Finding Messages of Hope Through Paintings & Prose — Thunderbird Artists Gallery Hosts Jeanne Bonine

Twenty-five years ago, Jeanne Bonine was diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer and given just six to 12 months to live. She was in the process of moving to Arizona from Minnesota when she learned that she had to undergo surgery. On her 50th birthday she had a lumpectomy and days later, a mastectomy of her left breast. Things looked bleak and she thought her career as a watercolor artist was over…until she met Judi Combs, owner of Thunderbird Artists and current co-owner of Thunderbird Artists Gallery in downtown Carefree.

L-R: Judi Combs and Jeanne Bonine

The two close friends will celebrate Bonine’s 50-year career as a professional artist Thursday, Oct. 10, during a special show, “Healed through Art…Blessed with Time.” An artist reception will take place from 2pm to 7pm at Thunderbird Artists Gallery, 99 Easy Street, Suite 235, located near the intersection of Ho Hum and Easy Streets.

In an after-surgery consultation, Bonine was brought into a cold room and told to watch a video on a computer. “The video basically said I was going to die if I didn’t have a bone marrow procedure. I felt like I was being sold a used car,” she said.

Fortunately, she was able to get help through the Mayo Clinic and due to the size of the tumor, its fast growth and the number of lymph nodes infected, she began a lengthy regiment of chemotherapy in Minnesota followed by radiation at the Phoenix location.

She finished her last treatment of radiation just two weeks before her first Thunderbird Artists Carefree festival in January 1995.

“I was nervous because I had no hair, so I wore a big white hat,” she said. “I felt like I was home again, and the show helped me regain my confidence. I truly consider Judi as an angel by my side. She was instrumental in my ability to continue my career as an artist.”

Combs, a cancer survivor herself, said it’s been an honor to watch Bonine’s career flourish.

“Jeanne is a Romantic Realist, whose soft and lush floral paintings illuminate beauty and peace,” Combs said, adding that her distinctive style is captivating. “It’s easy to become enamored with her oversized watercolor and oil paintings, which depict everything from garden wonders and exotic birds to a single rose and a desert skyscape.”

Bonine said her art changed after her tough battle with breast cancer.

“At first, my watercolor paintings were ethereal and very soft. Titles became very important to me because I thought I had a message to tell people. But that wasn’t enough, and I started to write prose to accompany each painting,” she said.

As she continued to survive, her paintings became bigger, bolder and stronger.

“I felt compelled to show both strength and softness,” she said, adding that, for her, prayer and positivity helped her heal. “Through my paintings and prose, I try to offer hope to anyone facing darkness.”

During the Oct. 10 show, Bonine will exhibit new watercolor and oil paintings as well as hand-painted “Gifts of Hope,” which include rose-imaged ornaments, miniature rose paintings and her coffee table book, “Inspirations of Timeless Beauty.” This book includes her paintings, prose and inspirational life story.

For more information, call 480.688.4960 or visit

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