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Inverness artist’s portraits reveal politicians Nicola Sturgeon, Boris Johnson and Donald Trump in old light

David Fallow's portraits of Boris Johnson and Nicola Sturgeon. Picture by Jason Hedges
David Fallow's portraits of Boris Johnson and Nicola Sturgeon. Picture by Jason Hedges

Ideas, words and images pour 24/7 through the mind, and hands, of Inverness artist David Fallow.

He’s a sought-after portrait artist; a ceramicist and glass-blower; a Shakespeare scholar and theatre producer; a lawyer, a financial wizard and a former naval officer.

His unassuming studio is in Inverness Creative Academy at Midmills.

David Fallow working on his ‘Monarch of the Glen’ in his studio at the Inverness Creative Academy in Midmills. Picture by Jason Hedges

To the right as you enter, is a huge oil portrait of well-kent Inverness butcher Duncan Fraser looking very US presidential, flanked by sides of meat “instead of American flags”, David explains.

To the left, paintings of historic battleships, one of his obsessions, and all sorts of dogs in historic costume.

David Fallow creates eye-catching portraits

On the back wall, an eye-catching row of modern-day familiar faces, but here’s the kicker — they’re all in historic dress, painted by Fallow in the style of the Old Masters.

Never one to settle for convention, he likes to challenge and switch things around, often painting his subjects looking the opposite way from their Old Master originals.

The array of modern politicians in historic dress on the back wall of David Fallow’s Inverness studio. Picture by Jason Hedges

They’re whacky and fun but, at the same time, David is making a number of points about the politicians he likes to put in fancy costumes.

Nicola Sturgeon as Mary Queen of Scots; Donald Trump in the style of the Spanish royal painters; President Joe Biden sitting in Lincoln’s chair – and yet not quite filling it.

Alex Salmond as a colonial governor, and Putin as a Russian boyar (aristocrat) with a ‘face filled with evil’.

Here’s Keir Starmer, painted in the style of Francisco de Goya’s Duke of Wellington.

A portrait of Keir Starmer by David Fallow in the style of Goya’s Duke of Wellington. Picture by Jason Hedges

David said: “My tutors suggested I learn by copying Old Masters, not a new idea by any means, but I got totally hooked trying to understand and copy the style of other artists.

Making a point about politicians in portraits

“I’ve gone through each of the politicians trying to understand their style.

“So for example, Keir Starmer is the Duke of Wellington because he’s got this terribly ram-roddy way of looking and talking.”

He’s done three of the ex-man of the moment, Boris Johnson, with varying degrees of symbolism.

“This one is another stab at Goya, and what he’s surrounded by are sheep.

David’s Boris Johnson in the style of Goya, surrounded by sheep. Picture by Jason Hedges

“This one is after Thomas Lawrence’s painting of the future George IV when he was Prince Regent.

“If you look at the British public school system, these paintings epitomise it, the swaggering arrogance.”

A portrait of Boris Johnson by David Fallow, after Lawrence’s Prince Regent. Picture by Jason Hedges/Shutterstock

“This sketch is the most recent I’ve done of Boris.

“He’s the god Bacchus, in his cups, the whole Partygate thing that took him down.

“The god of wine surrounded by putti gazing adoringly up at him. For them I drew from a whole swathe of Renaissance painters, sort of half copying them.

This portrait by David Fallow features Boris Johnson as the god Bacchus, surrounded by adoring putti. Picture by Jason Hedges.

“The paintings are really all sketches, if I was going to take any of them further I would make them much bigger.”

Career twists and turns

David’s artistic talent was noticeable from a young age during his childhood in Glasgow, but “at my school 22 out of 23 in my class went on to study law or medicine. I studied law at Aberdeen”.

He was sponsored by the Royal Navy, having been awarded a scholarship to the Royal Naval College in Dartmouth.

But after three years David realised the Navy wasn’t for him, so he went into banking.

David in his early days in the Royal Navy.

He deployed his natural exuberance and upbeat cheekiness to blag his way into sales in the Midland Montague Bank in London, and from there began a career which took him around the world.

He’d met his wife Ann at law school.

Their life took a nomadic turn.

Their daughter Catriona was born in Japan, was a pre-schooler in Pittsburg, went to primary school in Portland, was a middle-schooler in De Moine and went to senior school in Australia.

There was also a stint in Hong Kong.

David rose through the ranks to handle multi-billion dollar investment budgets, and made enough money to retire at 45.

David, Ann and Catriona in Pittsburgh.

He was desperate to leave the all-consuming banking sector behind in order not to miss a minute more of 12-year-old Catriona’s youth.

At that point the family’s life changed radically.

David said: “We sat down and decided we wanted to do something together.

“We were all interested in art and theatre.”

David and Ann were both interested in Shakespeare as actors, directors and stage managers.

Shakespearean productions

The couple had put on a number of productions in their village of Blackawton in Devon, and Summer Shakespeare on the castle battlements at Dartmouth.

Meanwhile Catriona auditioned for the National Youth Theatre and got in, aged 14.

She went on to do her BA, Masters and PhD in Queen Mary College London In English, Drama and Theatre Performance.

David went back to university in Exeter for a BA in Theatre and Fine Art, an MA in Staging Shakespeare and PhD in drama.

He’s contributed to scholarly works on Shakespeare and is currently specialising in researching the wealth of Shakespeare and his father John.

He also found time to do a diploma in Ceramics with Glass at Plymouth College of Art and Design.

Moving to Inverness

Eight years ago, the Fallows made the move to Ann’s home town of Inverness to look after her elderly relatives.

David continues to paint, write and do his Shakespearean research.

When he runs out of humans, he has fun painting dogs.

David’s paintings of dogs in the style of historic artists. Picture by Jason Hedges

Coming full circle, David’s studio is in the former Inverness Royal Academy, where Ann went to school.

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