Water's forms influence Alaskan artist

Don Decker is not only fascinated by water, he is inspired by it. Over the summer, the University of Alaska Anchorage drawing instructor decided to use water as the substance and medium for his latest artistic creations.


“I do a lot of hiking around Alaska and I see water in all the different forms,” Decker said. “From snow, to glacier, to mist, to fog, to running water to still water.”

Alaska has shown Decker an array of different types of water.

“I’ve always been fascinated by that. Just the essence of water,” he said. “I tried to combine the two using water in the painting and then communicating something about the essence of water the way we see it here.” 

His collection, “Water”, is on display at the Gary L. Freeburg Gallery at Kenai Peninsula College until Oct. 14.

“The paintings have to do with the properties of water and how they interact with the canvas,” Decker said. “The theme is also about water and water in the world.”

His artistic style lent itself to use of water in his art for this particular show.

“Acrylics are basically water colors in a thicker from,” Decker said. “So what you’re doing is you’re pushing the properties of color and pigment using water as a thinner.

“I use a lot of thinners with (acrylics), thinners and resists — like a rubberized product that will resist the water color.”

Decker welcomed the chance to have his work displayed on the Kenai Peninsula.

“It’s a nice opportunity to show some work in the Kenai area,” he said. “It gives me a chance to reach other students and other people in that area.”

If Decker remembers right, this will be his 35th show of his work. Each one, he said, is unique.

“All of them have been different from each other,” he said. “I think they’re all good experiences for different reasons for me.”

Decker said with art, there is a never-ending drive to do better.

“If you think everything is a masterpiece then you’re never going to get better,” Decker said. “It’s always a bit out of reach — I think that’s the challenge of it.”

Despite his tenure as an artist, Decker said he does not dwell on the past.

“It’s a matter of living in the present,” he said. “I’m not always looking back.”

His present involves teaching art at UAA where he interacts with art students on a daily basis. He said the comments from his students help him develop his work.

“It’s a challenge to work on something in front of your students,” he said. “They’re not afraid to be critical, but the give-and-take is nice.”

Decker said he feels a sense of pride when his students complete a project, he’s been a teacher for 44 years, and teaching art is what he’s always wanted to do.

“Looking at their art, when they do really nice drawings, it’s very rewarding for them and for me.”

The opening for “Water” is Friday from 4:30-6 p.m. at the Gary L. Freeburg Gallery at KPC