By Lee Noles
MONROE – One night while on the computer, Shannon McKohnle saw a disturbing image that devastated the Union County resident. The video showed a severely injured koala in Australia screaming as water was poured on the animal to douse the flames as the destructive wildfire burned all around.
“It just eats my heart up,” McKohnle said of the fire, which according to an article from CNN has scorched close to 18 million acres and killed half a billion animals, including the one McKohnle viewed.
The hopelessness McKohnle felt was quickly replaced with a steely resolve after her husband, Corey, suggested she use her artistic ability to make a change. McKohnle has done just that by teaching adults and children how to paint animals native to Australia and donating part of the money to Sydney Metropolitan Wildlife. The charity is licensed by National Parks and Wildlife Service and helps rescue, rehabilitate and release sick or injured animals back into their natural environment.
“It’s nice to have someone work that hard and they work in some pretty bad conditions,” said McKohnle, who has raised $469. “It’s a very cool venture.”
McKohnle has hosted seven classes where she teaches students to paint koalas, kangaroos and emus. She begins the process by breaking down the colors she wants to use and paints a copy of the picture before taking it to the class. The students begin with a blank canvass before adding the backdrop or a certain part of the animal by using a variety of shapes. McKohnle will stop to use a hairdryer to dry the paint before the students continue.
She provides cardboard cutouts of the animals’ facial features to help the children who may be unsure how to begin.
“Once they get a little bit of confidence, they realize it’s not that hard,” McKohnle said.
Peyton Kohnle has participated in several of the fundraisers.
“It’s fun, and you can be creative with it,” said Kohnle, who is McKohnle’s10-years-old niece. “There are no rules. You just paint.”
The classes for children run for about an hour and cost $15 with $5 going to Sydney Metropolitan Wildlife. Adult classes can go up to two hours with $15 of the $25 being donated.
McKohnle supplies the paint, brushes and the canvasses. She holds many of her classes at homes and businesses, including the Faded Rose in Monroe.
McKohnle’s passion for art began at a young age after her mother, Bebe McManus, introduced her to painting when she was 7 years old. She continued painting off and on over the years but truly dedicated herself after McManus passed away in 2013.
“It’s a really good way to keep her with me now that she’s not with me anymore,” McKohnle said. “When I go to a pop-up or an art show, I always bring her wedding ring with me.”
Continuing to teach classes is important for McKohnle after seeing on Instagram where Sydney Metropolitan Wildlife displayed the pictures she sent of her students holding the artwork they created.
“It’s very exciting because it has actually caught on,” McKohnle said. “When you dream something and people are interested … it becomes a lot of fun. And we are trying to take a lot of good out of a bad situation.”
Are you interested?
Call 704-517-2279 to have an art class with Shannon McKohnle or donate to Sydney Metropolitan Wildlife.