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WILLIAM T. COOPER AO,

1934 – 2015

THOSE who knew him, and knew his work, believe William T. Cooper should have been a household name.

The internationally acclaimed ornithological artist, who was born and bred in Newcastle, died on May 10 at his home in Queensland’s Atherton Tablelands.

He was 81.

Legendary British wildlife filmmaker Sir David Attenborough described Cooper, or ‘‘Bill’’ as he was known, as being one of the world’s best bird artists.

The self-taught artist was the subject of Attenborough’s 1993 TV documentary Portrait Painter to the Birds, and the two men became good friends.

Attenborough viewed Cooper as ‘‘Australia’s greatest living scientific painter of birds,’’ adding, ‘‘he is possibly the best in the world’’.

Cooper was born in Newcastle on April 6, 1934. He spent his early years running around the bush at Adamstown, and developed a keen interest in the environment, particularly birds and snakes. He attended Newcastle Boys’ High, and worked as a teen taxidermist at the now defunct Carey Bay Zoo.

Although fascinated by the work of 19th century bird illustrator John Gould, Cooper began painting commercial landscapes and seascapes from 1964.

‘‘I always wanted to paint like Gould but there was no market, no niche, for bird painters in those days,’’ Cooper once said.

His mother, Coral, had also been an artist. Coincidentally, her maiden name was ‘‘Bird’’.

Cooper worked as a window dresser and as a salesman at a Newcastle clothing store, and painted life-sized murals at local hotels including the old Westminster and the Great Northern.

 

In his 2014 biography, An Eye for Nature, The Life & Art of William T.Cooper, author Penny Olsen writes that fellow Newcastle artist, Sir William Dobell, befriended the young, aspiring artist.

 

Dobell advised Cooper not to go to art school, but to instead develop his own style.

During his time in the Hunter, Cooper lived in New Lambton, Redhead, Belmont and Bungwahl, as well as in an Adamstown shack near the Fernleigh Track where his family squatted for a short time.

Those who knew Cooper’s work, adored it.

His meticulous attention to detail set him apart.

He had a reputation for accuracy, as well as a personal mantra that each new work must be better than his last.

Cooper’s last visit to the Hunter was in October 2013, when he held a sold-out exhibition at Morpeth Gallery.

The gallery sold his 29 paintings in 11 minutes.

‘‘It was $237,000-worth,’’ Morpeth Gallery’s Trevor Richards said.

‘‘If they’d been twice the price, or twice as many paintings, we still would have sold them in the same time.

‘‘People flew in from all around Australia.

‘‘There was one couple who drove for four hours to get to Alice Springs, where they caught a flight to Sydney, then hired a vehicle to drive up to Morpeth just to get to the exhibition and buy one painting.

‘‘People came from Melbourne and Cairns and Canberra. They came from everywhere, and there were a lot of people who said to me after the exhibition that they were walking away with a cheque still in their pocket because they were too slow.’’

Cooper was the subject of a documentary, called Birdman: The Art Of William T.Cooper, by film-maker Sarah Scragg.

In the years leading up to the 2013 Morpeth Gallery exhibition, Scragg filmed Cooper painting the pieces for it.

The documentary culminated with the exhibition at the gallery.

‘‘He has only done three exhibitions in his lifetime,’’ Mr Richards said.

‘‘Two of those were at Morpeth Gallery. One in 2003, then 10 years later in 2013.

‘‘He travelled around galleries, unbeknownst to anyone, and picked our gallery out as the one he wanted to exhibit in.

‘‘Both of the exhibitions here were sell-outs. The first one did take an hour  and 10 minutes though,’’ Mr Richards joked.

 

‘‘He was a very humble man, and he was meticulous.

‘‘If there were 27 wing feathers in a bird, that’s how many were in the painting, and each feather was the correct feather in the right place.’’

Cooper illustrated many books, including A Portfolio of Australian Birds, Parrots of the World, and Birds of Paradise and Bowerbirds.

His last book was Pigeons and Doves in Australia, written by long term collaborator Joseph Forshaw.

Cooper and his wife Wendy also released Fruits of the Australian Tropical Rainforest and Australian Tropical Fruits: A Field Guide.

Cooper was the first and only Australian to ever receive a gold medal from Philadelphia’s Academy of Natural Sciences in the US in 1992.

In 1994 he was awarded an Order of Australia for his contribution to art and history.

Then in December 2014, Cooper and wife Wendy were awarded honorary doctorates in Science by the Australian National University.

The Australian National Library and the Papua New Guinea government own entire collections of Cooper’s work.

He also designed two sets of postage stamps for the PNG government.

Family friend Leesa Warren said Bill’s passing was a huge loss.

‘‘His beautiful artworks will live on for future generations to admire,’’ she said.

 

 

 

William T Cooper with a print of a 2010 painting he did of two Gang Gangs in March 2014. Picture: Graham Tidy.

William T Cooper with a print of a 2010 painting he did of two Gang Gangs in March 2014. Picture: Graham Tidy.

Bird artist William T. Cooper dies aged 81

William T. Cooper: Artist of avian splendour

WILLIAM T. COOPER AO,

1934 – 2015

THOSE who knew him, and knew his work, believe William T. Cooper should have been a household name.

The internationally acclaimed ornithological artist, who was born and bred in Newcastle, died on May 10 at his home in Queensland’s Atherton Tablelands.

He was 81.

Legendary British wildlife filmmaker Sir David Attenborough described Cooper, or ‘‘Bill’’ as he was known, as being one of the world’s best bird artists.

The self-taught artist was the subject of Attenborough’s 1993 TV documentary Portrait Painter to the Birds, and the two men became good friends.

Attenborough viewed Cooper as ‘‘Australia’s greatest living scientific painter of birds,’’ adding, ‘‘he is possibly the best in the world’’.

Cooper was born in Newcastle on April 6, 1934.

He spent his early years running around the bush at Adamstown, and developed a keen interest in the environment, particularly birds and snakes.

He attended Newcastle Boys’ High, and worked as a teen taxidermist at the now defunct Carey Bay Zoo.

Although fascinated by the work of 19th century bird illustrator John Gould, Cooper began painting commercial landscapes and seascapes from 1964.

‘‘I always wanted to paint like Gould but there was no market, no niche, for bird painters in those days,’’ Cooper once said.

His mother, Coral, had also been an artist.

Coincidentally, her maiden name was ‘‘Bird’’.

Cooper worked as a window dresser and as a salesman at a Newcastle clothing store, and painted life-sized murals at local hotels including the old Westminster and the Great Northern.

In his 2014 biography, An Eye for Nature, The Life & Art of William T.Cooper, author Penny Olsen writes that fellow Newcastle artist, Sir William Dobell, befriended the young, aspiring artist.

William T Cooper: Princess Stephanie's  Bird of Paradise.

William T Cooper: Princess Stephanie’s Bird of Paradise.

Dobell advised Cooper not to go to art school, but to instead develop his own style.

During his time in the Hunter, Cooper lived in New Lambton, Redhead, Belmont and Bungwahl, as well as in an Adamstown shack near the Fernleigh Track where his family squatted for a short time.

Those who knew Cooper’s work, adored it.

His meticulous attention to detail set him apart.

He had a reputation for accuracy, as well as a personal mantra that each new work must be better than his last.

Cooper’s last visit to the Hunter was in October 2013, when he held a sold-out exhibition at Morpeth Gallery.

The gallery sold his 29 paintings in 11 minutes.

‘‘It was $237,000-worth,’’ Morpeth Gallery’s Trevor Richards said.

‘‘If they’d been twice the price, or twice as many paintings, we still would have sold them in the same time.

‘‘People flew in from all around Australia.

‘‘There was one couple who drove for four hours to get to Alice Springs, where they caught a flight to Sydney, then hired a vehicle to drive up to Morpeth just to get to the exhibition and buy one painting.

‘‘People came from Melbourne and Cairns and Canberra. They came from everywhere, and there were a lot of people who said to me after the exhibition that they were walking away with a cheque still in their pocket because they were too slow.’’

Cooper was the subject of a documentary, called Birdman: The Art Of William T.Cooper, by film-maker Sarah Scragg.

In the years leading up to the 2013 Morpeth Gallery exhibition, Scragg filmed Cooper painting the pieces for it.

The documentary culminated with the exhibition at the gallery.

‘‘He has only done three exhibitions in his lifetime,’’ Mr Richards said.

‘‘Two of those were at Morpeth Gallery. One in 2003, then 10 years later in 2013.

‘‘He travelled around galleries, unbeknownst to anyone, and picked our gallery out as the one he wanted to exhibit in.

‘‘Both of the exhibitions here were sell-outs. The first one did take an hour  and 10 minutes though,’’ Mr Richards joked.

William T Cooper. Red-Tailed Black-Cockatoos, 2009

William T Cooper. Red-Tailed Black-Cockatoos, 2009

‘‘He was a very humble man, and he was meticulous.

‘‘If there were 27 wing feathers in a bird, that’s how many were in the painting, and each feather was the correct feather in the right place.’’

Cooper illustrated many books, including A Portfolio of Australian Birds, Parrots of the World, and Birds of Paradise and Bowerbirds.

His last book was Pigeons and Doves in Australia, written by long term collaborator Joseph Forshaw.

Cooper and his wife Wendy also released Fruits of the Australian Tropical Rainforest and Australian Tropical Fruits: A Field Guide.

Cooper was the first and only Australian to ever receive a gold medal from Philadelphia’s Academy of Natural Sciences in the US in 1992.

In 1994 he was awarded an Order of Australia for his contribution to art and history.

Then in December 2014, Cooper and wife Wendy were awarded honorary doctorates in Science by the Australian National University.

The Australian National Library and the Papua New Guinea government own entire collections of Cooper’s work.

He also designed two sets of postage stamps for the PNG government.

Family friend Leesa Warren said Bill’s passing was a huge loss.

‘‘His beautiful artworks will live on for future generations to admire,’’ she said.

Aussie Bells a

 

Thursday 4th – Monday 8th June, 2015. (June Long Weekend.)

10am – 5pm daily.

Free Entry.

Morpeth Gallery, 5 Green Street, Morpeth NSW 2321

 

In Australia we take our wildlife for granted. That is unless one of two things happen. You travel overseas or someone from overseas visits you! Throughout the UK & Europe, out the bus window, you’ll admire rolling pastures, lush crops, chocolate box houses and pretty postcard villages. But after a few days, something’s missing. You wonder out aloud where all the wildlife is? The local guide turns and says, ‘We’ve eaten it all.’ Ah well, that explains it!

 

When you return home, wildlife greets you. The cicada’s on the trip up the freeway, the kookaburra laugh in the morning, the magpie warble during the day, and the possum running across the roof at night. They remind you (amongst other things), of why you call Australia home.

 

Then the international visitor arrives. The one of many that springs to mind is Scari from Japan. Not his real name – no one could pronounce it – so we gave him an Aussie nickname for the duration of his stay!

 

At first we were concerned Scari was homesick, as he spent an awful lot of time at night out on the verandah, staring up at the sky. Polite enquiry and much gesturing later, and finally we understood – they don’t see the stars in Japan – ever – too much pollution. Scari loved those stars and he loved our wildlife.

 

We took him to Taronga & Dubbo Zoos, roo spotting in the country, to Oakvale Farm, Blackbutt Sancturay, and the Hunter Valley Zoo. The hands on experiences: feeding the koalas, emu, kangaroos, echidnas, the antics of the cockatoos, were his favourites. The open space, gumtrees, bees, the vibrant colours of our native flowers. Best of all he loved feeding Mrs Possum an apple each night from her platform next to the shed at home.

 

World Wildlife Week coincides with the June Long Weekend, and Morpeth Gallery’s annual ‘Feathers and Fur’ Art Exhibition is a positive affirmation of our land of nature’s gifts, beauty rich and rare, with 97 original wildlife artworks on display.

 

Admire Australian wildlife legend William T Cooper AO’s, Australian Wood Ducks, priced to sell at $55,000 and Brisbane artist Stephen Jesic’s koala portrait, that recently won the USA based International Art Magazine 2014 Overall Champion Painting Award. He beat 23,000 entries & 53 artist finalists from around the world for the honour! His next tilt at the prize will be with a portrait of a tiger. Buy it now for $26,000.

 

It takes a lot of skill to take one of the world’s best wildlife photographs. You need to have extensive knowledge of camera equipment, patience and the ability to trek to where your chosen species lives. Or be in the right place at the right time! Imagine then creating that same image from a blank canvas in front of you, with just a paintbrush and palette of paints by your side.

 

The ten artists exhibiting at the Morpeth Gallery 2015 World Wildlife Exhibition have that expertise and ability. All Australian & Internationally acclaimed specialists in their fields – oil, watercolour, acrylic & metalpoint, you can meet some of them and watch them paint at their easels.

 

So talented is Hunter Valley based Natalie Jane Parker, she has had a contract with giftware giant Ashdene Australia for more than a decade. Over the years Natalie has produced more than 60 wildlife images that Ashdene has reproduced onto mugs, coasters, placemats, tea towels, trays, napkins & tea bag holders. This giftware is then retailed in Australian zoos, museums & giftware stores nationally, and purchased by overseas visitors and Australian wildlife lovers alike. Natalie is also a children’s book author, illustrating & writing stories themed around the adventures of Aussie wildlife.

 

The undisputed king of wildlife publishing is Sydney author/illustrator Garry Fleming, who has 160+ titles published in over 53 languages and distributed worldwide. Some 4 million books and counting. Some of his published book images and other wildlife works will be on display at the exhibition.

 

Other artists exhibiting are Watercolour botanical artist Heidi Willis, Acrylic wildlife specialist James Hough, Australia’s only Living Master, Metalpoint artist Gordon Hanley & Still Life/Portrait Archibald finalist Ann Morton.

 

Natalie Jane Parker, James Hough and Stephen Jesic, will be available in the lead up to the world wildlife week exhibition, should you wish to interview them.

lg_Book - Doug Bug

Saturday 6th & Sunday 7th June, 2015.  11am – 3pm.

Free Entry.

Morpeth Gallery, 5 Green Street, Morpeth NSW 2321

Your kids will love meeting A Bug Called Doug this World Wildlife Environment Week – he’s a super bug – a giant of the insect world – he’s a native Australian Giant Burrowing Cockroach!  Doug is visiting the Hunter with his mate, the all singing, all dancing children’s book author Chris Collin.
Brisbane based Chris will narrate the story of A Bug Called Doug and his friend the Funky Chicken, in entertaining sessions set to music.
Geared towards kindergarten to mid primary school aged children, Chris’ books come with a groovy CD.  Purchase a book on the day and have it signed by Chris after his performances.  They are both ripping yarns.  Soft Cover books are $20 each. Hardcover books $25.
Meet the ‘Funky Chicken – A Bushy Tale of Crocs & Chooks.’
It’s a fictional story of rhyming verse, set in the Australian bush.  It tells how, according to legend, the animals gathered many years ago to vote on which creature is Australia’s most unique.  It turns out the winner is not one of the more iconic Australian animals, but a Funky Chicken!  The book contains a CD, which has an audio visual slideshow of the narrated story, by author Chris Collin.  It’s backed by orchestral music, where every animal has its own unique instrument sound.
It’s in the Premiers Challenge Reading Book List, Queensland, NSW & Victoria and was shortlisted for the 2014 Speech Pathology Australian Book of the Year Awards.  If you’re a teacher, or an interactive parent, use this book along with the teacher resource activity sheets and craft activity sheets that you can download for free from the funkybooks website.  The find a word is particularly fun!
A Bug Called Doug – is the second children’s book by Chris Collin.  It’s a story inspired by the Queensland & NSW native bug, known as the Giant Burrowing Cockroach!  It tells the story of two eight year old boys who panic after discovering a monster under the bed.  Pandemonium erupts when mum gets in on the act, only to discover the monster is actually an Australian native bug.  (Doug is lucky he doesn’t get squished!)
This book is targeted at the lower to mid primary age group and includes a bug fact sheet at the back of the book.  (Did you know that Doug is the world’s heaviest cockroach, weighing up to 30 grams and reaching 75mm in length?)  It also comes with an audio visual CD of the narrated story to orchestral music, plus a bonus song.
Check out the real burrowing cockroaches while you are there, to fully appreciate their size.  Not all wildlife is soft and cuddly, but we think you’ll fall in love with Doug the Bug, just the same!
Performances, narration and book signing of Funky Chicken and A Bug Called Doug will occur between 11am and 3pm on Saturday and Sunday of the June Long Weekend at Morpeth Gallery.  It’s Free Entry.
Chris will arrive on Friday 5th June to set up for the performances.  He’s quite the character & full of enthusiasm for interviews, should you wish to chat to him.
For more information contact: Trevor Richards. Morpeth Gallery.
Ph: 0428 331 407  Email: info@morpethgallery.com W:www.campbellsstoremorpeth.com

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