Life changed when sculptor Di West heard Stephen Bishop's hit song On and On, a handful of words providing a wealth of inspiration.
"When I heard the line 'So he takes a ladder, steals the stars from the sky…' it set my creative imagination alight with a flame that hasn't stopped burning since. And that was decades ago," she says.
That has resulted in an outpouring of creativity that has earned Di multiple awards for her sculptures and paintings in her 30-year creative career.
"Most of my work is about this 'Star Man,' but sometimes he morphs into 'Every Man' and even 'Thinking Man.' I'm an incurable romantic, and am strongly influenced by lyrics, poetry and metaphor. In many of my works the title comes before the artwork, then the words become pictures in my mind."
Di and her Australian husband have recently returned to New Zealand, settling in Ōpua after years of travelling, and she is currently preparing for a solo show at Reyburn House in Whangārei.
"The series for this show is based around another quote line, but this time it's from a cab driver in India, who dropped me off at a restaurant and said he'd pick me up later. When I asked how we'd find each other among the hundreds of other cabs and donkeys he said, 'I look you. You look me' — and it worked," she says.
"I love the phrase, and I've named this series of 25 large portraits that. They are all animal portraits that I've used to convey passive expression." Di will be one of the guest artists at Labour Weekend's Kerikeri Open Art Studios Trail (KOAST).
"I watched this event develop in the three years we've lived here. We're too far from Kerikeri to be eligible, so I was thrilled to be invited as a guest. .
"My six works for KOAST will all be sculptures. I mix it up between sculptures and paintings, partly to give me a greater range of expression and partly because a lot of the sculptures are made in bronze at a foundry in Auckland. The process is expensive, so income from the paintings helps keep the finances flowing, plus I teach art to adults at the Ōpua Cruising Club."
Proximity to the sea was a big part of the family's decision to live in the Bay of Islands.
"I find being by the water feeds me creatively, so when my husband retired our priority was to buy something with a sea connection. We looked all over New Zealand, and eventually fell in love with a previous harbourmaster's house that we bought here, as well as the setting and the community."
Di says her work is constantly developing.
"I work in the studio every day, and I continue to grow and learn, so my art practice is always evolving. I'm also pro-active in sending proposals to potential venues for upcoming shows.
"We can learn how to make art and we can learn techniques, but it's really only desire that sustains a career."
Di's work is held in major art galleries in New Zealand and Australia, and in many corporate and private collections. Her Reyburn House solo exhibition opens on September 30, while KOAST will run over October 26-28. Go to koast.org.nz/ or diwest.com/