Drawing Basics: David Jon Kassan on "Manuelita" by Nicolai Fechin

Manuelita by Nicolai Fechin, charcoal drawingLadricon David Jon Kassan discusses Nicolai Fechin's Manuelita.

Manuelita by Nicolai Fechin, charcoal drawing
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 model's physiognomy. It was probably done while the artist was living in Taos, New Mexico, and the model, Manuelita, was probably a resident of the area. 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 model's expression.

The artist's 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 model's intensity; it's 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 model's 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 model's 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 model's face. It is well described and leads the viewer's eye down into the slight smile on the model's lips.

It appears that the artist came through at the end of the drawing with a sharp stick of charcoal to carefully define the model's features with a more cautious linear approach. This sharp, linear, descriptive outlining can be seen underneath the feature's 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 viewer's attention to the eyes by accentuating the white of the eyes and the dark of the iris.

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3 thoughts on “Drawing Basics: David Jon Kassan on "Manuelita" by Nicolai Fechin

  1. I’ve seen this drawing before and every time I see it, I’m in awe. So powerful are those eyes. Truly, a tremendously beautiful work of art by a master.

  2. Enjoyed your comments Jon. I’ve always been impressed with Fechin’s figure drawings. I love his paintings but his drawings have such beautiful quality to them as well… a brilliant combination of anatomy and movement.
    Justin

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