Writer Lynette Carrington
Images courtesy of April Howland
Artist April Howland finds calling and compassion through her art.
April Howland has always had a fascination with animals. From a young age, she has been enamored with both domestic and wild creatures. All creatures great and small, April Howland paints them all. Howland’s portfolio includes everything from busy insects and household pets to lions, tigers and bears, oh my! In a style that ranges from photo-realistic to whimsically nostalgic, the CEO and founder of Howland Studios gives each of her painting subjects a story that is uniquely their own.
She also supports local non-profits, including the Phoenix Zoo and SniffAZ, through the creation of her rich and vibrant paintings, which are then auctioned off to raise funds. Most recently she has been traveling to assist the non-profit Africa Foundation while photographing wildlife along the way.
Even her initial interest in animals is a bit of a wild tale. When she was a young girl of 6, Howland went on a camping trip with her family. A visceral roar came ripping through the campsite one night.
“I was sure the next thing that came through that tent would eat me,” says Howland.
Her father was quick to think and was able to usher the family to safety. In the morning, the family discovered mountain lion tracks right next to the tent where they had been earlier. The danger was real and had been right there.
“I remember being frightened at what could have happened, but also exhilarated that a wild animal was that close to me,” adds the artist. The scary but thrilling event set forth a lifelong interest for Howland and has inspired her to become the renowned animal artist and passionate animal lover and activist that she is today.
Howland had been to South Africa with the Africa Foundation on a trip in 2011, and her return with the organization just a few months ago was cause for a celebration in the village of Matimu Crèche located in the community of Welverdiend in Mpumalanga.
“We sat at the table of honor with the tribal authority of the community,” says Howland. “The whole community came in and it was a four hour celebration with dancing, singing and speeches.” It also marked the unveiling of a new classroom and bathroom for the area’s children, as Africa Foundation made that possible.
In her 2011 trip to Vuyelani primary school in Lillydale Village, Howland found that a school kitchen was in desperate need of a remodel.
“I decided to help them in the best way I knew how, with my art,” explains Howland. “Upon returning to Arizona, I immediately began the planning of the painting titled, ‘I Have a Future’ of an orphaned boy on a caretaker’s back. I had met them in South Africa.”
That painting was sold at one of Howland’s fine art shows and it raised $2,000. Those funds then went to remodel the village kitchen and she was able to see the fruits of her fundraising labor on her most recent trip.
Her return trip to South Africa in March 2018 also found Howland attracted to another project in a village with a kitchen that desperately needed a remodel. She is now in the planning stages of what artwork she will paint and ultimately auction to raise funds for this new endeavor.
“I must have a thing for building kitchens!” says Howland. “The community is so poor and the kitchen feeds children in the whole area. Often, this kitchen will be providing the one and only daily meal these children get.”
Approximately $15,000 is needed to properly remodel the rustic style kitchen that might be considered crude by American standards.
“The last time I went to South Africa, I helped to raise money for that first kitchen with other donors,” Howland explains. “This time, my goal is much loftier and I want to do it on my own. I want to be able to raise the entire $15,000 for the kitchen.” She has seen first-hand the difference that having a good working kitchen makes in the community and she is fully committed to making a strong push to raise the full funds herself.
Howland says, “Something I learned about the South African government is that they won’t come in and build these schools and projects. The Africa Foundation comes in and builds schools and kitchens and once they have a full project completed, the government will then come in and bring water and electricity.”
While she was on her trip to South Africa this year, Howland was able to go out on excursions with trackers. She snapped photos of lions, cheetahs, leopards, elephants, wildebeests, hyenas, rhinos, giraffes, mongooses and hippos. These photos will serve as inspiration and models for future paintings for Howland, and she is anxious to get started on creating new paintings based her experiences.
Since she has made two trips to South Africa, she believes in the connection between helping the people in the villages and the ultimate longevity of animals in the area.
“The more we help young and struggling communities, the better ambassadors these precious African animals will have. These will be people that are more educated and dedicated to their environment and conservation,” Howland says.
Locally, Howland also supports Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center in North Scottsdale, a wild animal non-profit that she loves. “I do some pro bono graphic design for them and I just taught an art class out there a few months ago,” she explains.
One of the center’s wolves, Manitu, recently became a muse and subject of a painting of Howland’s. The painting was then donated to the non-profit organization to auction off during its annual fundraiser, Dinner with Wolves, held April 15.
In another fun twist on her artistic creativity, Howland also offers a variety of her paintings as fun throw pillows. Howland makes it ok to have a tiger, a horse or a sea turtle sitting on your couch or side chair. It’s just another way to enjoy Howland’s creativity.
At the end of the day, Howland continues to love capturing wildlife and nature in her paintings because they simply speak to her.
“Inside of me lives that little 6-year-old who hears that roar,” Howland says. “I am forever curious about animals and how they live. It is amazing how simple and yet so very complicated their lives are, and by studying them and creating beautiful paintings for my collectors, I am honored to help document and tell their stories so that others might enjoy them just as much as I do.”
Currently, Howland is represented at both Santa Fe Exports and Beals & Co. in Santa Fe, NM.