcoming child, so they trained her in data entry and now she's the administrative manager. They also gave her an office that's big enough for Bishop to come in and play.

"It's a very family-friendly business," said April. "I was really nervous about the job at first, but I had a knack for it."

She's meticulous and orientated which helped her find discrepancies in the system. 

But, April would love to go full-time artist one day.

Over the last two years, April's been mapping out a seven-book series, and she's eight chapters deep. She wants to write young adult fantasy books and illustrate them.

"I guess it stemmed from me trying to be creative," she said. "Writers paint a picture they just use words and I can relate to that, and making that connection helped me write scenes."

April Elizabeth and her son BIshop. (Picture provided by April Elizabeth)

Instead of listening to music, April plays audio books, which has helped her in her writing endeavour, and she's up to 30 books.

With Bishop by her side, April has and will continue to go harder as an artist.

"It feels so good just to be able to do it. It's such an amazing outlet," said April. "I hope everyone sees the glo up because I've seen it myself."

Made it Through Traffic

Made it Through Traffic

Flyest Illustrations Around

Flyest Illustrations Around