What is Drawing Force?
Several years ago, Michael Mattesi–an animation and videogame industry veteran–published a book called Force: Dynamic Life Drawing for Animators. It was the first in what ended up becoming a series that now includes books on character design, animal drawing, and human anatomy.
The Force books aren’t the typical anatomy/figure drawing instruction books. They’re not for beginners; a reader will get more out of these books if they already have a understanding of the basic structure and artistic anatomy of the figure. So maybe check out Michael Hampton, Gottfried Bammes or Andrew Loomis‘s books first. The Proko video courses are another good option. These will provide you a better foundation for drawing the figure.
The Force series focuses on a form of gestural drawing that is similar to what was laid out in James McMullen’s mostly forgotten book High Focus Drawing. McMullen taught at the School of Visual Arts in New York, the same school Michael Mattesi attended, and he gets a mention in chapter one. While Mattesi’s approach to the figure is similar to his teacher’s, he’s added a significant amount of new material and adapted it to the animation field. That being said, artists of any discipline can benefit from reading Force.
Drawingforce.com offers video supplements for the books as well as a member forum to share work with other students. There are two different membership plans, basic and premium. With the basic membership you will receive access to all the video lessons and portfolio project exercises. The premium membership contains everything in basic, plus video critiques of your work. Each plan is offered in monthly or annual payment plans, with the annual plans giving you two months free for paying the full amount up front. The basic plan is $20 a month and the premium plan is $40 (or $200 and $400 for the year).
If you’re very serious about the program there’s also one-on-one mentorship options which come in one, ten, and thirty session packages. Mentorships allow you to progress more quickly because your current skill level can be assessed and a plan of action can made that fits your abilities and goals.
At the core of Force drawing is being able to see the “energy” in the body. Mattesi defines Force as “energy with purpose.” It’s one of those vague, abstract art terms that’s difficult to put into words and can only be learned through practice. It’s something you have to figure out by studying the examples given and doing the exercises. From what I’ve been able to gather, it comes down to being able to perceive how the the forces of the body react to external forces that are acting upon it (mainly gravity), and what those reactions reveal about the model. The drawing process is a dialogue between the subject and the observer, and through this dialogue what the pose is “about” is revealed. I think that’s why this method of drawing is so relevant to animators; it’s all about empathizing with the model, understanding what’s going on in their head, and executing a drawing that communicates that to the viewer.
The video courses on DrawingForce.com are grouped by subject matter, similar to the book series. The first three courses are Basics, Form, and Shape, which cover the key concepts behind the Force method of drawing. These correspond with the first book and cover the fundamentals on which all the other lessons are built upon.
Basics primarily covers the theoretical underpinnings of Force drawing. There are a few exercises that help to solidify some of the concepts, but this section seems to me to act as a way to put the student in the correct mindset going forward.
Form concerns the use of perspective to establish the figure in 3D space on a 2D surface. There are individual lessons on overlap and tangents, using simple geometric shapes, one two and three point perspective, foreshortening, and other tricks for creating depth.
Shape focuses on simplifying the figure into an appealing silhouette, providing a list of dos and don’ts (avoid symmetry, straight vs. curve, etc.) and lots of examples.
Once the fundamentals have been mastered there are the anatomy, character design, and animal drawing sections. The concepts covered in the previous sections are applied to each of these subjects.
Many of the early videos on DrawingForce.com appear to be recorded versions of live online classes that Mattesi has given in the past. As a result, the audio and video quality are typically very poor. The video quality doesn’t particularly bother me. It’s clear enough that it doesn’t detract from the lessons. What does bother be is the drive-thru speaker audio on some of the early lessons. Thankfully, once you get through the Basics section the quality goes up and no longer has the ear-piercing S sounds.
Drawingforce.com occupies an unusual space in the world of arts education. Whereas the majority of online courses try to be general enough to appeal to as many people as possible, the aims of Drawing Force are very specific. It will be useful to those who have already studied figure drawing and anatomy, and I think it functions best as a complement to the Force books.
For those whose primary language is Spanish, there is now a version of Drawing Force headed by artist Diego Lucia. For more information, visit https://www.drawingforce.com.ar/