Friday, December 6, 2013

Sparrowhawks: Love or Hate?

Love them or hate them, you have to admire sparrowhawks for their lightening speed and superior skill as hunters.
I've been studying one for a painting and I have mixed feelings about it when it takes birds from my garden. Read about my efforts to get it to comply as a painting model in the Yorkshire Post.

A prickly painting model

Remember the hedgehog I rescued last winter? I grew so fond of him I decided to put him to work as a model. 
This painting of him posing in a bed of autumn leaves was the centrepiece of my Christmas exhibition. I like my paintings to reflect the connections that I will have established between myself and the animal or bird portrayed - I certainly got to know this little chap very well - even after he had been released back into the wild I was painting his spines.
The average hedgehog has over 7,000 so it was a painstaking, though loving, process! Read about my the experience in the Ryedale Gazette & Herald this week and in the Yorkshire Post last month.

Thursday, November 28, 2013


This is one of several new paintings that left the gallery to be hung in their new homes this week. I shall miss them!

Friday, November 15, 2013

A bear for Pudsey

I'm auctioning this limited edition print today for BBC Children in Need.
If you want to win this print of a European brown bear place your bids by commenting below. The auction is also running on my Facebook page where at this moment in time it has already earned £150.
Keep the bids coming.....

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Win a free wildlife event!

I'm offering followers the chance to win a free ticket to one of the many nature walks and talks taking place next week. Choose from a stargazing evening under the clear skies of the  Yorkshire Wolds, photography workshops with a Wildlife Photographer of the Year award winner, walks to watch barn owls, red kite watches and more by clicking here to link to my event page on the website. The first to click on to each of my events gets a free ticket. You could win  driving safari around Yorkshire's spectacular coastline worth £55 a children's falconry event or event a ringside seat at a talk about how I get up close to wildlife painting subjects.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Summery touches

My paintbrushes have been flying as I get a new series finished for my winter exhibition which opens on November 9th.
I don't know whether it was the rain setting in over the Yorkshire Wolds last week but something made me rebellious so I've gone for dandelions and harebells in the backgrounds!!
Still a way to go before these paintings are finished but I'm liking the summer feel.....
Exhibition runs here at Fotherdale Farm, Thixendale, North Yorkshire YO17 9LS between Nov 9-24th. Join me for a mince pie and mulled wine and warm up with these sunny pictures as well as walks to find red kites at a roost, a stargazing evening, kids falconry and much much more!

Friday, October 11, 2013

Setting the Scene

Like all portrait artists, I like my subjects to pose within an artfully arranged backdrop but since my foci are so very shy it can be tricky to get them to walk onto the set, let alone posture. 
Most of the time I concentrate on getting a good photograph out in the field and then work on my composition back in the studio.
But over the years I have begun to use the birds and animals that visit my garden and the fields around Thixendale as subjects and to design the backdrop for my paintings around them.
This acrylic painting of a tawny owl chick, for instance, took many years in the making. 

Although he doesn't know it, the chick is posing on a prop I made and put up for him long before he was born.

He is standing at the edge of a wizened old hole in an elm stump that I salvaged many years ago and then took back to my workshop to adapt as a nest box.

I had to hoist it up into a tree and then wait patiently to see if an adult pair would move in.
When they eventually did, I then waited with baited breath for the chicks to be born. He was one of a large clutch and this is one of the many photographs I took of them as they began to explore the world about them.
It was many years before I finally sat down to apply the first brush strokes.
But if you think I'm dedicated to my art this week I read this article in The Guardian about two Victorian pioneers of wildlife photography who went to some quite bizarre and dangerous extremes to get up close to their wild subjects. 
 I will reveal more about how I get my wild subjects to pose at a new exhibition of my work which runs here at the gallery in Thixendale from November 9-24th. Please visit my website for more details.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Watching Osprey

Now is the time to see Ospreys in Yorkshire. They are on their way back from their breeding grounds in Scotland and are likely to stop near fish ponds before they begin their 3,600 mile journey back to West Africa. 

I spent a week this summer photographing them at a fishery in the Highlands. 

Rothiemurchus, near Aviemore, has a designated pool stocked especially for these beautiful birds of prey. Osprey are breeding again in Scotland after being wiped out partly due to the fact that they competed with anglers. So it is a sign of the times that a fishery is now welcoming them with open arms.
The site is so popular I had to book a year in advance. To read about how I got these shots click here to link to my latest column in the Yorkshire Post.

Elephant Watch 2014

Just wanted to share some of the pictures from the safari I led to Kenya last month. These are from Samburu's Elephant Watch Camp. 
This magical place is run by the world-famous elephant conservationist Iain Douglas Hamilton and his family.
The elephants here are carefully monitored and visiting them feels like being introduced to the Douglas-Hamilton's extended family.
Elephant Watch is an eco-friendly camp and the family were so welcoming to our group that I thoroughly recommend them to anyone who is likely to visit Kenya.
I now can't wait to get going on a new painting of an elephant.
To read more about our safari click on this link to my latest column in the Ryedale Gazette & Herald.

A TV Mug

 Anyone spot the real star on BBC Countryfile last week?

As presenter John Craven sat down to interview Badger Trust vice president Jack Reedy about the latest badger cull, there was a close up shot of his cup of coffee - served in one of my badger mugs!!!
To order one of your own please visit my website by clicking here.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Making a living out of the countryside

FARMING has undergone tremendous change over the years. As a farmer’s son, I can remember having family picnic lunches during harvest. Can't imagine the combine harvesters stopping now.

And whilst the bigger farms have become increasingly high tech, the smaller ones have diversified to such an extent that you can hardly recognise some of the products that comes out of the countryside these days.

Enterprising business men and women have branched out into everything from fresh cut flowers to tailor made holidays in order to continue to make a living in the countryside. It's heartening to see how all sorts of people have adapted to the changes in such positive ways. I dedicated last week's column in the Gazette&Herald to the subject.  
Tomorrow I have invited 20 food producers from the Yorkshire Wolds to show their wares at a farmers' market here in the gallery.
We've got a former Oxford don who now produces meat, a bio-chemist who has turned her hand at cheese-making and a former fashion designer who now produces rapeseed oil.
These modern farmers are making such a success out of making a living in the countryside their product is beginning to win awards.
Come along and stock up for all your summer picnics. We will be open from 10am-4.30pm.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Broody Pheasant Joins the Family

A pheasant hen decided to bring up her brood right on the doorstep last month.

I fed her on mealworms and before she ran to gobble them up she would shake all the chicks out from under her wings - all except this cheeky one.

He jumped out as soon as he realised what he was missing though.

She soon got used to living with us - even making sure she put our dog Tink in her place.
Before long, I was able to lift her wing and take out a chick to show my daughter, Lily. It was as though she were a broody hen rather than a wild pheasant!

Read more on the story by following this link to my latest column in the Yorkshire Post. 

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Barn Owls Bow Out

My summer exhibition is now over. The barn owls worked their magic and people flocked to see them. 

Now it's time for them to take a bow and say good bye as they get packed up ready for delivery to their new owners.
I shall miss them.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Looking for owls

My summer exhibition is in full swing and people seem to be really enjoying the new paintings of barn owls. 
Tomorrow night I will be giving a talk about the barn owls living here on the Yorkshire Wolds and my campaign to protect them here.I'll also be offering tips on how to spot them and the other owl species that inhabit the area. You need different tricks up your sleeve to spot each species.
Roadside verges and country lanes have become a haven for voles so watching barn owls can readily be done from the comfort of your car.Barn owls are one of the easiest owls to see as they hunt on the wing out in the open at dusk. They quarter rough grassland on the look out for small rodents – especially short-tailed field voles.
Barn owls nest in farm buildings, hollow trees and specially-designed owl nest boxes. But beware of getting too close and disturbing breeding barn owls as they are legally protected as a ‘Schedule I bird’ requiring a license to disturb them near their nest site.

A good tip if you want to spot them is to wait for a few days of poor weather and head out as soon as it clears up. The barn owls are desperate to be out hunting. The female especially needs to build herself up ready for egg laying and so you are very likely to see them in daylight at this time.
Little owls can readily been seen during the day too, but they are most active at dusk. They nest in small holes in trees or farm buildings and frequent areas of rough grassland with scattered trees.
They have small territories at this time of year and don’t stray too far from their nesting site.

They always perch low down in trees so that they can look out for a tasty beetle or worm, so set your sights on the bottom half of a tree rather than the top.
Their dumpy silhouette is unmistakable. They also like to sit tight up against a tree trunk with a good view of the ground yet their dappled feathers can make them surprisingly camouflaged against the bark.
White droppings streaked down the trunk are a dead giveaway of one of their favourite perches and look on the floor below, too, for small pellets. These are often ‘jewel’ encrusted with beetle wing cases.
Tawny owls are the most common and widespread owl, but they are also the most nocturnal and mainly live in woodland. They don’t venture out until it is almost dark when they can be seen on fence posts and telegraph poles.
Their hunting technique is simply to wait patiently for prey to pass by underneath before they swoop onto it, so you rarely see them out flying.
Their favourite food is wood mice but they will eat anything they can catch from worms to young rabbits and at this time of year will readily take young blackbirds.
It is for this reason that their daytime roosts are given away by a cacophony of bird alarm calls, as parents try to protect their young.
If you hear alarm calls consistently in the same place, try walking slowly towards the sound – it is almost always a predator and quite often a tawny owl or their young.
The adult birds often sit in the same place in the boughs of a tree throughout the day and only take cover in a hole if the weather takes a turn for the worse.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Saving hedgehogs to help the State of Nation

This month I released the young hedgehogs I found in the garden last winter.
 They didn't know quite what to make of the garden and spent some time sheltered by this log!
 I found two in the garden just before the snows set in and they were so young I decided to hand rear them until they could look after themselves. After asking followers on Facebook what to call them, we chose Milligan and Teasel.
By the end of the day a Facebook follower had brought me another one!
This one was so tiny I had to get special food from the pet shop! I had to weigh it every day to make sure it was putting on weight.
I'm pleased to say all three made it through the winter and are now roaming the garden.
After reading David Attenborough's report on the State of the Nation, I feel happy to have done something to try to help one of our most endangered species.

Beautiful Barn Owls Headline Summer Exhibition.

These paintings and limited edition prints of barn owls are among a 'barn owl extravaganza' to go show at my summer exhibition, which runs from June 1-16th.
There will also be falconry, a walk to find roosting owls in Thixendale and I'm giving a talk and slideshow on how to get up close to owls at 7.30pm on June 8th.
 I've decided to go 'owl-crazy' in celebration of the fact that the barn owl population on the Yorkshire Wolds has bounced back after it was nearly wiped out during the bitter winter of 2010.
Join me for a glass of wine whilst you browse through the paintings of owls that I have watched and photographed over many years. Some of them are portraits of old friends that I nursed through that dreadful winter.
Barn owls are one of my favourite birds of prey and I have worked for years to support the population on the Wolds, feeding them during extreme weather conditions and building nest boxes for them.
I also am a founding member of the Wolds Barn Owl Group, which works to conserve these beautiful birds of prey.
Barn owls are not particularly hardy birds and the recent run of freezing, snowy winters has hit northerly populations hard. In 2010, we lost 80pc of the owls living here to the cold. I personally cared for the remaining four owls and at last their offspring has repopulated the region.
Read more about their story in the York Press here.
To find out what else is going on during the exhibition and to book on one of our many wildlife walks, talks or kids events, click here to link to my website

Friday, May 3, 2013

Getting sheep dogs back to work

This smiley-faced dog is one of the chief instructors at a York-based training centre for abandoned and unwanted border collies who will be visiting the gallery next Sunday.

He reminds me of the sheep dogs that used to work on the farm where I grew up in Givendale. They were so intelligent!
Named Nap, this old dog is missing a few teeth but still maintains an enviable work ethic. He takes new canine recruits at Border Collie Rescue under his paw, so to speak. 

The charity's uses Nap to help them assess new arrivals at the home and then gets him to help them train the young pups up accordingly.
Border collies are well known for their intelligence. The breed dates back to the raids on the Scottish Borders. Raiders would use the dogs to shepherd plundered stock back to homesteads – getting the dogs to herd the stolen flock alone so that the men could avoid the risk of risk getting caught with stolen property.

Come and meet Nap and some of his recruits from Border Collie Rescue here at TheRobert Fuller Gallery Fotherdale Farm, Thixendale YO17 9LS on Sunday 12thMay.  The talk, Border Collie – A useful dog is at 7.30pm. Tickets cost £9.50, 50% of which goes to Border Collie Rescue.
Get Tickets 

Summer Exhibition will Showcase Barn Owl Paintings

I need to get this painting of a barn owl finished in time for my summer exhibition which opens on June 1st.
 I photographed it at each stage of the process.
First I blocked in the basic background colours and positioned my owl, scarping away any unwanted textures with a scalpel.
Then I outlined the shape of the owl.
Next I put down the basic colours for the owl and build up a little more of the background.It takes a long time to add the detail and get the textured, feathered effect I want. I always paint in the direction  that the feathers lie to get this right.

I will be showcasing my barn owl paintings at the exhibition, which is open here at the gallery in Thixendale, North Yorkshire, everyday from 11am to 4.30pm.
I decided to focus on barn owls this year in celebration of the fact that they are thriving again here on the Yorkshire Wolds.
You may remember we lost nearly 80pc of the local population during the particularly harsh winter of 2010, but the surviving pairs bred last year and the year before so that we are back on course now. There's nothing quite as beautiful as a barn owl gliding across the countryside in the evening!!!