Connor Summers Gallery Fine Art & Custom Framing

Roof Shingles as an Artist's Canvas


Artist Michael Updike creates slate carvings on roofing shingles, in addition to memorials in marble, slate and granite.

Originally, I started working on slate as a way to practice my carving skills on a $2 piece of slate shingle rather than testing my artistic learning curve on a $1,000 piece of slate cut to be a tombstone. I picked up a couple pieces of slate shingles at a yard sale. Afterwards, I visited a rock salvage yard and found a palette of mostly black slate shingles. Mixed in were some green which give me greater contrast.

I prefer slate with outward signs of wear, paint, tar, nail holes, fractures, chips and flaking tell of the slate’s former utilitarian life. The scars of its history rest on its surface while I cut through the patina revealing fresher layers of stone. The contrasting clean surface in sunken relief, echos a fossil freed from its Mesozoic entombment. My petrified images exist as an artifact of our domesticity. That artifact with its planar surface is transformed into a canvas. It challenges the pictorial paradigms of additive imaging. As I use a subtractive method, the image is defined by what is missing. Within that tension

I play with illusion, pun and irony while unveiling the layer between two and three dimensional art.

A  Flounder Triptych is a celebration of the small unit, or canvas, that a slate roof shingle provides.

I decided to depict a larger image of the flounder in three panels. I view them as syllables of a word, or words of a sentence, with the parts making a whole.

For the most part, slate is a neutral color with a matte finish. It can be polished but it looks strained when done so. Marble and granite are transformed to reflect and glow when polished, but it is slate’s subtlety of color, variation, and absorption of, rather than reflection of, light that gives it its power. When working with slate I love that it will hold sharp edges and clear clean lines.

Slate is kind of an invisible stone. It is found on patios, on roofs, in graveyards and old classrooms, yet no one really knows what to do with discarded remnants. So I started making slate art from old roof shingles. Slate flies below the radar and is not a traditional medium, which makes it exciting.

this picture show the tools and the methods with which Michael Updike creates his artwork


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