From Devastation Grows Creation

Sara DiOrazio with “Koala,” done in watercolor, acrylic, and charcoal.

More than one billion animals have been killed in the Australian wildfires. Images of koalas with third-degree burns, parched for water, have flooded the internet and news. The catastrophe leaves others across the world wondering how they can help. This devastating reality for a global community has become an altruistic call to action, as millions of dollars are being donated to the bushfire efforts.

New York City-based Sara DiOrazio’s piece “Koala” has become a viral sensation. The original was purchased by Shelter Island Corcoran real estate agent Peter McCracken, with proceeds from its sale donated to aiding wildlife suffering in Australia. The artist is also creating prints, of which half of the proceeds will benefit Wildlife Warriors.

What inspired “Koala”?

I have not been to Australia yet, but it is on my bucket list. As an artist, I can be inspired by a multitude of emotions, but this piece I can specifically say, it’s complete heartbreak. As humans, we are not helpless. Perhaps we refrain from asking for help but if needed, help is there. The koalas, amongst many other species, are helpless during these raging fires and climate change.

As soon as I saw images and videos of a helplessly desperate, yet calm, koala with humanistic qualities, I had to find a way to help. I needed to paint. Much like going for a run. I had to work through the tears, zone out, and channel something positive. This particular koala is assertive, holding on strong, and has a positive quality that I wanted to capture.

What was “Koala’s” selling price?

My work sells in the range of $400 to $5000. The buyer, Peter McCracken, is a Shelter Island real estate agent and resident of Palm Beach. We’ve both decided not to disclose the price it sold for. The most important aspect of this transaction was to benefit the victims of the Australian wildfires, 100 percent of the proceeds. It was a generous donation.

Why did you decide to donate the proceeds?

My intention was focused on raising money with a buyer. We would then donate as a team. I was focused on finding a cause that would make a difference. After some research and reaching out to friends, Peter and I decided to donate to Wildlife Warriors (, which was started by the Irwin family. For me a decision to donate is easier once I can relate and align with the elements involved.

Steve Irwin was a pioneer in raising awareness to the public about wildlife. How lucky are the few who experienced his passion for nature? In parallel, I always admire how others take tragic and debilitating experiences and turn that into a positive cause. The Irwin family is a prime example of this.

What role does art play in times of tragedy?

This particular piece is not a painting I can recreate. When I am fully inspired, I zone out and channel my vision through another level of awareness. I don’t always know why I am doing a painting, or what I am about to create, but I do know that something from the inside needs to be translated to the paper. With such a tragic situation happening, I immediately thought that art is the best and most authentic way of expressing my gift to others, as well as to the animals.

More than ever, as a society we need to find inspiration and hope. I believe through art we can achieve a great deal of new energy across the globe. Art can be felt, seen, heard, tasted, smelled, and explored through all of our senses — which are not being utilized properly as we enter 2020.

You’re also making prints?

I have multiple requests already, which makes me so excited knowing that I can continue to contribute and inspire. The prints will have two size options (small and large). Think poster vs portrait. The price is to be determined and will range anywhere from $200 to $400, 50 percent of the profit will go toward Wildlife Warriors in the buyer’s name.

Overall, what do you hope to achieve through this particular piece of artwork?

Initially I only envisioned partnering with a buyer to raise money and know that we contributed to help the victims of the wildfires. But as the painting has become more viral via social media, I am becoming aware of the impact this image has. Not only artistically, but also the idea that I am bringing attention to something real and tragic that is happening globally.

My wish is to build a global campaign with this image. Partner with a team, brand, or community and really push to make a larger impact on change. Provide hope for the future of our planet and global community. I believe this single image can bring a larger awareness to what is happening on a global level. One look at this image, and anyone on the planet will understand the despair in the eyes of this living species.

Any plans to make similar pieces depicting Australian wildlife?

Yes. I would like to expand on this collection with other species. Normally, I focus on more figurative and abstract work, but for some reason the wildfires ignited my old passion for realism. I am open to commission requests — and will donate 50 percent of profits to the cause.

Learn more about DiOrazio’s work by visiting or inquiry at [email protected].

[email protected]

More from Our Sister Sites