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Corunna artist wins $100,000 top prize at London’s Art Comp

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Tara Jeffrey

Wilma Mehl still can’t believe it.

“I’m in shock… it’s unreal,” said the Corunna mom, who, after taking up art as a pandemic hobby, has now won one of the most richest art prizes in the world.

On Thursday night, Mehl was named Panel’s Choice at the Art Comp event held at London’s 100 Kellogg Lane — the annual art competition’s highest honour — which comes with a $100,000 prize.

“It’s incredible — a self-taught artist from little Corunna,” a modest Mehl said. “I was just trying my luck.”

Her piece, “Into the Blue,” was among 900 submissions to Art Comp, open to all local, national and international artists, both professional and amateur, of all ages. One hundred artists were chosen to display their art throughout the venue for 100 days from May to September.

“When I found out I was in the top 100, I thought, ‘Oh my goodness, what an achievement,’” said Mehl. “I was just so proud. All of the art on display there is so incredible.”

A closing ceremony held Thursday announced the winners, which included three People’s Choice prizes — $50,000 for first place, $30,000 for second place, and $20,000 for third.

The $100,000 top prize is chosen via panel judging, based on originality, quality of artistic composition and design, creativity in expression, and overall presentation.

Mehl was on hand for the announcement, but never expected to hear her name.

“My husband never cries; he was standing there with me and was crying; my friends were cheering,” recalled Mehl, who is originally from Frankfurt. “We were on the phone all night with my family and friends back home in Germany.”

Winners at Art Comp: The People’s Choice awards – 3rd- Stephen Gibb $20,000; 2nd- Lorrie Robertson $30,000; 1st- Emily Botelho $50,000; The Panel’s Choice winner: Wilma Mehl $100,000.

Mehl’s piece — an image of Lake Huron’s waves — was comprised of soft pastels and pastel pencils on sanded pastel paper. She blended the colours together with her fingertips to create a stunning, colourful finish.

It was inspired by a photo her mother took on the beach in Bright’s Grove while visiting.

Wilma Mehl’s “Into the Blue.”

“We moved here in 2011 and I am still amazed by the blue of the water; it’s just stunning,” she said. “The beauty of Lake Huron inspires me.”

Mehl grew up in an art-loving family but mostly as just a hobby, she said. It wasn’t until the COVID-19 pandemic that she started to pursue it more seriously, teaching herself to paint with pastels, drawing images of landscapes and seascapes. 

“I just wanted a creative outlet while we were at home,” she said. “I discovered pastels, and even though they can be messy, they are so much fun to work with.

“And then it was just: practice, practice, practice.”

She’s been keeping busy showcasing her work at local vendor shows and galleries, and says she loves the atmosphere of Sarnia-Lambton’s art community.

“I just really like all of the ‘art in the park’ type events,” she said. “They’re nice and local, and people are so kind when they stop by to chat.”

For more on Wilma’s art, visit her website https://www.travelartbywilmamehl.com/

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