Thursday, September 28, 2006

"Victorian -- Northville Historical Village" -- oil -- 9x12" on birch panel. This was painted a couple weeks ago with friends from the Mid-Michigan Great Lakes Plein Air Painters group. It was kind of a miracle at all that this was painted. We'd had rainstorms all night before and more rain was forecast. I managed to paint this before the rain started up again -- even the sun came out for a few minutes, which gave it a nice look. This one's up for sale on eBay this week. I'm cautiously putting a few works up for sale now and then.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

"Self-Portrait: the Autoworker" (oil -- 48x60") This is currently on display at Oakland Community College, Orchard Ridge Campus (Farmington Hills, MI) Smith Theater, in the "From Our Perspective" art show, put on by the OCC Women's Center. I was just notified this painting won the President's Award. It will be on display through the end of October.

All my friends see this and immediately say, "But you're not smiling! You don't look happy!" Well, of course -- it's exhausting, boring work! I have worked at the Ford Wixom Assembly Plant that is scheduled to close in May of 2007. Earlier this year I wanted to create a kind of memorial to all my years of working there. So I created a montage of some of the different jobs I've done in the past 29 years. Up above, at the top of the painting is a beautiful sunrise sky with birds flying. The bird in the center has my smiling face. That part of the painting symbolizes how I'll feel when I retire: free as a bird. ALL us autoworkers fantasize about retirement.

That's a fiberglass bumper I'm holding in the picture. I used to hang 500 of those a night, from 5:30 PM to 4 AM. I'd be soaked in sweat and covered in fiberglass all night. Before that job, I worked in Cushion, stapling foam cushions to spring frameworks with a heavy "hog ringer" gun. One of my favorite jobs was on the Final Line, sitting on a scooter, shooting pop rivets and hooking up fuel injector lines. The worst jobs were the ones involving crawling inside cars. I remember laying half inside/half outside cars, struggling to yank out a pin from the brake pedal, being dragged along, having my jeans and shoes being slowly shredded to pieces.

One hot, summer night I had to install carpet. At the time, there was no such thing as an ergonomic lift arm. I had to fold each carpet into quarters and carry it over to the car and throw it inside, crawl in and fight with it to fit it into the corners. Was that ever a hot, heavy, nasty, lint-filled job!

For the past 16+ years I've been in the Paint Department, working my way up from Sealer to Wet Sander, finally on to Group Leader in the paint repair/polish area, right before the cars are shipped off to Trim. Now I spend a lot of time on the computer, making charts, collecting data, taking notes at meetings, error-proofing, resolving safety issues, giving bathroom calls, and just a hundred different little things. Needed by all, appreciated by none.

I'll always be grateful for Ford Motor Company's old educational scholarship program (now severly curtailed) that paid for my art instruction.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

"Home of the Trout" (oil -- 8x10") Another plein air painting, done yesterday morning out at Proud Lake State Park. The Huron River runs through this park and is a favorite spot for kayakers and trout fishermen. I was with about a dozen of my friends, all members of the Michigan Plein Air Painters (visit our website at Most were interested in painting the stone bridge, but I was in love with these rocks. What artist hasn't attempted to paint the infamous "rocks under water" scene? All I can say is patience is a virtue.

About a dozen kayakers came through, screaching and laughing goulishly as they paddled under the bridge (it echoes magnificantly). It made us all laugh.

The leaves here in Michigan have only just begun to hint at changing colors. You'll be seeing a lot more of the fall colors in the weeks to come here on this blog. Thanks for looking!

Saturday, September 16, 2006

"Ford Wixom Assembly Plant: Car in Process" -- (oil - 9x12") Two summers ago (back when things were still going fairly well at the Lincoln plant), we group leaders were called in during the final week of the summer shutdown. Our duty that week was to update all the Operator Instruction Sheets in our zones, update any backlog in paperwork, charts, etc. Some departments were lagging behind in this respect. But of course, I'm always on top of everything, so I had a few days of time on my hands. Rather than sit and read a book, I decided to bring my easel and paints and do a couple paintings of "my world".

This painting was done directly from life, not photographed, projected and traced. Yes, it's rather complex, but I had all day long to do it, so I took my time drawing it in. Drawing something in is usually what takes the longest, and sometimes there are many wipe-outs before the drawing is satisfactory. Patience is a virtue!

These cars are empty shells at this point. They have been assembled in Body Shop and traveled through Paint Shop, where they have been sealed and painted. There is nothing inside at this point, no seats, carpeting, no tires or chassis. Notice the yellow-edged groove in the floor. All the car bodies are resting on "saddles" at this point that move along the floor, being pulled by powerful chainwork systems. And all of it's controlled by computers. When I first came to this department, I had nightmares for months that I would step into one of these grooves in the floor! You kind of have to watch your step in any factory.

What you're seeing is a Lincoln Town Car that has been painted (a pewter-gray color), but something was found wrong with the metal. Perhaps a dent of some kind. Body Shop inspects all cars before they come to Paint Shop, but some imperfections are very difficult to see before the car is painted. The yellow repair ticket hanging from the front end was put on to let the Paint Shop people know that this car needed to be routed to the Metal Repair Line. Since the ticket is hanging from what we call the "GOP", it probably is a sign that the GOP was cracked and needed total replacement. The pink ticket on the car in back is hanging at the side of the windshield. That could mean either that other metal repair work is needed OR maybe some kind of spot paint repair is called for. In any event, we get everything fixed to perfection before sending our cars on to Trim Shop.

I've worked at the Ford Wixom Assembly Plant for nearly 29 years. I've appreciated the income and opportunities I've had there. It's been the most amazing place in the world to work. It's sad that the place is going to close, but I'll be happy to retire -- and paint full-time!

Thursday, September 14, 2006

"Night-blooming Cereus" (oil on canvas, 9x12") This was started outside, at the crack of dawn, en plein air, and finished later in the studio.

It all began about 5 years ago, when I spied a pitiful little night-blooming cereus plant at an estate sale. They're not pretty plants. The flowers are the big attraction. And this little plant was in a broken pot, filled with weeds. Looked like it'd been thrown down the stairs! Still, I knew what it was -- and I wanted it.

I asked the woman in charge how much. She said $11. Egad. Well, if you're lucky to find a plant in a nursery here in Michigan, it could be $75. I kept hold of the plant and wandered around, pretending to look at more merchandise. I spied another woman working at the sale and asked her how much. Obviously she had no idea what this plant was. She glanced at it, rolled her eyes, and said $2. I slapped the moolah into her hand and zipped out the door with my treasure.

This plant was lovingly repotted, fertilized, set out on the patio every summer for 5 years. Lugged back inside for the winters. Still, no blooms, but I had my hopes. About 3 weeks ago I was sitting on my patio, enjoying an end-of-the-week glass of wine with a neighbor when I glanced over at the plant. What was that hanging out of one leaf? My God -- a bud!

Every day the bud grew larger. I had no idea of when it would bloom, but I knew that the blooms only last ONE night. Articles online had described it as "the most beautiful flower in the world". "Smells strongly of vanilla" claimed another writer. I could hardly wait!

This past Sunday night I noticed a few of the outer tendrils beginning to open. But would the flower open tonight -- or tomorrow night? I went to bed at 9.

Around 2:30 AM, I woke up and had a feeling I really should get out of my nice, soft, warm bed and go downstairs to check on the plant. Wowzer! If a space alien had landed on my patio, I wouldn't have been more amazed! This thing looked like a super waterlily on steroids! I had to restrain myself from shouting to wake up the entire neighborhood. I wanted to call everybody. The newspaper. The police. But then I'd probably be hauled off to the nut house, so I didn't.

It was chilly. It rained lightly. I had on my fuzzy jammies and robe, but had to also put on a winter coat - and pull up the hood. My 2 cats kept me company. I took lots of digital photos. But did I dare to try and paint it -- in the middle of the night -- lit by the sodium vapor porch light? What the hell -- go for it (my general attitude about everything). I held a birch panel in one hand and painted one rendition, using 3 colors: white, black and cadmium yellow pale.

Time marched on. Eventually all my neighbors got up for work. I snagged them all and enticed them over. Everybody loved it. We all agreed, though, that it did NOT smell like vanilla at all. It smelled like shampoo.

Daylight came. The flower hung on. Why not paint a second plein air? I used a 9x12" canvas and my full palette of colors. Finally about 10:30 AM, both the flower and I were wilting. I went upstairs, plugged in my earplugs and took a 2-hour nap.

Later in the day, I worked a little more on the painting. Notice the bat. I'd read that bats pollinate these flowers. I kind of felt sad to finish this one. It was SO much fun!

Thanks for looking!

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

"September Sunflowers" (oil on birch panel, 11 x 14") Painted en plein air at Sunshine Herb Farm in Wixom, Michigan. It was an overcast morning, spitting rain occasionally, and with just a bit of a chill to the air. If you're an autoworker like I am, you LIKE this kind of weather! Our group of 4 were in love with the quiet, simple beauty of this place. It was hard to tear ourselves away from the end-of-season, overgrown rows of flowering herbs, patch of 8-foot tall joe-pye weed, delicious ripe concord grapes, and of course, this clump of sunflowers. I'd had a lusting for painting sunflowers ever since last year. Unfortunately, the sunflower field we'd picked last year was owned by an extremely cranky farmer. We were all standing on the public road, setting up our easels, excited about the view of the sunflowers, when this mean-spirited farmer drove up in his truck and practically threatened us with a gun! Maybe he thought we were going to destroy his sunflowers. Rather than argue with a crazy man about the legality of standing on a public road, merely looking at and painting pictures of his sunflowers, we quickly retreated to Kensington Metropark. So this time, we were quite grateful that the owner of the Sunshine Farm is a nice lady. She especially liked us when we bought some of her organic free-range hen's eggs.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

"Early Fall -- River" (oil, 11 x 14" on birch panel) A group of friends and I went out to Camp Dearborn yesterday morning to paint. It was one of those early fall mornings, with a welcome chill to the air. We'd had several days of rain and more predicted for the next few days. Camp Dearborn was virtually deserted, so we were treated to the sounds of birds. The trees are just beginning to change color here; only a very few hints of the gaudy colors to come. Golden rod in full glory, purple asters blooming wild. I picked some wild elderberries and we all tasted some. The only sounds of civilization were the occasional cars that drove over the bridge (in the background). Some of us got in a 2nd painting, although we were rushed by the sounds of approaching thunder to the west.

The rest of the group left for lunch when the rain hit. I drove down the road to my favorite park, Proud Lake, and waited out the downpour under a picnic shelter. It's a treat to be alone in a park in a thunderstorm (especially when you're sitting under a shelter). When the rain let up, I took my umbrella and basket and hiked through the woods, hunting grifola frondsa and sulphur shelfs, both edible mushrooms.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

"Persimmons" (oil, 9x12" on canvas) I'd bought these persimmons and let them ripen to perfection. They looked so wonderful, I just had to paint them before eating them!

Friday, September 08, 2006

"Oak Pair" (oil, 11x14" on birch panel) was painted Saturday, September 2nd. I'd just finished hunting edible mushrooms at Proud Lake State Park and had driven to another part of the park, Powers Beach. It's early fall in Michigan, and we'd had several days of rain, so the mushrooms have just started to pop. I'd bagged my first grifola frondosa of the year, so I was sweaty, happy and covered in little pickers & cockleburrs. Powers Beach is a very quiet, little-used park that I love. Walking out under all those big oak trees is like walking into a cathedral. The sky was threatening rain again, but I parked my van anyway and lugged my painting gear up a small hill to this spot. The minute I'd set up everything and put my brush to the panel, it started sprinkling rain! I tilted the old french easel forward (bought for $50 back in '87 at a garage sale) and used my biggest brush and painted as fast as I could. I think I finished this one in about 5 minutes. I had to -- oil and water sure don't mix!

And what about the grifola frondosa? The next day I cooked a huge batch of spaghetti sauce with it and canned 6 quarts.

Thursday, September 07, 2006


"Orange Boat" (oil, 11x14" on birch panel)
A couple weeks ago I was out at Kensington Metropark, near Detroit, when I spied this great, old orange boat. It was early in the morning and the park was relatively deserted, so I was able to paint it before the owner showed up and floated his boat away.

I've worked on the Line at Ford Motor Company's Wixom Assembly Plant for nearly 29 years. Our plant is due to be shut down for good soon, and I'm looking forward to being able to paint full-time. My house is about to burst at the seams with paintings -- from very large surreal and still life pieces to studio paintings of classic cars, to boxes and boxes of these smaller "plein air" (painted in the open air) pieces. I've gone out painting nearly every Saturday morning for several years. So I've got all kinds of paintings, done in all the seasons, that I will be putting up for sale (probably on eBay) in the near future. I'm still struggling with figuring out the computer mechanics of it all.

Thanks for looking! -- Margie Guyot