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The Art of Looking Sideways – Alan Fletcher

09 Sep

AoLSThe Art of Looking Sideways is a primer in visual intelligence, an exploration of the workings of the eye, the hand, the brain and the imagination. It is an inexhaustible mine of anecdotes, quotations, images, curious facts and useless information, oddities, serious science, jokes and memories, all concerned with the interplay between the verbal and the visual, and the limitless resources of the human mind. Loosely arranged in 72 chapters, all this material is presented in a wonderfully inventive series of pages that are themselves masterly demonstrations of the expressive use of type, space, colour and imagery.

This book does not set out to teach lessons, but it is full of wisdom and insight collected from all over the world. Describing himself as a visual jackdaw, master designer Alan Fletcher has distilled a lifetime of experience and reflection into a brilliantly witty and inimitable exploration of such subjects as perception, colour, pattern, proportion, paradox, illusion, language, alphabets, words, letters, ideas, creativity, culture, style, aesthetics and value.

Back in my younger, reckless days I came across this book whilst in the pub, Louise the barmaid and all round good egg was reading it in between serving pints, which is precisely when I started reading it.  As with many art books it comes at a hefty price but looked really good, especially after a couple of pints.

The price is somewhat justified for the 1068 pages admittedly and the author is a name of some repute in the art world, the problem with any art though is how you think of it.  If I like this book then I could be accused of pretentious but to not like it would see me accused of ‘not getting it’, such is the world of art, so it is lucky that I am squarely unconvinced that it is either too overblown or impenetrable to anyone other than an art student.

As far as coffee table books go, this is a great one to have, as long as your table can cope with something weighty that is…there is a wealth of varied styles, techniques and facts contained therein to keep anybody amused for a while, as well as an explosive riot of colour and technique to catch the eye.  It’s easy to see why people would become enamoured with the book.

I don’t think however, that it is as clever at it likes to think it is, or people like to claim, looking sideways equates to imagination, using your brain, taking an interest in everything and living life.  It’s no great revelation and there isn’t much that this book will teach the reader who already does this.

Overall, there is enough in the book to amuse the reader for a brief while yet some of it comes across as quite clichéd, which I would expect from the art world, perhaps this book is one for somebody who takes more of an interest in art than the casual peruser. It’s worth a flip through for the nice visuals if you come across it in a bookstore or library though.

On a personal level, advertising and marketing, two strong themes in the book, are wasted on me as I’m not particularly materialistic and am mostly cynical about that sort of thing.  This book is one that will probably split opinion and I changed my mind at various times but overall there isn’t enough substance or surprise to justify its purchase, just think of all the pints I could have had instead.

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40 Comments

Posted by on 09/09/2014 in Art

 

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40 responses to “The Art of Looking Sideways – Alan Fletcher

  1. Love, Life and Whatever

    09/09/2014 at 20:15

    Creates interest though in amusing ways as you mentioned and your pun at last made me beam

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    • Ste J

      09/09/2014 at 20:19

      Nothing beats a good pun, I went through a phase of putting at least one in every post I did. I need to get out more hehe!

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  2. shadowoperator

    09/09/2014 at 21:11

    Never regret a good pun–it’s worth its weight in gall, so to speak. About the book, thanks for giving me an idea for my brother’s birthday. He teaches undergrads, and often searches through books and the Internet for examples, and I feel sure he can use it.

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    • Ste J

      09/09/2014 at 21:18

      It gets a lot of love from the art community, I have been in numerous conversations about the merits of the book with various people. It causes debate and if it does help encourage people to view things in a different way then it is all to the good. If puns were a currency I’d have at least a fiver by now.

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  3. Bumba

    09/09/2014 at 22:39

    Thanks for the tip. I’ll give this book a sideways glance if I come across it. I don’t know why you’re so apologetic to the arts community, though. However, you should apologize for some of those bums, I mean puns.

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    • Ste J

      10/09/2014 at 18:14

      I guess that is just my fairness, some of those people are deluded though but I don’t know enough of either persuasion to make a definitive assessment. If I didn’t pun, the world would be a more classy place.

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  4. gargoylebruce

    09/09/2014 at 22:41

    Ooh, this looks interesting – although that could just be an illusion. I will scope out whether our library has it and then scope out a double-reinforced library bag to carry it home in.

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    • Ste J

      10/09/2014 at 18:10

      It would make a good cornerstone for a bedroom fort, if you were so inclined.

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  5. RoSy

    10/09/2014 at 09:41

    You definitely got my curiosity on this one. I may have to check it out the next time I head to the bookstore with the kids. Sounds like it could be a good brain exercise for an aging brain.

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    • Ste J

      10/09/2014 at 18:06

      It does have some great drawings in, I think you would get something out of it, although you are very wise already!

      Liked by 1 person

       
      • RoSy

        10/09/2014 at 18:09

        Awww…I don’t know about that. But – thanks SteJ!

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  6. anna amundsen

    10/09/2014 at 18:58

    This one sounds like a delight. I would’ve loved to have it on my table to dip into every now and then.

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    • Ste J

      10/09/2014 at 20:25

      I do wonder if you would quickly tire of it, you seem like me in your way of approaching things and I did get a little annoyed with some of the things in the book…I did feel a bit patronised in places and there is nothing that annoys me more.

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      • anna amundsen

        22/10/2014 at 18:15

        I am not a fan of patronizing myself.. However, I am very good at ignoring or getting past things I don’t like and taking the best out of them. 🙂

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  7. Elizabeth Melton Parsons

    11/09/2014 at 14:49

    I thought this sounded interesting until I read the words advertising and marketing. 😐 And the third thing that put me off was ‘cost’. I’m always watching those pennies. Of course if I found it in a bargain book store, I’d certainly take a look. 🙂

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    • Ste J

      14/09/2014 at 19:17

      I think what grabbed me was its uniqueness on the surface but further examination did disappoint me. Cost is a factor for me as well, I prefer a bargain or if I do spend a lot, it has to be on a shed load of books. I do think flicking through it will perhaps inspire you to take a look at other art books or just generally inspire you to new ideas which is always a good thing.

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      • Elizabeth Melton Parsons

        15/09/2014 at 14:47

        I have a large coffee table book of Norman Rockwell. (all the magazine covers) I have one of the complete works of Van Gogh and his life and one on impressionism full of pictures. These books were gifts from others. I also have a large collection of other art books I’ve purchased for myself at bargain book stores and jumble sales. I avoid browsing art books because regardless of price, I’d have to have them. LOL.

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        • Ste J

          15/09/2014 at 15:22

          I do love art books, when they are art that one can take in and marvel at…it’s an art book for its own sake and those are great, I am hunting for a Caper David Friedrich book, I love my solitary Gothic, lol.

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  8. Letizia

    11/09/2014 at 19:36

    I have this book too – I love the look (and weight) of it. I didn’t love it as a straight read but as a ‘dip in and out’ it has its moments. Love the idea of someone reading it in a pub though.

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    • Ste J

      14/09/2014 at 19:05

      I do tend to read the oddest books, I was once perusing that ancient Egyptian classic, The Book of the Dead. I think my copy will one day adorn a coffee table for someone to peruse whilst I make them a cup of tea no doubt.

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  9. renxkyoko

    11/09/2014 at 22:40

    Coffee table books are so worth the price, imo. And they are so pretty.

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    • Ste J

      14/09/2014 at 19:06

      I normally balk at the prices but that is because I am tight by nature, I can’t argue with the lavishness of them though, they are worth the price on that score.

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  10. Asha

    12/09/2014 at 07:18

    Coffee table books, somehow, get to me, J. The only I ever read was ‘War & Peace’. Well, think of it, even marketing books almost always stand invisible to me.

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    • Ste J

      14/09/2014 at 19:30

      I loved War and peace, a phenomenal book that had so much in it. I tend to think of coffee table books as less substantial in reading quality and have more photos or such like in them. I suppose the price of a book like that doesn’t seem worth it when there is so much great literature out there which is cheaper.

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  11. Seyi sandra

    13/09/2014 at 00:59

    I’ll definitely read this one old friend!

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    • Ste J

      14/09/2014 at 19:07

      I’d post you my copy but it would cost the budget of a small country to post!

      Liked by 1 person

       
      • Seyi sandra

        15/09/2014 at 17:29

        Would it? 🙂

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        • Ste J

          15/09/2014 at 19:02

          It’s one of those books that cut off blood flow to your legs after a while!

          Liked by 1 person

           
          • Seyi sandra

            15/09/2014 at 19:26

            Ha haaa! I know those kind of books, now you’re making me curious! Where can I get one?

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            • Ste J

              15/09/2014 at 19:49

              I picked mine up at Waterstones, although there was one at my local library which is always a handy alternative.

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  12. Christina ~

    14/09/2014 at 06:12

    It is fascinating to read your opinions of various books…to read the reviews of those you’ve loved, those you’ve loathed, and those you were ambiguous about. I sense you would have rather had the pints, but then you wouldn’t have this wonderfully written review to share with all of us…

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    • Ste J

      14/09/2014 at 19:11

      I like your positive spin, as ever whether I like it or not the book has stayed with me, the pints are all forgotten about, except for the ones I had whilst reading Louise’s copy but that’s because they were associated with the book…it is strange to peel back the book and pint layers…interesting. More opinions coming soon and for once I have the drafts to back that up!

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  13. writersideup

    19/09/2014 at 04:31

    This sounds REALLY interesting, Ste J! Immediately searched my library for it. … Nada 😦

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    • Ste J

      19/09/2014 at 10:32

      They may be able to order it, it’s a little heavy for me to send, postage and packaging would cost the budget of a medium sized nation!

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      • writersideup

        23/09/2014 at 07:21

        LOL Ste J, yeah, I got that impression that it was quite the over-sized tome! So sweet of it even to cross your mind! lol

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        • Ste J

          25/09/2014 at 16:58

          It’s over 1000 pages, not a lot of fun to carry home, with the rest of the pile, I think I had to stop at at least two pubs to have a drink and recover.

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          • writersideup

            25/09/2014 at 17:47

            Oh, a trifle of a hardship for something so worth it 😉

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  14. angela

    01/10/2014 at 03:44

    Shall keep an eye out for it/doubt I would purchase unless I thought I needed a door stop – 1000 pages, yikes!

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    • Ste J

      01/10/2014 at 20:32

      If it’s cheap it is always good for the doorstop and a coffee book table but other than that, I would save the money for something better.

      Like

       

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