Responding to Landscape

New work by Devita Stipek Writer catches her impressions of Southeast

Posted: Thursday, August 23, 2001

When Juneau artist Devita Stipek Writer paints the rush of water in Gold Creek or a storm breaking on Horse Island, she doesn't try to reproduce the scene.

"Something will catch my eye and I'll respond to it," she said. "It's usually the light, the contrast - that's why evenings are my favorite times. I'm looking at shapes and color."

Portfolio Arts is hosting an exhibit of new work by Stipek Writer, with an opening reception from 5 to 7 p.m. Friday at the gallery at 493 South Franklin Street. The show will feature about 15 recent paintings, landscapes done in oils. Most are about 12 by 18 inches in size and have price tags ranging from $350 to $600.

Patrice Shook, the manager of Portfolio Arts, admires Stipek Writer's use of color and the balance she strikes between realism and abstraction.

"She sees colors that I don't see," she said. "She's very loose. She's not extremely realistic. It's almost Fauvist," she said, referring to the post-Impressionist movement in painting typified by the work of Matisse and characterized by vivid colors and free treatment of form.


Stipek Writer said the degree of abstraction in her painting is part of what makes it original and uniquely her own style.

"My work is representational, but not super realistic or photo realistic," she said.

Stipek Writer has a studio in downtown Juneau, but she said her painting is done "plein air," in the open air on location. Her show will feature artwork made at Eagle Beach, streamside near Gold Creek, in the roadside meadow viewing the Mendenhall Glacier and in other familiar Juneau areas.

"I like the evening when the light is more dramatic and the colors more intense, especially if there's a sunset and there's more color," she said.

Stipek Writer has lived and painted in Alaska for 35 years. She studied art at Cornish Art School (now Cornish College of the Arts) in her hometown of Seattle, and moved to Alaska in the mid-1960s when she was 21. She and her husband, a commercial fisherman, lived in Kodiak, Elfin Cove and Juneau, and she divided her time among painting, raising a family and working in the fishing industry. She said that in 1992, when her second child left for college, she began devoting herself full-time to art.


In art school and into the early 1990s she said she favored people as her subjects. That changed in 1992 when she ran into a scarcity of models. She and her husband moved full-time to their cabin on Horse Island, 10 miles west of Auke Bay.

"I had no one to paint but my husband or myself, and he'd fall asleep after 10 minutes. So in the paintings he looked like a corpse," she said, laughing. "So I painted what I saw around me."

Over the past 10 years, she said her landscape painting has become looser and more abstract. It's a direction that's been well-received and she's sold 14 paintings already this summer.

Stipek Writer was recently commissioned to create a series of mural-size paintings of Juneau area scenes. Completing the large paintings will demand most of her attention for the next year, she said.

Stipek Writer's exhibit will be on display at Portfolio Arts through Sept. 7.

Riley Woodford can be reached at

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