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David Jon Kassan discusses Nicolai Fechins Manuelita.
by Nicolai Fechin, ca. 1930, charcoal drawing on off-white paper.
by David Jon Kassan
This drawing by Nicolai Fechin likely served as a study for a painting and is a great observation of the models physiognomy. Although the drawing is only a floating head, it packs a lot of expression into a small straightforward pencil sketch. This study is a great example of how a drawing can connect with the viewer and how a subtle pose shift can completely modify the models expression.
The artists choice of head position for this drawing is noteworthy. By lowering the chin of the model the eyes became larger and more expressive and really showed the models intensity; its as if she were observing the artist as intently as the artist was studying the model. The contrast between the dark hair and the fair face acts as a great frame for the models countenance. The basic structure of the drawing appears to have been created using a large gestural approach, as if the charcoal were held like a brush, particularly when the models dark hair was laid in. The build up of form in the face looks like it was done with a dry paintbrush or cloth that was used to move around the charcoal to achieve very subtle degrees of light values. Look at the masterful turn of the form in the zygomatic/cheek bone on the left side of the models face. It is well described and leads the viewers eye down into the slight smile on the models lips.
It appears that the artist came through at the end of the drawing with a sharp stick of charcoal to carefully define the models features with a more cautious linear approach. This sharp, linear, descriptive outlining can be seen underneath the features forms; they accent different areas on the face, such as the turn of the eyelids and the underplane of the nose where the wing of the nostril turns down. The artist also uses strong contrasts to pull the viewers attention to the eyes by accentuating the white of the eyes and the dark of the iris.