By Jean Allen

Nadine Pickthorn grew up in a large, happy family, the seventh of eight children. Her parents christened her Alyce Nadine; however her brothers rallied with a resounding “NO!” to the name Alyce, so “Nadine” it was. She was born in Duluth, Minnesota in 1944. A year later the family moved to Audubon, Minnesota until she was twelve years old. There were several more moves, including to Monterey Park, California and eventually to Detroit Lakes, Minnesota when she was fourteen.

During her early years, Nadine often drew pictures of her siblings and then the family would try to figure out which brother or sister was depicted. Her interest in drawing was evident, but she enjoyed it more as a fun pastime, rather than a serious art form early on.

When she was twenty-four years old, she met her future husband, Jerry, at a church function. He was in the Air Force and was sent to Vietnam shortly after their marriage in 1968. As a military wife, Nadine needed to be ready to move every few years. Sure enough, upon Jerry’s return from Vietnam, they moved several times – to Malmstrom Air Force Base in Great Falls, Montana, to North Bay, Ontario, and eventually returned to Great Falls. By this time both their sons had been born – Scott in 1970 and Darren in 1974. After ten years in the Air Force, Jerry was able to retire as a First Lieutenant and they purchased a farm in Fort Peck, Montana.

Nadine always had a strong work ethic – she approached each undertaking in her life with the desire to go above and beyond. For example, when she and Jerry moved to their new home in Fort Peck, she saw there were only two trees on the entire property. That just wouldn’t do for a girl from Minnesota, so she planted 1,500 trees along the driveway and another 1,000 trees throughout the property – all with a shovel and hard work!

Never one to be idle, one of Nadine’s hobbies is baking. Her favorite thing to bake is raspberry pie, as they have a huge raspberry patch and grow around fifty pounds of raspberries each year! Additionally, she enjoys cooking, antiquing, and gardening. She pours her heart and soul into her paintings and wants her paintings to “take you there.” She uses traditional surfaces, such as canvas, clayboard, and watercolor paper, along with non-traditional surfaces, such as lichen-covered sandstone, preserved leaves and even turkey feathers.

Nadine paints everything from dragonflies and butterflies to birds of all kinds, particularly cardinals and blue jays. She excels at painting wildlife, including moose, coyotes, foxes, rabbits, owls, mountain goats, cougars, bears and raccoons.

Nadine believes her art is a calling, a way to show how beautiful God’s creation is. She believes that what she is doing is what she is meant to be doing. After moving to Fort Peck, Nadine and Jerry endured twelve years of drought, followed by their first bountiful crop being hailed out. At that point she realized she needed to either get a job or make money from her paintings, so she walked into the local office supply store in Glasgow and asked the owner if she could hang two of her paintings on the wall. Both were purchased immediately – one by the store owner himself for $75 and the other by an employee for $40. A painting similar to the first one has sold for over $19,000 in recent years!

Her recognition and successes are abundant. Among the most prestigious are People’s Choice – C.M. Russell Auction, the Western Reflection Art Show, People’s Choice – Rough Rider International Art Show, and the Pacific Rim Wildlife Art Show.

Nadine’s work has even been featured by The Franklin Mint, which specializes in marketing collector’s items, including rare coins, diecast models, historical currencies, porcelain pieces, jewelry and more. Her artwork for The Franklin Mint includes blankets, cards, and a four-plate collection, titled Thunder in the Canyon, depicting the wild ponies of the canyon and their ghostly riders. The collection celebrates legends of the Old West, representing the spirits of the Indian warriors who were once the ponies’ masters.

Although Nadine has endured both drought and success, one tragedy nearly broke her. In 1982, Nadine had painted throughout the summer so she could afford to take her boys to Disneyland. Scott was eleven at the time and Darren was seven. Scott had always wanted to see the ocean, so with great excitement and expectations, they checked in to their hotel, just a block from Disneyland. As they began to explore the area, Scott stepped out ahead of them at a crosswalk. A car came out of nowhere and struck Scott. He did not survive.

When they returned to Montana, naturally Nadine, Jerry and Darren were grief-stricken – Nadine so much so that she could hardly function. She never wanted to paint again.

In her grief, she felt somehow that painting was to blame. If she hadn’t painted to earn the money, it never would have happened. A year after Scott’s death, a poem, given to her from a dear friend, gave her a spark to go on. However, the spark needed a bit more kindling to ignite. One day, while going through Scott’s room, Nadine and Jerry came upon a colored pencil drawing. It appeared to be a series of brightly colored jewels, twelve in all. There was a crown over the jewels with the words “Stop! Stop!” printed over the crown.

Nadine remembered a verse in the Bible (Revelations 21) depicting the twelve foundations of Heaven, and the crown being heaven itself. The jewel colors that Scott had drawn matched the colors in the Bible verses. Nadine believes Scott’s drawing was a revelation that he would be waiting for her in Heaven. Her healing began and she was able to paint again, but now with a much greater sense of depth and strength.

After thirty-two years living in Fort Peck, Nadine and Jerry purchased twenty-four acres of magnificent land along the Wisconsin Creek in Sheridan, Montana, where they now reside. The entire length of their property runs along the banks of the river and provides a peaceful sanctuary for them both. Nadine designed her dream home and the two of them completely roughed in their home by themselves.It is surrounded by plants and all the flowers that she loves. Her favorites are columbine and petunias, but the landscape abounds with geraniums, gladiolas, dahlias and more.

Lately, Nadine has been battling some health issues. A day after receiving a steroid shot to treat tendonitis, she experienced a life-threatening reaction – her blood pressure shot up and she was medevaced to the Bozeman hospital for specialized treatment and recovery. Nadine also has atrial fibrillation and after a quick procedure, she expects to be as good as new.

Recently, Nadine’s twin grandchildren, Bridger and Toryn, who live in Troy, Montana, performed at the Western Art Show in Great Falls, where Nadine was displaying her artwork. With Bridger on guitar and Toryn playing the ukulele, the eleven- year-old brother-sister duo sang old-time favorite cowboy songs to a delighted audience. Before each song, Bridger would introduce the song and relate a bit of history or an anecdote. Ever the entertainer, Bridger related this story: “I wanted to learn a new song and asked my mom, ‘Mom, what is that song that dad likes about the spider?’ ‘The spider?’ she asked. ‘Yeah, you know, Go Spiders in the Sky!’”

Nadine appreciates her family and the beauty of the world around her, and she is not defeated by adversity. These things bring her nearer to God, and then God hands her a paintbrush. Whether drawing from joy or sadness, Nadine wants to knock people’s socks off with her God-given talent. She continues to depict her favorite subjects, but soon she would like to try ocean scenes, featuring a mysterious ghost ship beneath a full moon. Sounds like a whole new series which would sell out in a hurry!

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