Wildlife artist Robert Fuller heads out into the snowy Wolds where he finds inspiration for the centrepiece of his latest exhibition

MY Christmas exhibition opens on Saturday and one of the centrepieces is a painting of a pheasant striding across deep snow.

It has taken several weeks to complete, but it was last winter that I came up with the composition while I was taking my daughter to school.

When the roads are really bad it is my responsibility to do the driving, a nine-mile trip across single track roads.

But it’s hardly a chore. The route takes me along some of the best scenery and wildlife the Yorkshire Wolds has to offer.

And when it snows I love to see how the landscape has transformed and how the wildlife copes with the white out. It is great inspiration for my paintings and customers say how much they love a snowy scene.

One day last winter I saw hundreds and hundreds of small birds swirling over a particular stretch of hawthorn hedge.

At first glance they looked just like “little brown jobs” until I stopped to take a closer look through my binoculars.

It was like looking through a kaleidoscope as hundreds of brightly coloured birds burst into definition.

In the flock were goldfinches, corn buntings, linnets, bramblings, yellow hammers and even a few dozen reed buntings. They were all feeding on a conservation strip at the edge of a field that had been planted with triticale wheat, linseed and sunflower.

I went home to fetch my camera and despite a biting wind and temperatures of -4°C I got ready for a day in the snow photographing this spectacle.

I had recently purchased a white ski suit especially for days like this, so I donned the rather cumbersome outfit and then wrapped my camera and tripod in white rubble bags and wound an old white dust sheet around my chair to complete the camouflage.

I sat down on the edge of the cover strip to wait. Within minutes I was surrounded by swirling clouds of finches and buntings. The noise was incredible as all the birds called to one another.

But this strip of food didn’t just attract small birds. Rooks and crows also arrived, completely unfazed by my presence.

At one time I had more than a dozen red-legged partridges strutting around me, some within five feet.

I was beginning to think I was invisible to the wildlife in my white suit until I sat back in my chair and the air exploded with whirling wings as the partridges took flight, setting off a chain reaction of birds flying across the field.

The low sun made it perfect for some great shots before they landed again.

All these birds were desperately trying to get their fill of food and things soon returned to normal.

It had been a great day, but it was about to get better.

A cock pheasant strutted outfrom the hedge behind me across the deep snow. As it came closer I was struggling to keep it in the frame. A draft of wind tilted up its tail feathers. He stretched out his leg and looked at me in a rather curious manner. The scene was set – I’d just seen the perfect composition for my next painting.

This painting among others can be seen at a new exhibition of my work called Setting the Scene at my gallery in Thixendale, from Saturday to November 24. Entry to the exhibition is free and is open daily from 11am to 4.30pm.

Alongside a display of my wildlife paintings and limited edition prints, there will be nature walks, a stargazing evening, photography workshops and children’s falconry courses to enjoy.

For information go to my website www.robertefuller.com