Pirie artists sells 'koala' painting interstate

ARTISTS: Michelle Baxter, left, Kylie Coomblas and Jeannette Flynn offer a toast to the success of their new venture, Art on Alexander, in Port Pirie.
ARTISTS: Michelle Baxter, left, Kylie Coomblas and Jeannette Flynn offer a toast to the success of their new venture, Art on Alexander, in Port Pirie.
ARTWORK: Lesley Irwin with the painting by Michelle Baxter that Ron Irwin won in a silent auction. Photo: Julia Driscoll

ARTWORK: Lesley Irwin with the painting by Michelle Baxter that Ron Irwin won in a silent auction. Photo: Julia Driscoll

After bushfires swept the New South Wales Mid Coast in November last year, Port Pirie artist Michelle Baxter painted a picture to auction to raise money for the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital.

The painting, titled Saving Me, became an iconic image that did the rounds on social media during the bushfires throughout the eastern states. It depicts the shoulder of a volunteer fireman who is holding a koala while the landscape burns around them.

Ron Irwin, of the NSW town of Wingham, and his wife Lesley were visiting Port Pirie in November for a family event and happened upon a small gallery, Art on Alexander.

Closing the doors for the day was the same Michelle Baxter. She let the Irwins in for a look around.

"We loved the work and had a good time," Mr Irwin said. When they returned home to Wingham, Mr Irwin popped on Facebook and saw the painting was up for auction. He put in a silent bid while feeling touched that the money would go to the koala hospital, so close to home.

Mr Irwin declines to say how much he paid for the painting, except that it was "a very generous bid".

"It is a lovely painting," he said.

Art on Alexander is a combination of three women, Jeannette Flynn, Kylie Coomblas and Ms Baxter.

It started when they took part in the federal government's Activate Business Program through UniHub Spencer Gulf at Port Pirie.

Ms Flynn makes her own skincare range, Ms Coomblas works in pastel pencils and Ms Baxter is an all-round artist in acrylic, watercolour and pencil.

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