A NEW exhibition tells the story of how a wildlife artist turned an empty and isolated farmhouse into a buzzing haven for his wild subjects.

Robert Fuller, a Ryedale-based artist and Gazette & Herald columnist, is currently hosting the exhibition, Twenty Years at Fotherdale Farm, at his gallery in Thixendale.

The exhibition, which runs until December 2, contains new paintings, as well as a retrospective of artwork spanning back to 1998, when the artist and his wife Victoria first moved to the former farm buildings overlooking the Yorkshire Wolds.

At that time, he says the place was derelict and barren, and the house hadn’t been lived in for eight years.

“When my wife and I moved here the land had been levelled with a JCB digger and there were just two plants remaining, a red hot poker and a fuchsia,” he says.

“At the time we never really considered staying here very long. But no sooner had we moved in then we fell in love with Fotherdale.

“We loved its remote, wild location and spectacular views over the Wolds.

“Its isolation wasn’t ideal for an art gallery, but we poured our energy into making it work.”

Much of the initial work went into transforming the gardens - which are not open to public viewing - but which slowly began to attract an array of British wildlife.

The couple planted up the garden, creating flowerbeds, hedges and borders, but the key, he says, was introducing water.

“Victoria and I rolled up our sleeves and dug out ponds, linked by a stream. This was the most important thing we did,” he says.

The new water supply drew birds from all directions to bathe and drink.

From an initial population of a pair of sparrows, a handful of pied wagtails and a pair of wrens, the bird population and variety of species grew.

Now the site is host to more than 60 bird species.

They sowed a wildflower meadow, and on a slope near the house they planted a spinney of 1,200 trees. Now the tiny “forest” is home to owls, foxes, birds-of-prey and badgers.

“It brought in more wildlife and also helps to protect us from some of the worst of the winds,” he says.

While creating a habitat to attract the wildlife that Robert could paint, the couple also slowly expanded the gallery and business.

The gallery has been transformed from its early days in a hay loft accessed through the artist’s home, into an elegant, beamed space where his paintings of wildlife now hang.

The gallery now hosts up to 12,000 visitors a year and employs 12 staff. It also serves 7,000 customers via mail order and supplies 500 independent shops around the country.

As well as planting the site with a range of habitats and bird and insect-friendly plants, in 2014 a number of surveillance cameras were installed in the bird boxes and animal nests in order to show the furry and feathery residents up close.

Though this was originally done to inform Robert’s paintings, the livestreams showing the animals’ behaviour were a hit with visitors and now screens throughout the gallery show the best clips from 60 hidden cameras.

A weasel moved into the garden and Robert’s camera footage of it raising its kits inside its nest was the first of its kind.

The new exhibition includes paintings of the owls, badgers, foxes and birds that Robert has watched from his doorstep, all done in his distinctive, detailed, realistic style.

But there are also a number of his bronze statues of animals and photographs he’s taken. These photos are used as part of his method when composing and planning paintings, but they are also remarkable in their own right.

His studies of weasels through the seasons and squabbling sparrowhawks have both been recognised in the British Wildlife Photography of the Year Awards.

The winter art exhibition “20 Years at Fotherdale Farm” runs until

Sunday, December 2, at the Robert Fuller Gallery, Fotherdale Farm, Thixendale.

The gallery is open 9.30am until 4.30pm on weekdays and from 10.30am until 4.30pm on weekends.

Admission is free.

For more information and to read more about the gallery’s story, go to robertefuller.com