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How to Use Your Eyes
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30 of 31 people found the following review helpful
on January 23, 2001
James Elkins has written a number of engaging books, and is an excellent example of a scholar who can be appreciated by the layman. His last book, "The Object Stares Back," was dark and provocative, an unsettling exploration of how we look at images. His new book is as uplifting as the previous was distressful. The book is divided into 2 sections, the first focused on man-made objects, the second to 'natural" phenomena. In part one, Elkins dissects such diverse things as cracks in old master paintings, or culverts, or special effects, and how to discover how they're made by simple observation. The section on nature includes some terrific information on sunsets, twigs, and the night sky. Never bossy or high-fallutin' in tone, Elkins conveys a sense of the wonder of vision, and the remarkable balance of simplicity and complexity in the world. There's an old quote about seeing the universe in a grain of sand; James Elkins can tell you how you, too, can look at sand and learn something about the universe in the process.
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67 of 76 people found the following review helpful
on June 10, 2001
I eagerly looked forward to this book after reading a review in the local paper. However, the title is very misleading. Although it is well done for what it is, it is not a book (right brain) about how to see, but rather is a (left brain) book about the rather interesting details of the object that you are seeing ...like what automobile forces have created the irregularities in pavement, or what the anatomy is behind a chest x-ray, or the geologic history of grains of sand... interesting, but not really a book about the process of seeing, and how to actually see objects. You may actually enjoy this book if you are interested in unusual facts and details about the world, but its not a book about the process of awakening your awareness...
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on December 22, 2004
...particularly the chapter "How to Look at Oil Painings". The chapter is about looking at the crack pattern on the back of an oil painting and how you can tell a lot of information about the type of painting, and when it was painted, just from that crack pattern. Lots of the other chapters are excellent as well, but this one tickles me each time I reread it. I would recommend a prospective buyer pick up a copy at a bookstore, and read a chapter at random. If you like that chapter, chances are you will be delighted with the entire book.

P.S. Another book worth looking for that approaches this topic from a different viewpoint is THE AWAKENED EYE by Ross Parmenter.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
HOW TO USE YOUR EYES
by James Elkin

I am a strong believer in the power of observation. Learning to see, really see, is not as easy as we would like to believe. Observation simply meant to notice, perceive or watch attentively, as Webster's Dictionary suggests. Observation is more than looking, it is learning from looking.

Why is it so important to be observant? I have come to realise that it is the vital key to optimum performance in science, in business, in sports & in other life pursuits, e.g. reading & writing, photography, etc. In reality, it's a critical survival skill!

Thousand years ago, Leonardo da vinci had proven its significance in his varied field of expertise. He said, in order to attain a complete mind, one must learn how to use all our senses, especially learn how to see.

Edward de bono, recognised as the world's authority on creativity, talked about it - perceptual sensitivity - first in his seminal work, Mechanism of Mind, in the late 60's & then in his many subsequent books on lateral thinking.

Many consultants/authors have since then pursued & reinforced the same line of thought.

Interestingly, to share with readers, I noted that the common denominator in the following important business words:

vision, visionary, imagination, illumination, enlightenment, foresight, farsighted, perspective, viewpoint, spectacle, inspection;

has a visual component: 'seeing'. Come to think about it, the word 'seer' even has 'see' in it!

I have also learned that the word 'idea' has its origins from a Greek word, which means 'to see'. Even the word 'intuition' originates from a Latin word 'intueri' which also means 'to see'.

So, how does one develop & enhance the power of observation?

I have found one very good book on the subject. It's 'How to Use Your Eyes' by James Elkin, who shares many techniques & tips. His book is both visually stunning & mentally stimulating. It is more of a field guide as the reader needs to physically exercise the 'world experience' by himself rather than just sit back & enjoy the 'word experience'!

In terms of my own 'world experience', my favorite chapters in the book have been:

How to look at:

- a postage stamp;
- pavement;
- engineering drawing (should have known this when I was an engineer);
- mandalas (may be too esoteric for some readers!);
- perspective pictures;
- a map;
- a face;
- a fingerprint - with the aid of a magnifying glass, of course);
- grass;
- a twig;
- sand;
- sunset;
- inside of your eye;
- colours;
- nothing (this one almost drove me bonkers!);

Frankly, I did not realise that there are so many things to see from "universally unnoticed" objects around me.

To share with readers, I would like to suggest another very good book, i.e. 'Playful Perceptions: Choosing How to Exerience Your World' by Herbert Leff.

'Everyday Wonders: Encountering with the Astonishing World Around Us' by Barry Evans is worth exploring, too.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon February 12, 2006
I ran across this while browsing through the QP section in my college library (QP being physiology, which is a bit odd; it really should be under the T section). The general theme of the book is looking at objects or aspects of objects which people often overlook. It's an excellent book for anyone with techy/nerdy interests in general, amateur artists, and science and art history students.

It might also be an unusual but very nice present for the kind of bright child who likes the Dorling Kindersley sort of books with lots of photos and explanations. They could browse through the pictures and then dig into the text as they get older. I know I'd have loved this when I was ten.

The book deals with very specific cases such as perspective drawings, X-rays, and bridge engineering, but reading it is also a great reminder to literally look at the little things in life - there's an amazing amount of information and beauty to be found in small details.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon November 27, 2001
How to Use Your Eyes by James Elkins invites us to look at -- and maybe to see for first time -- the world around us, with breathtaking results. Note, only a little of this book is about colors. Other chapters include things that everyone sees, but no one notices: cracks in pavement, culverts under highways, grass, sand. We appreciated sunsets much more after reading this book.
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7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on September 2, 2001
I love this book. I love the fussy little details. I took this book to school, and two eigth-graders were fighting over it. They were eager to show other students and me the gems they had found in it. Thanks to Marcia for giving it to me.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on June 22, 2014
But seriously, quick, easy to read essays on ways of looking at everything from oil paintings to moth's wings to nothing. Great read you'll never look at things the same.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on April 22, 2001
Cousin loves to look/ the Big Camera is hers/ She wants to see -- more
This book helps with that. Don't hold back.
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2 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on April 22, 2001
Cousin loves to look/ the Big Camera is hers/ She wants to see -- more
This book helps with that. Don't hold back.
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