Source and activity 7

Portait used in 'Unlikely stories, mostly'

Two versions of a drawing of a girl's head
Portrait called 'The Problem'.
[NLS reference: Acc.10191/15]
View larger portait image

This image is called 'The Problem'. It was used as an illustration for a story of that name included in 'Unlikely Stories, Mostly', a book of short stories written by Alasdair Gray and published by Canongate Books in 1983.

The initial pencil sketch and the subsequent, more finished pen and ink drawing demonstrate the Gray's distinctive, stylised approach for book illustration and art, even for naturalistic subjects such as portraits.


Suggested activity

You might like to use this image as a starting point for considering the constraints and advantages of choosing different materials, tools, and techniques, such as pencil and pen and ink.

Compare the two very similar images, and consider what difference the choice of materials makes to the portraits.

For example, observe how the softer pencil shading is used to capture shadow and detail in the first picture, and how this is depicted using cross-hatching when the artist uses pen and ink.

You could try creating a series of portraits or self-portraits using different materials and techniques.


Themes in focus - Alasdair Gray

Find out more about Alasdair Gray in our collections

The Alasdair Gray Archive is listed under 'G' in our Guide to Manuscripts Collections.


Search our catalogue for books by or about Alasdair Gray.


Visit the Moving Image Archive site to find films inspired by, featuring, or about Alasdair Gray, including a clip of the film ‘Faces’ using masks made by Gray.

Alasdair Gray on the web

Visit Alasdair Gray’s own website for lots of information.


Find out more about the ‘Lanark’ manuscript held at Glasgow University Library.

Library learning for you

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