Hamilton artist sells paintings to save animals from Australian wildfires

Sandee Ewasiuk has been painting for 30 years, but says sometimes as an artist she struggles to understand “why we do it” — for now, WHY is Australia‘s wildfires.

Ewasiuk, 55, who teaches at the Art Gallery of Burlington and the Dundas Valley School of Art, is selling paintings of images she took in Australia with all proceeds going directly to the WIRES Australian Wildlife Rescue Organization. 

She started Sunday and says she already raised about $2,000.

“The fires just came up and we had just been there and that’s when I realized ‘this is it,’ ” she tells CBC.

“There’s a sense of urgency to this, it’s important to do it while people still have it on their mind.”

Sandee Ewasiuk has already raised $2,000 since Sunday and hopes to raise more as she paints more pictures of animals. (Bobby Hristova/CBC)

Ewasiuk has lived in the Kirkendall North neighbourhood for 23 years and says she travelled, from September to November in 2019, to Australia in a camper van with her Australian husband and their children.

While she was there, she spent time under baby blue skies that met soft sandy dunes — home to kangaroos, wallabies, emus, kookaburras and koala bears.

Ewasiuk stood feet away from some of Australia‘s wildlife, but during her visit she also saw embers burn among the greenery.

“Mostly we saw places that were burned out … it was smouldering still,” she says.

“We didn’t have to drive through the fires because they weren’t raging, but Port Macquarie on the east coast was blocked and we couldn’t get through.”

Ewasiuk downloaded an app on her phone to watch the status of the fires every day.

“We were watching it all the time because we weren’t sure we could go,” she says.

Ewasiuk vividly remembers a rude awakening while camping at Coffs Harbour. It was about three in the morning when she woke up to a hazy sky and smell of smoke, despite the nearest fire being 50 kilometres away.

While she and her family avoided the fires in Australia, they followed her home.

“We came back home, watching them get worse and worse and worse,” Ewasiuk says.

“We saw so much wildlife there, we spent time right beside them. For me, it was just, ‘oh my god, how do we do anything for this?’ Working as a painter, I just thought, ‘let’s give this a shot.’ “

Fire has ravaged the country, scorching forests and suffocating animals, with reports of more than a billion animals killed.

Sandee Ewasiuk’s painting of a kookaburra. (Bobby Hristova/CBC)

Now, Ewasiuk is making mixed-media paintings of pictures she snapped in Australia to raise money for the fight against the fires.

Some of the canvases are smaller and others, she says, are life-sized, like her 36 by 60 inch painting of a kangaroo at Mimosa Rocks National Park.

“It’s supposed to show the beauty we experienced … with a very colourful background,” she says.

Ewasiuk will also paint emus, kookaburras and koala bears.

Interested buyers can reach out to her on social media.

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