My First Penjing- Critiques Requested

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My First Penjing- Critiques Requested

Post  Precarious on Thu Sep 11, 2014 8:38 pm

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This is my first attempt at penjing.  Someone wrote on this forum that if you want to evaluate your own work, take a picture of it rather than just looking at it in person.  Well, I can say that my photography skills need work, but that aside my work looks very rudimentary and in need of help now that I have put it in pixels.  I was tempted to cancel this post, but critiques can only help me improve.

The center tree is a chinese elm that was languishing in a nursery in pretty much this slanted style, but with much less foliage.  Year one, I repotted it in a 12 inch tube (that I cut from a defunct leaf blower).  Year three, I removed the soil and wrapped the roots around, and threaded them through, the rock it is attached to now.  I packed damp peat moss around it and wrapped all that in cling wrap, and potted the whole thing in a 4-inch deep pot.  Year four, I took away the top half of the peat moss, and year 5 removed the rest and let it grow in the pot.  This Spring I planted it in this 19-inch pot with the other rocks, and added a Fukien Tea I had grown from a cutting, and a Schefflera also grown from a cutting.  The last of the greenery is baby's breath stuffed into a hole in its rock.  The elm has spent every winter in dormancy in my garage- this is the first year I begin keeping it in with my tropicals- hopefully it will survive without dormancy.  It's winter environment will have T5 fluorescent grow lights, with temps low 60's to 70F, and humidity 50-70%.

I am trying to tell a story of life using earth, water, a bridge, a guide (the person playing a flute), a lighted lamp, and the 'Divine Lote Tree' (the chinese elm).  Please tell me what looks done well, and what could be improved.

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Re: My First Penjing- Critiques Requested

Post  JimLewis on Thu Sep 11, 2014 8:46 pm

Very nice job for a first attempt. Helluva lot better than mine was <g>.

My main criticism is that the tree attop the rock is just too large. Maybe some severe pruning of the crown can help, but I have a hard time imagining a tree on a rocky crag like that ever being so large and so apparently unaffected by winds, lightening, etc. Nice job incorporating the root and the rock, though.

My second criticism is very personal. I detest mud men. I used them in my early attempts, too but I outgrew them. Some folks do and some don't. I build scenes without people or structures or animals now.

Good job.

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Re: My First Penjing- Critiques Requested

Post  Poink88 on Thu Sep 11, 2014 9:09 pm

Good job!

I'd probably add some muck and moss or ferns on the rock crevices also...esp where the main roots are going down. You do not have to cover it totally but some would help.

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Re: My First Penjing- Critiques Requested

Post  kevin stoeveken on Thu Sep 11, 2014 9:36 pm

the only thing i can suggest (besides what jim said), and i only mention this because i struggled with this same thing for the art show we participated in (different thread) is that the water is too bright blue...

i will be simulating water again for the Milwaukee Bonsai Society's 44th club show, and was lucky today in finding some sheer/opaque fabric which will serve nicely... i wouldnt suggest fabric for yours, but maybe just dusting your blue rocks with some dulling/mossy/darker/greener spray paint (again just a dusting) to knock down some of that unnaturally bright blue...

no matter what though, i bet it was fun to create, wasnt it ?

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Re: My First Penjing- Critiques Requested

Post  JimLewis on Thu Sep 11, 2014 9:59 pm

Generally a lighter color gravel is used to denote water. It is seldom blue.

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Re: My First Penjing- Critiques Requested

Post  kevin stoeveken on Fri Sep 12, 2014 2:08 am

well i'll be dipped in shshshshsh............................. shaving cream !

i have never seen gravel colored water...

oh wait... yes i have
and have even surfed in it on lake michigan silent No silent

but when i give it a bit of thought; in a shallow clear running stream, one doesnt necessarily see the water so much as what is on the river bed as seen through the water... brilliant !

and when i really give it some more thought; it seems that i have only seen very large bodies of water that looked truly blue...
and that was on sunny days where that large body of water is just reflecting the azure heavens...

yes sunny

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Re: My First Penjing- Critiques Requested

Post  Precarious on Fri Sep 12, 2014 4:44 am

Thanks for the helpful comments.  Yes, the tree is large- I am looking forward to identifying a few fatter branches and thinning out the smaller stuff considerably.  I agree the lush fullness does not match its tenuous position.  

The unevenness of the gravel gives the impression of water passing over submerged rocks, but I have to admit the bright blue looks rather garish.  I like the idea of dusting with a spray paint, but honestly I don't know what color would help in something that should be clear in some places, greenish in others, dark in crevices, and here and there white with foam.  Maybe something other than water, but please Kevin, post a pic or two of the fabric you are talking about if you are so inclined.  I suppose a footpath could work...

I really like the moss idea- there are so many crevices to use, plus in the foreground as well.  Can you elaborate on putting it near where the main roots come down, Dario.  Why there specifically?  I am just beginning to work with moss- expect to see me often in the questions forum on that subject.


Last edited by Precarious on Fri Sep 12, 2014 4:45 am; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : clarity)

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Re: My First Penjing- Critiques Requested

Post  Poink88 on Fri Sep 12, 2014 6:03 am

The muck and moss/fern should be distributed. The reason for near the roots is two folds. First to hide the fact that they are floating. "Real" root over rock hug the rock tightly. Secondly, roots follow where water and moisture flow and are retained...that is the crevices and where "soil" build up/accumulate also.

Hope these make sense.

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Re: My First Penjing- Critiques Requested

Post  ogie on Fri Sep 12, 2014 1:06 pm

Hi
 First your Tree is too big,Second the Pot too small,Third there are too many items cramp closely for you to appreciate it more.. Pls look at the Suiseki forum of Riversoul Titled " Suiseki Bonsai ".. For example the Lantern is almost the same Diameter as your Tree... Proportionate should be scaled accordingly IMHO
Thank you for posting and we learn from each other.. Cheers !

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Re: My First Penjing- Critiques Requested

Post  JimLewis on Fri Sep 12, 2014 2:28 pm

Here is some very well done, non-blue/non-fabric, etc. water in a penjing:



If you are using a dark pot/base/slab, white gravel (chicken grit is good) can be used.  You are supposed to use your imagination in viewing a penjing.  

First your Tree is too big,Second the Pot too small,Third there are too many items cramp closely for you to appreciate it more.

I agree on the first two items, somewhat, but if you are intending to make this a close up look at a scene, the last one may not be an issue, and in that case the pot size would be better -- a little.  By all means look at every book you can find on penjing.  (and the lantern is included in the term "mud men" as far as I am concerned.

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Re: My First Penjing- Critiques Requested

Post  kevin stoeveken on Fri Sep 12, 2014 3:10 pm

i will post a pic of the fabric when i do a test run of the display which will be sometime before next thursday...
it'll be under the display section of the forum...

hey jim!
funny that the example you provided has a mudman Razz

but the scale of him is pretty damn good and i almost missed him which is perfect,
as i believe it should be a part of the scene w/o detracting from it...
i hope he catches dinner !


Last edited by beer city snake on Fri Sep 12, 2014 3:13 pm; edited 1 time in total

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Re: My First Penjing- Critiques Requested

Post  RKatzin on Fri Sep 12, 2014 3:13 pm

In the landscape proportion is everything. You are trying to create a scene with a mountain and trees. If your big rock is the mountain, how big is that tree on top of the mountain? How big is that man next to the mountain? The lantern is a giant tower on top of the mountain.

The trees in landscape must be cohesive. You will rarely find tropical trees growing on the same mountain as temperate trees. Pick on or the other and go with that.

You must also choose a perspective. Is it a near view or a far view? Far away you see mostly the shape of the mountain and the closer the viewing the more the trees are defined. You have a far view of the mountain, but a near view of the top tree, which is twice the mass of the mountain with roots running down the mountain. Just not believable. Near or far that tree does not fit up there.

I sincerly hope you see what I'm saying and don't get all butthurt here. These are the most difficult compositions to pull off and I congratulate you on your first attempt. Take these into consideration and try again. Picture yourself in the scene and don't do anything that you don't fit into. Picture yourself in perpective to the lantern size, standing on top of your mountain next to that tree. What is your size compared to the lantern and the tree? If you are big enough to hold the lantern, how big is the tree? Are you a giant on a mole hill? Most sincerly, Rick

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Re: My First Penjing- Critiques Requested

Post  DougB on Fri Sep 12, 2014 3:29 pm

Ask for comments and then that feeling of "this is pretty good" just turns to mush. And it is difficult to really sort thru the comments. After all ask any two bonsai-est for comments and you get five responses. Hang in there you multi-year effort was a very good one. Take the best and most comfortable of the many comments and run with them. As for the rest, evaluate them for gems of learning. All-in-all it's a great day.

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Re: My First Penjing- Critiques Requested

Post  Precarious on Fri Sep 12, 2014 6:42 pm

Don't worry about me getting 'butthurt', as you say. I have calluses. Plus I have kids, the most humbling experience of all. After getting over the initial shock of how many flaws I saw just from looking at my photography, then people were able to point out several others. I was initially a little dejected, but really it says more about the incredible abilities of penjing masters. Look at Jim's example- that mudman is in perfect harmony with the environment and adds immensely to the composition (heh, just ribbing you Jim. Point taken- I assume that's not even water but just a glossy surface? Yet the imagination runs with it).

Yeah, I have a lot of work to do. I wasn't even trying to express mountains, but rather a gully where roots had been exposed by repeated 'gullywashers'. Back to my precarious drawing board, and with lots of good input. Thanks all.

David

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Re: My First Penjing- Critiques Requested

Post  JimLewis on Fri Sep 12, 2014 6:57 pm

Look at Jim's example- that mudman is in perfect harmony with the environment and adds immensely to the composition

And I STILL don't like it <G>.   (Tho I have to admit I didn't see it.)

I hope everyone realizes that is NOT anything I own.  Courtesy of Google Images -- and you might take a look. There are good 'uns and bad 'uns shown.  

The glossy surface is the marble slab the composition is sitting on.  

Here's my first  attempt -- complete with Mud man:



Ilex vomitoria.  That was done back in the mid 90s in Tallahassee, Fl.  The tree did NOT like the move to the mountains in 2005 and gave up the ghost.  I still have the mud man and the stone.

This pot now has a desert-view penjing in it with NO mud men (but then, very little mud in the desert <G>.

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Jim Lewis - lewisjk@windstream.net - Western NC - People, when Columbus discovered this country, it was plumb full of nuts and berries. And I'm right here to tell you the berries are just about all gone. Uncle Dave Macon, old-time country musician

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Re: My First Penjing- Critiques Requested

Post  Precarious on Fri Sep 12, 2014 7:10 pm

I have to say, I rather like this composition. Proportion is very good. I get one common sense from each element- peacefulness. Technically, this could also be called bonsai yes? Sorry the tree was lost- even the healing cut is in good proportion.

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Re: My First Penjing- Critiques Requested

Post  JimLewis on Fri Sep 12, 2014 7:55 pm

Thanks.  

Technically, this could also be called bonsai yes?

See the discussion in The Lounge. http://ibonsaiclub.forumotion.com/t15934-penjing-or-saikei

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Jim Lewis - lewisjk@windstream.net - Western NC - People, when Columbus discovered this country, it was plumb full of nuts and berries. And I'm right here to tell you the berries are just about all gone. Uncle Dave Macon, old-time country musician

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Re: My First Penjing- Critiques Requested

Post  Precarious on Fri Sep 12, 2014 8:15 pm

Informative. Thank you Jim.

David

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Re: My First Penjing- Critiques Requested

Post  kevin stoeveken on Fri Sep 12, 2014 9:34 pm

damn jim... too bad you lost that tree... looked real good in that setting

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1st Penjing...

Post  Guest on Sat Sep 20, 2014 1:15 pm

Precarious in Nebraska, Jim and Rick have made wise and pertinent comments re your 1st Penjing...

Bringing Landscapes with Stone, Trees and Ground covers to completion is a very formidable, ambitious
endeavour........Scale is everything, then treatment of the particular Bonsai.

On your 1st Penjing I would replace the tree on the stone top with some very small seedling or ground cover and you would then be good to go...

Chuck


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Re: My First Penjing- Critiques Requested

Post  Precarious on Sat Sep 20, 2014 5:05 pm

Thanks for all the comments. At this point, I've basically dismantled the project. The tropicals have been removed to winter indoors, and I have decided to keep the Chinese Elm an outdoor tree. I personally find myself disappointed in the look of the base of that elm's trunk. I will plan a new gully or canyon project over the winter. I really enjoyed the first attempt, learned a lot.

David

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Re: My First Penjing- Critiques Requested

Post  JimLewis on Sat Sep 20, 2014 5:50 pm

Keep at it.  Get some books.  

Here are books on Saikei:  http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=penjing&rh=n%3A283155%2Ck%3Apenjing

The two Gustafson books are indentical.

And here are books on Penjing: http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1/190-1478831-5285903?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=saikei

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Jim Lewis - lewisjk@windstream.net - Western NC - People, when Columbus discovered this country, it was plumb full of nuts and berries. And I'm right here to tell you the berries are just about all gone. Uncle Dave Macon, old-time country musician

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Re: My First Penjing- Critiques Requested

Post  Leo Schordje on Tue Sep 23, 2014 4:39 pm

I really thought for a first effort it was a great try. Really good. The fact that you got so many comments said there was enough good in it that people could actually see ways to make your penjing better. If it had been really bad, you would have "heard crickets", because most people feel if you have nothing good to say it is better to say nothing at all. You are well on the way to making excellent penjing. Nice start. I really liked how you married the roots of the elm to the rock.

The mix of near and far is probably the issue that detracted the most. The mixing of tropicals and hardy species was probably the biggest horticultural mistake. I would love to see your next 'gully' scene. This was a nice attempt. I would have been tempted to keep the elm and rocks together and work the rest to resolve the distance and scale issues because one of the nicest aspects was how well you worked that tree onto the rock. But now that it is disassembled, it is a moot issue.

Water - Jun and others had posts here where they used acrylic resin to represent water. Consider this, use the search engines to see examples. I think the relevant posts are from 2010 or earlier.

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Re: My First Penjing- Critiques Requested

Post  Precarious on Tue Sep 23, 2014 6:21 pm

Thank you Leo and Jim. The elm and rock are still together, but I felt so much needed to be done to get a proper perspective that I want to study and develop a fresh vision of the scene.

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Re: My First Penjing- Critiques Requested

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