Lake Michigan Afternoon


A few weeks ago, on a Saturday, Wayne and I took a road cruise to Troy, MI, a suburb of Detroit. A wonderful co-worker of Wayne's, Tamara, worked out a map quest that avoided all highways unless absolutely necessary which was just what I wanted. We were excited to be leaving town even if just for a day, as we do not seem to be able to get away much anymore. 

It was a beautiful winter day and we were well supplied with coffee, water and treats to sustain us on our adventure. The  sun was shining and there was no snow on the ground even if it was mid February. We headed down 92nd street to Caledonia which was the best way to begin our adventure across the state. 

Our purpose in taking this time out of our regular routine was to meet a man named Jim at a Barnes & Noble located across the street from the Oakland Mall in Troy. Jim had called me earlier in the week with information regarding a painting by my dad of Lake Michigan.
He was nice to talk to but rather vague about how he came about acquiring the painting, but that really didn't matter to me. He told me the details. It was a 1967 framed oil painting with "Lake Michigan Afternoon by Armand Merizon" written on the back. It measured approximately 24" by 18" image wise with a 3 or 4" frame of linen and gilded wood. When I expressed guarded interest in the painting (I didn't want to seem too eager), Jim sent me a few very blurry images of if from his phone. Despite the poor qualities of the photos I instantly became excited. This was a classic Lake Michigan by my daddy. This is what he is known for in west Michigan. 

Jim and I agreed on a price and Wayne and I made arrangements to head to Detroit the following Saturday. Our back road trip took a little over 3 hours but it seemed to go very quickly as we were having such a wonderful time! It was so nice to be with my honey driving away from Grand Rapids with the anticipation of a wonderful reward upon our destination. 

As we got nearer to the metropolis of Detroit, the traffic became heavier and the secondary roads we were on became a little wider with small suburbs popping up, one after the other. When we neared the Oakland Mall I called Jim and was happy to hear that he was waiting for us. We pulled off of the 4 lane street we were on, into the mall parking lot and went inside.

I had not paid enough attention to Jim when he said that Barnes & Noble was across the street from the mall, so we parked and headed into the huge mall being on the lookout for our bookstore. We walked to the center of the crowded retail mecca to read on the map that there was no Barnes & Noble in the Oakland Mall. This was the first glitchy thing that happened but I was a bit rattled as Wayne doesn't appreciate that kind of surprise. We asked a mall employee if they could help us and they just gestured their hand to the left saying it was across the street. That 4 lane, each way boulevard that we had just hopped off of. Great.

So back on track and back to our trusty old jeep. We got in and Wayne started her up. She made some really freaky sounds which did not sound good at all. It had been a long and warm drive and I think Wayne had the air on to circulate throughout the jeep as we drove even though our air conditioner does not work anymore. I remembered though, that in the past when the AC was on that the car made protesting sounds when trying to start it. Wayne turned it off and we sat there a few minutes. When he restarted it, all seemed almost normal again. Just a little shaky. We navigated ourselves across the big road and after searching around awhile, pulled into the parking lot of Barnes & Noble.

Inside the store we looked around, trying to act nonchalant. We checked out the coffee shop and all around looking for a guy with no hair, jeans and a gray sweater which was the description given to me by Jim. We did not see him. A few seconds later my cell rings and it's Jim asking if we were going to get there soon. I told him we were in the store, looking around me for someone talking on his phone. He said he was in the foyer, where we had just come from. Sure enough, we looked over and there was a little, grayish man carrying a bubble wrapped rectangle shaped package. I think he was about our age but it was hard to tell. He looked as though he's had some hard times.

We all shook hands, all very relieved that the other party has shown up. It was very exciting I must say. The staff of the bookstore didn't seem to have a problem with this sort of exchange going on. Jim showed us the painting which looked a little shabby but very Merizonesque. I took it from him and gave him my stuffed envelope full of bills. He immediately began counting it even though Wayne had suggested that we move over to the coffee shop to sit and chat a minute. It was obvious that Jim did not want to do this. He really just wanted to be finished with the transaction and be on his way. So that is what he did. 
We wandered around the store for a few minutes to check out the vinyl selection and books. Wayne carried the painting.

We didn't stay long. We were both a bit edgy from all the excitement and especially concerned that our dear old jeep was in good enough shape to wheel us home again. And we were a long way from home. So back to the car we went with our little beauty.

The jeep did not start on the first try but fired right up on the second. We both let out sighs of relief and turned our attention to figuring out how to get the heck out of there. Reading the directions backwards was as good a brain activity as any crossword puzzle or word game. Right instead of left, left instead of right etc. But we made it home just fine after deciding that the highway was probably our best option as the shadows began to grow long as the sun was rapidly lowering to the west. 

This is how the painting looked when we first put it on the easel. When I took it out of the frame, the edges showed just how much the varnish on the oil painting had yellowed. The linen liner is very discolored too but difficult to see so much in this photo. I couldn't smell smoke and so I am not sure if the yellowing was due to the environment the painting lived in for the past 48 year or if it was the natural yellowing of the varnish.

I have cleaned one other oil painting by my dad not too long ago. I decided that I wanted to try again with this one rather than take it to one of my restorationists. I familiarized myself with the steps I needed to take to safely clean an oil painting and very carefully, with a box full of q-tips, I worked by way across the painting removing dirty grimy old varnish. It was a miraculous transformation! I could not stop working on it once I began. I started the Monday evening after we got it and finished on Tuesday night after working on it all day.

 I have to say that I was totally engrossed in the whole process. I learned a lot and I plan to do more of this. When I had completed cleaning the entire painting I revarnished it and selected a new, updated yet classic frame.  This beautiful Lake Michigan now has a new life and it is presently for sale. I think my dad is pleased.

cleaned and varnished

That is my story. Thank you for reading.

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