AN ARTIST who taught himself to draw became renowned for his pictures of birds.

Martin Woodcock travelled around Asia and Africa to observe and paint some of the world’s rarest breeds.

In an impressive career, he completed more than 5,000 illustrations of more than 2,000 species.

And his work graced the eight-volume Birds Of Africa series.

He was born in Sidcup, Kent, on January 14, 1935, and was educated in Sussex at Ashdown House Prep School, Forest Row, and Christ’s Hospital, Horsham.

His father, Percy, who died when Martin was six months old, was a stockbroker. His mother, Norah worked as a secretary at the BBC.

As a child Martin loved exploring Ashdown Forest on his bike.

He taught himself to draw and his art was influenced by early 20th century painters Archibald Thorburn and George Edward Lodge.

Even though the Battle of Britain was happening, he continued to venture out to draw pictures of birds he had seen in the forest.

He was encouraged by his history teacher to pursue his interest in birds after watching a flock of goldfinches when he was eight.

However, Martin’s aspiration of becoming a professional bird illustrator was shot down as there were few opportunities in those days. He joined the Royal Artillery from 1954 to 1956 and then, like his father, he became a stockbroker for the next 18 years.

In 1961, he married Heidi Schon and they had three children, Marcus, Nicola and Kirsten.

They divorced in 1971 and in 1977 Martin married Barbara Skailes.

His artistic dreams were rekindled when he was asked to illustrate the Field Guide To the Birds of Southeast Asia (1975).

He resigned from his job to do it, a great risk considering the economic uncertainties during the Seventies.

Martin received other commissions but it was The Birds Of Africa (1982 to 2013) that really boosted his career. His first visit to Africa was in 1961 and he sketched his first bird, a kingfisher. He spent most of the Eighties and the Nineties travelling around Asia and Africa and drew the world’s most elusive birds.

In 1994, he became the chairman of the African Bird Club and under his management he turned the organisation into one of the world’s leading conservation societies.

In 2000 he moved to Norfolk where he continued to produce bird illustrations.

Martin was diagnosed with cancer last year and died on February 24.