Learning Art In Paris – Nothing Better…

When working on the figure, Ted Seth Jacobs instructs the students in a progression of increasingly complex concepts, introducing one at a time beginning with the envelope, the block-in, and contours; moving on to a tonal study and a color wash; and finally, the piece-by-piece development of a completed work. He starts each exercise with a step-by-step demonstration. The students watch intently, occasionally questioning, taking notes, and even videotaping for later reference. For the next week or two, they paint or draw based on the new lesson while Jacobs offers individual critiques. They need to achieve a degree of skill with each idea before proceeding to the next level, and the amount of time involved varies. Jacobs moves on only when the students have an adequate understanding. “I don’t start with a fixed agenda, a fixed schedule,” he remarks. “I respond to the students’ needs at any given moment and follow what they seem to need. My feeling about teaching is that the process doesn’t take place unless there is a transfer of knowledge from the teacher’s mind to the student’s.”

laipThis idea is a contrast to what Jacobs calls the “cassette method” of teaching. “That is what I think of as the university style,” he says, “when the teacher gives the information at a certain rate of speed over the course of the term, as if a cassette were playing. It is up to the students to get it or not–the teacher just keeps going. Whereas in my method, I do my utmost to make sure that the information goes into the person’s mind. My objective is making the student capable of teaching him- or herself.”

By creating teachers as well as artists, Jacobs hopes to breathe new life into the classical art instruction that he thinks is fading away. The artist elaborates, “My teachers at the Art Students League of New York in Manhattan all were basically trained in Europe or in that tradition that goes back hundreds or thousands of years. I had the benefit of getting that traditional knowledge, but around a hundred years ago, there was a break. Late in the 19th century, artists got the idea that the painted image need no longer be connected to the visual image. As a result, the teachers who were trained in the old ways died off, and most of the younger people went into some abstract style, so there was a break in that evolutionary chain. I feel it is my duty to try and pass on what I have learned so that body of knowledge won’t be lost to the next generations.”

That is not to say that Jacobs advocates blind acceptance of tradition. In fact, he thinks that unquestioning adherence to the past produces weak art. “It doesn’t have the vitality of fresh discovery,” he claims. “Hopefully, my students will take what I teach them and develop it and push it further. I would look at what my teachers said to do, but if the subject didn’t look like that to me, I’d try to figure out what it did look like. I like to think I discarded the parts of what I was taught that didn’t agree with what I saw in nature.”

This reinterpretation developed into the personal style that Jacobs calls “restructured realism.” “It is looking very intensively at my own perceptions and trying to find out what I am seeing rather than trying to squeeze my seen world into some sort of norm,” he comments. “I learn what nature looks like by looking at it and trying to match up what I am doing on the canvas to what I see before me. The restructured realism style is trying to strip away my preconceptions of the world as much as humanly possible in order to see only what remains, what I am actually perceiving.”

Through this continual process of comparing what he saw on the canvas to what he saw before him, Jacobs eventually noticed consistencies, and from those he codified his approach to painting. “If over and over you see something happening in an unexpected way, you realize this is the way it works, and through a process of observation and synthesis, you can find principles,” he says. Principles is a magic word for this artist. It encompasses both the manner of his painting as well as a more fundamental purpose for his art. Jacobs’ principles identify specifics of how he thinks a painting should be crafted, and the proper application of those techniques is equivalent to a successfully completed work, one that he describes as “when a nonartist sees it, his or her jaw drops in wonder at the exquisite quality of it.”

Jacobs’ basic principles deal with light, the actions of light, how the form is put together, and how a body is structured. “They are simple ideas, really, in simple language, but,” he chuckles, “their manifestation in nature is fiendishly complex.” The first necessity is to instill in his students the ability to register and recognize the actions of light. “There is no survival need to think about light,” he says. “If you look at my smock, it is a blue smock, but if you want to paint it, it breaks down into an infinite number of variations. The process of sight requires light and form because light by itself is invisible, and form without light is invisible. You can’t see light unless it hits something. So in order for vision to take place, you need both, light and something for light to strike.”

Comprehension of this symbiotic relationship between light and form is crucial to Jacobs’ style because without it his system of observation and analysis of nature compared to the canvas is moot. He explains, “All light comes from some energy source. It arrives with a direction, coming from that source, and travels, basically for our purposes, in straight rays. Traveling through space, the light loses intensity, and since it comes from one direction, and for our purposes all human forms are to some degree curved, that means that every millimeter, every atom of that form, is turned toward that straight beam at a different angle. Since all parts are turned at a different angle, the values, the intensities, of light, have to change constantly to make the form go round. If you model forms by making the center lightest and gradually darker toward the edge, that will make forms go round, but it has nothing to do with light or the direction of light. It is not a visually perceived form, it is a tactile approach. My style is purely based on the visual–form as shown to us by the effects of light. One is as important as the other.”

In addition to a form’s connection to light, an understanding of the structure of the form itself is also essential. “Many students say they need to learn anatomy as one of the most important skills for painting the figure, and in fact,” Jacobs says, “I think it is one of the least important.” Instead, he teaches structure. “That is how a form grows, how it is put together on the body, how it moves, and so on, which is entirely different from anatomy,” he states. “You can know anatomy as well as a surgeon, but if you don’t know structure, you won’t be able to draw. If you don’t know any anatomy but you do know structure, you can draw like Michelangelo.” Structure, Jacobs goes on to say, is not limited to the human shape; rather it applies to all organic forms, be they flowers, animals, vegetables, or humans.

To paint this variety of the physical world, Jacobs uses the many pigments available. Unlike other instructors who suggest students use a limited palette and slowly build in more color, he advocates an extended palette right from the start, although not quite the 60 or so colors that Jacobs himself uses. “The problem with a limited palette is that you just can’t suggest the variety of nature if you don’t have certain tube colors,” he notes. “The painting will look like your collection of tubes instead of the tonalities of nature.” Jacobs makes the point that he changes value by adding color, and whenever he changes value, he also adjusts the hue and chroma. Altering these three elements in tandem, the artist contends, is the only way to avoid a monochromatic effect. “For example,” he says, “Dali is an artist who painted basically in black and white. He used colors, but he didn’t change the hue and chroma. He only changed the value.”

As a supplement to hue, value, and chroma, Jacobs includes another monitor, a legacy from the more abstract styles he experimented with in his youth, that he calls “field effect.” “A field effect is the effect of contiguous tones upon one another and the eye’s receptors,” he shares. “A field effect is a living process in the eyes in the sense that none of the tones we see is invariable. All are influenced by everything that is around, even by our emotional state. Nothing is fixed.” For Jacobs, the field effect represents what the eye actually transmits, what he describes as “the flashes, the sparks of consciousness, that happen when we look at something.” Although the artist admits it would be impossible to replicate with paint something that takes place in the mind, that is the situation he wants the field effects to convey in his paintings, in a similar manner to the Impressionists forcing optical mixing to the canvas itself. “I am trying to suggest not only what passes through the lens of the eye but more what actually is perceived in the mind,” he says. “To suggest field effects is another reason why I have to change all three tones–value, hue, and chroma–at once because otherwise I wouldn’t get the same field effects. Elements of the work wouldn’t vibrate against one another sufficiently.

“I am interested in the reflections and vibrations that are thrown back and forth between the objects,” he continues. “I think what people should see in my paintings is something shining, dynamic. The world is a marvelous-looking place, and I want my paintings to uplift the heart with the beauty of light and color, the beauty of the form, and vibrating colors. Art is primarily a sensory message. It should, perhaps, indirectly reinforce the idea of the sacredness of the human being.”

Expofil: Wild And Wooly

The fashion cycle for intense color may be coming to an end, according to exhibitors and buyers at Expofil, the yarn fair held here early this month.

wawBright colors have been listed among the top trends at the fair in recent seasons. But at the latest edition, held at the Villepinte exhibit venue for the first time, the mood swung back to more muted tones.

“We are coming out of several seasons of explosive color,” said Melody Mizraki, a Paris-based trend consultant who works with clients, including Printemps department store. “The trend now is quieter and the mood more refined. Excess is being reined in.” Mizraki said she believes the strongest colors for the fall-winter 2002-2003 shopping season, which was featured at Expofil, will include brown tones, soft yellows and greens.

“Black will still be a very strong story because women are getting practical,” added Mizraki.

Francois Agostini, designer in the studio at Paris-based house Junko Shimada, said gray would be an important color.

“It’s true that color will not be as intense,” he said. “But it will be important to have some variety. For that reason, I like muted red, but a red that is almost rose-like, as well as some greens.”

Paris-based fashion designer Jasmin Santanen said: “I don’t want colors as bright as in recent seasons. I’m interested in colors that are less offensive, like beige and yellow. I like tones that looked brushed and pale, but not bright.”

But not everyone was excited about the shift from bright hues.

“Everything I’ve seen here has been dark browns, greens and really autumn colors,” said Rikke Ruhwald, a designer in the studio at Martine Sitbon. “I’m not sure I really want to go there. I still like the brighter tones. They still seem fresh.”

David Stensland, merchandise manager at Jack Nicklaus, the men’s and women’s golf lifestyle brand, said the trend will be for “cleaner” looks.

“Colors may be a little duller, but yarns are shiny and slick, which adds an element of novelty,” he said. “This may not be a season about reinventing the wheel, but without some newness, customers will not have a reason to buy.”

Factoring in the recent downturn in the U.S. economy, Stensland said it will be very important to find a hook to make customers buy new clothes.

“It looks like the going may get rough,” he said. “So, it will be important to have the right stuff.”

Stensland said, despite the uncertain outlook, Nicklaus would increase its orders for the autumn 2002 season by 10 to 20 percent.

Robert Cole, co-president at New York-based luxury hosiery brand Ilux, said he was planning to increase his yarn buy by 50 percent. He qualified his aggressiveness, however, by adding that Ilux, which was founded two years ago, was a new company and on an upward growth curve.

“Still, I’m not sure that the cool down will significantly effect our business,” said Cole. “We are selling cashmere socks at upwards of $20 a pop. I think women buying that type of product, at that price point, will still spend, even if the economy cools.”

Exhibitors said business was up, although they are bracing for uncertain seas on the immediate horizon.

Massimo Colombo, sales manager at Cariaggi Lanificio, an Italian luxury weaver specializing in cashmere, forecasted that orders were set to increase slightly.

“We are coming off a season during which sales were very strong,” he said. “We ran a 50 percent sales increase last year, but that type of explosive business may not last.” Luciano Bandi, divisional sales manager at Loro Piana & Co., another Italian luxury weaver of cashmere and fine woolens, said: “Times have been good, but it seems like the bad weather is on the way.”

The recent decline in cashmere prices was also among the hot topics at the show.

Last year, exhibitors said cashmere prices more than doubled, due to strong demand and limited supply. This year, however, prices have already declined about 15 percent, they said.

Some buyers said they found a less-expensive substitute for cashmere at French mill Audresset, which is known for its cashmere yarns.

This season, Audresset pushed a so-called “baby camel” yarn. “It’s half the price of a cashmere yarn, but it is as soft and luxurious as cashmere,” said Audresset chairman Jurg Scheiwiller. “With cashmere prices so high, and demand for luxury yarns undiminished, we wanted to find an equivalent, less-expensive substitute.”

According to organizers, 6,907 buyers attended the fair. That marked a 3 percent decrease from the same season last year. Organizers attributed the decrease to the recent economic cool-down.

Heidi And Karl – Toujours!

dhHedi Slimane showed his second collection for Dior Homme here Monday, but another fashion show took place as guests were taking their seats.

That’s because Karl Lagerfeld, who has famously shed more than 60 pounds since last November, showed his dramatic new look on the sidelines.

The picture of sleek, modern chic, he sported a black, made-to-measure silk radzimir Dior Homme suit with a white wingtip-collar shirt. He had his final fitting for the outfit with Slimane late last week — and they had to nip the pants a touch to hug his 30-inch waist better.

Flash, flash. The paparazzi documented the change: Men’s fashion, as endorsed by the Kaiser himself, is heading toward the stick-to-the-ribs tailoring and architectural minimalism championed by Slimane.

“I think Hedi is capturing the spirit of the moment,” Lagerfeld said after the show, which ended with a parade of skinny, shirtless youths in drawstring-waisted pants. “I was tired of wearing those oversized Japanese clothes. I saw that fashion was becoming edgier, sharper.”

Indeed, Lagerfeld’s metamorphosis, the result of sheer willpower and a complicated low-fat diet, was not because of high blood pressure or a cholesterol problem. No way. “It was all about the clothes,” he said emphatically. “I do collections, but I like clothes, too. And I was tired of myself. I wanted a different look. Fashion is about change.”

For his part, Slimane said it’s “fantastic” that Lagerfeld has embraced the Dior Homme esthetic. Bernard Arnault, chairman of Dior and LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton, also sported a suit from the Dior Homme atelier at the show.

Never mind that Eric Van Nordstrand, the face of Dior Homme, just turned 18, or that some of the models in the show Tuesday haven’t started shaving. Slimane said his look is about attitude, not age.

“It’s about giving a certain posture and a certain silhouette to every man,” he explained. “It’s really the principle of military tailoring. You have different people with different shapes, but you give them the same comportment. It’s more about a certain state of mind than about being a 20-year-old boy.”

Lagerfeld, 62, was introduced to Slimane by his friend, Stephen Gan, creative director of Visionaire magazine. It was Gan who enlisted Lagerfeld to shoot the backstage scene at Slimane’s debut Dior show last January.

And on Monday, he suggested Lagerfeld ditch the necktie to make his outfit less formal and more modern. It was good advice: Comme des Garcons designer Rei Kawakubo and Julien Macdonald came to the show in shirts, while Jeremy Scott wore a T-shirt.

Lagerfeld said he placed a sizeable order at Dior Homme, enough to fill closets in Paris, Monaco and Biarritz. But he’s branching out with other modernist designers, too. When he was in New York for the Council of Fashion Designers of America Awards last month, he bought two white cotton Calvin Klein suits that he’s quite crazy about. And he said he’s sure Tom Ford at Yves Saint Laurent may have things that would please him.

“I’m not a men’s wear designer,” he said. “I like the idea, but I like to buy from other people.”

So long as they’re not promoting a trend toward layering.

“I had enough trouble getting rid of the layers,” Lagerfeld said.

L’Oreal Continues To Shine

L’Oreal is introducing Open. The product combines a natural hair color with the latest technology to create a color that is geared to women who want a visible, vibrant yet natural look.

Open’s fragrant, long-lasting color gel technology allows users to achieve results with low ammonia content, according to a spokeswoman.

The product, which includes extra color to ensure total coverage and salon-quality gloves, will be available in 24 shades at a suggested price of $9.99.

On the cosmetics side of the business L’Oreal is poised to launch Ultraviolet, its fall shade promotion. The color palette is wide and varied, including lavender, lilac, fuchsia, amethyst and violet.

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For eyes the collection offers Super Liner for an intense look, and Voluminous mascara for use on top and bottom lashes. Colour Riche Lipcolour is available in purple pout, ultraviolet, amethyst kiss and luscious lavender shades, while Lip Glosse, which can be used over the lip color or alone, is available in violet sequin, razzle dazzle, plush plum and gold mine shades.

Also included in the Ultraviolet line are Jet-Set nail enamel and Cheek Shaper blush duo.

“There is so much energy and vibrancy behind this collection,” says Collier Strong, consulting makeup artist for L’Oreal. “Purple was the natural progression from the soft pinks and lavenders that were so popular this spring. The density of these colors is also a perfect complement to the rich fabrics like cashmere, suede and silk shown on fall runways.”

In the skin care arena the company has extended its category-leading Plenitude Revitalift brand with Revitalift Complete, which promises women overage 40 a combination of antiwrinkling and firming benefits in a multiaction face cream featuring a sun protection factor (SPF) of 18.

“Women facing their 40s begin to have different skin care needs than previously,” a L’Oreal spokeswoman notes. “Now, more than ever before, they need a complete skin care regimen that will help fight today’s and tomorrow’s signs of aging for truly health-looking skin.”

The product is formulated to help smooth and protect skin by applying Revitalift’s Pro-Retinol A technology to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, and its Par Elastyl caffeine complex to improve the skin’s firmness, with broad-spectrum SPF 18 protection from both UVA and UVE rays.

The recent launch of Revitalift Complete follows two Plenitude line extensions last fall–Revitalift Slim and Line Eraser Eye.

Formulated with Par-Elastyl and botanicals, Revitalift Slim promises to help streamline the appearance of the face, neck and jawline, while Line Eraser Eye is aimed at women who have begun to notice the first lines around their eyes and seek a “serious yet gentle” method of combatting them.

L’Oreal is stepping up its effort to address the needs of more mature women with these and other new technologically advanced products, including the introduction of Plenitude Age Perfect this spring.

While women who have reached their 50s and 60s lead more active lives today than those in earlier generations, some of them have kept a low profile on rejuvenating the look of their skin, according to senior vice president and general manager Carol Hamilton.

“The unique skin care issues associated with this group have gone largely unaddressed by the beauty industry until now,” she says.

The Age Perfect line addresses those issues with three products:

* Antisagging and rehydrating day cream with a yeast extract to help rejuvenate tired-looking skin.

* Antisagging and rehydrating night cream hydrolized with soy protein to help firm skin.

* A skin illuminator and age spot diffuser containing optical pearls made of light-reflecting mica and titanium dioxide, which works on the face, neck, collarbone, hands and forearms to help even out skin tone and diffuse the appearance of discolorations.

Age Perfect is supple and smooth, says Hamilton, and offers a feel that’s comforting to the skin. In a two-week consumer test with 106 women, 83% saw more resilient skin, reports Hamilton.

Thales Navigating To Success

Thales, an $8-billion French aerospace, defense, and information technology company, has signed a $70 million deal to buy Orbital Sciences Corporation’s majority ownership of Santa Clara, California–based GPS manufacturer Magellan Corporation and the related Navigation Solutions (NavSol) in PIano, Texas. The transaction was expected to close at the end of June.

tntsThe new subsidiaries, with a combined revenue of $114 million in 2000, represent all of Orbital’s satellite navigation and positioning business. NavSol, 60 percent owned by Orbital, uses Magellan equipment and is in charge of the Hertz car rental group’s satellite-based car navigation system. Hertz owns the balance of the NavSol shares. Orbital’s share of Magellan was 68 percent, with the remainder held by private investors.

With the acquisition, Thales becomes one of the top three OPS suppliers in the world, with combined revenues in that market of nearly $140 million, according to the company.

The Thales/Orbital deal embraces a wide swath of OPS commercial history on both sides of the Atlantic. Several of the previously separate companies acquired over the past year by the Paris-headquartered Thales Group (formerly Thomson-CSV) are familiar to GPS users: DSNP, Racal, and Sextant.

Magellan introduced the first handheld OPS receiver, then priced at about $3,000, in 1989, and eventually achieved a strong presence in GPS consumer markets before its acquisition by Orbital in 1994. Ashtech, launched by engineer/entrepreneur Javad Ashjaee, made a name for itself in high-precision surveying and OEM markets, before Orbital bought and merged it into Magellan in 1997.

For the Ashtech Precision Products portion of the Magellan business, the transaction merely returns ownership to a European parent. French manufacturer SAGEM held a controlling 50 percent share of Ashtech, Inc., at its founding in 1987.

Under U.S. venture capital ownership from 1994 to 1997, Ashtech spent four years primarily focused on packaging the company for an initial public offering (IPO) or sale.

When Orbital took over, an IPO and spinoff of Magellan remained a strategic goal, but the new owners also sought to create synergies with other business units. These included the former Rockwell driver information systems business and the Orbcomm data communications satellite system. Orbital’s plans foundered amid the company’s general financial difficulties over the last few years.

Now, a fiscally sound Thales appears ready to leverage its GNSS properties and technical capabilities as strategic productive assets. “This purchase marks the opening of the door to Magellan’s future with a corporate parent for whom Magellan is a part of the mainstream business,” said Mohamed Abousalem, director of marketing for Ashtech Precision Products.

Officials at Thales say complementary product portfolios and sales networks should increase sales globally and enable expansion of the product range and development of common technology platforms to support growth in OPS-related services. For instance, Magellan has strong penetration in the North Amencan market, while Thales is already positioned in the European and Asian GPS markets through Thales Navigation, formerly DSNP.

A manufacturer of surveying and navigation products using GPS and other technologies, the navigation subsidiary also includes the former MLR, a supplier of OPS equipment for mer chant marine users, fishing vessels and recreational craft. Together, the two companies generated revenues of 624 million in 2000 ($22.2 million).

Company officials expect that Thales subsidiaries involved in positioning applications (Thales Geosolutions and Global Telematics) will also see growth through development of common technologies that offer opportunities for synergies with the group’s defense and aerospace business.

Thales satellite and navigation positioning business is part of its Information Technology and Services business area. The company has also announced the appointment of Lawrence Cavaiola, a senior manager in Northrop Grumman’s shipbuilding sector, to head the company’s North American operations.