When Sir David Attenborough first saw paintings of birds of paradise by Australian artist William Cooper hanging on a wall in Sydney in 1979, he immediately asked to meet their creator.
He was told by Cooper's publisher that the artist "lived in the bush and won't talk to people", and the legendary naturalist left disappointed.
But the next time he was in the country, he succeeded in tracking Cooper down, and found the publisher had been mistaken.
He immediately commissioned work for his private collection, and thus began a lifelong friendship, founded largely on a shared love of birds and nature.
Cooper was even the subject of one of Sir David's documentaries in 1993, Portrait Painter to the Birds.
And now, the man Sir David has described as "the best ornithological illustrator alive" is the subject of a new biography, written by ANU professor Penny Olsen and published by the National Library of Australia.
Cooper, now almost 80 and living in Topaz in far North Queensland, was in Canberra on Thursday for the book's launch, and said it had been a strange experience to see his life laid out on the page.
While the book is lavishly illustrated with Cooper's vivid paintings of birds, plants and wildlife, it is also filled with stories of his travels and many projects.
Born in Newcastle in 1934, he worked as an apprentice to a taxidermist as a teenager, and later as a window-dresser and a landscape artist.
By the 1960s, he had become a full-time artist, travelling across the country and the world, throughout Asia and East Africa in pursuit of his subjects - mainly birds.
Along with his wife Wendy, a botanist, whom he met in 1976, he kept meticulous records of his journeys, illustrated several books, and has works in private collections throughout Australia and overseas.
Dr Olsen, a field biologist and ecological consultant, said when Cooper first approached her many years ago to ask her to write his biography, she turned him down.
"I'd written a lot of descriptive books about birds, like about how many eggs they lay, and a biography is very removed from that, so I said no, I thought he could do better.''
But when he asked her again a decade later, she agreed.
"I'm so glad I did it, it's a great gift. I hadn't realised how remarkable his story is and how rich it is," she said.
"He started in Newcastle in a shack that his father built with hessian walls, and he's one of the few wildlife artists who's made a living from it."
Cooper said despite the fact that he had long been urged to write a biography, it was surprising to see his trajectory written down.
"It's strange, because since it's come out, people have said "Oh, you've done so much", and I never think that I've done much at all, I just think we do our daily life," he said.
"But when you read it, you start thinking, if I was somebody else, I'd say he had a great time!"
An Eye for Nature: The life and art of William T. Cooper, by Penny Olsen, is published by the National Library of Australia.
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