PARKSTON - Nicole Heitzman's love of art began the moment she learned how to use a pencil.
The Parkston resident grew up surrounded by artists and instantly fell in love with the craft. Now, decades later, Heitzman's art has been featured on the national stage. Her work was in an episode of the CBS television series "Criminal Minds," she was on display last month at the National Pheasant Fest and Quail Classic and, on April 6, her art will be in an episode of the television show "MacGyver."
But despite what some would say has been a breakout career, Heitzman is humble and appreciative of her hometown roots.
"Both of my parents have been creative and artsy from day one, and basically the moment I picked up a pencil I was drawing and doing anything art-related," Heitzman said. "It was sixth grade when I started painting, which was when my parents got me paint for Christmas and one of my teachers introduced me to art competitions. I've never put the brush down since."
Born in Aberdeen, Heitzman moved to Ethan in second grade and graduated from Ethan High School. She went on to get her bachelor's degree in fine arts and business from Northern State University in Aberdeen. She and her husband moved to a farm near Parkston following college graduation.
Throughout her high school and college career, Heitzman continued to paint and eventually graduated to what she focuses on now - outdoor scenes.
Laced with intricate details, Heitzman is a natural when painting the beak of a pheasant, antlers of a deer or scales of a fish. She spent much of her childhood outdoors, hunting and fishing with her family, so she has an interest in the subject which helps create the vision for her art.
Conveniently, Heitzman also has a knack for photography and spends plenty of time outside at her rural farm photographing the wildlife for reference and to sell. She even does family portraits for customers.
"It all just goes together well," Heitzman said. "And when I realized I liked photography, too, it just grew."
Along with traveling to several annual art shows, Heitzman's work is on display at her mother's shop, Rustic Designs & More, on Spruce Street in Mitchell. Alongside her mother's art and her mother's boyfriend's steel work, the store has turned into a family affair.
The store was previously located on Main Street in Mitchell but moved to its new location near the interstate in August 2016.
"It's so cool to be able to share all of this with them," Heitzman said about sharing studio space with her family. "I wouldn't have it any other way."
And Heitzman doesn't see her career slowing down any time soon.
Putting her work on display at the National Pheasant Fest in Sioux Falls was a huge step, she said, allowing her to show off her talents in front of outdoor-minded people who are naturally inclined to take a second look at wildlife paintings. She has been invited to participate before, but wasn't inclined to travel far to do so. So when the event came to Sioux Falls, she was thrilled.
"Once I heard it was coming to South Dakota, I definitely wanted to try it out," Heitzman said. "It was a great show. A lot of interest, a lot of compliments. Growing up hunting and fishing, it was the perfect place for my kind of artwork."
To see Heitzman's paintings, people can stop by Rustic Designs & More or check out her Facebook page, titled Nicole Heitzman Art & Photography. Heitzman is also on Instagram and has her own website, NicoleHeitzmanArt.com.