Beautiful Bonsai!

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Beautiful Bonsai!

Post  Walter Pall on Thu Feb 11, 2010 8:27 am

‚Beautiful bonsai’


I know, it is all my own fault. Since I have led Fred to this IBC gallery he is not so much around anymore recently. This IBC gallery is a continuous Valentine’s Day for bonsai enthusiasts. All the time flowers are being presented. I have made the mistake to go to Fred’s thread there and to write a critique to his bonsai.

Ding dong

I think I have to go to the front door, somebody seems to not be happy about my critique.


“What the h… are you smoking to ruin my great thread with such superfluous and vicious commentary?” Fred did not loose time. “What is wrong with my commentary? What’s so mean about it? I have written a constructive criticism to your bonsai.”

Fred presented a printout of his thread with his bonsai and my critique.

My critique: “This is a very nice picture of a tree that will appeal to many people. It will most appeal to people who have no clue about bonsai. They cannot tell that this is a deciduous semi-tropical tree which is styled in the old-fashioned manner like a pine tree. A pine tree with huge red flowers! This is bonsai kitsch it is Mcbonsai! This in no way helps to educate the general public about what bonsai really means. Where is the Zenny feeling her? Where is the understatement? This is Hollywood bonsai! Well, I must admit I kind of like it , even if it is kitsch.”

“This has nothing to do with constructive criticism. If you want to know what that could be then you should have read what the other posters had to say.”

I shrugged and said “Well, Fred, these were empty flowery phrases. No helpful constructive critique for you.”

Fred looked at his paper and responded defiantly “Ah, and what is this here? Here the very first statement says it clearly: ‘beautiful bonsai’”

I looked somewhat puzzled “So what? What exactly does the mean ‘beautiful bonsai’?”

Fred rolled his eyes “This is more than clear. But for you as a beginner bonsaiwise I will explain it once more. ‘Beautiful bonsai’ means that the viewer likes the tree very much. That he likes it regarding the artistic achievement as well as for the craftsmanship; he thinks it is a masterpiece.” Fred folded his arms and grinned at me like ‘now you!’

I stayed quite calm and remarked “where from do you have this definition for ‘beautiful bonsai’?”

Fred rolled his eyes again “What do you mean, where I got this definition from? It is crystal clear what the expression ‘beautiful bonsai’ means. What else could it mean?”

“Well it is like with references and testimonies. There you find ‘he always tried hard’, which means that he had not invented Protestant work ethics, he is just a lazy pig, a non-achiever.”

“Oh well” Fred blushed a little. He apparently was thinking through his last reference “and what do YOU think ‘beautiful bonsai’ means exactly?”

I made a contemplative expression and said “I cannot tell exactly at the moment, but I can look it up.”

“Look it up? Where?” asked Fred.

“Oh well” I answered “for this we have the International Guidelines for Bonsai Critiques. Just a moment I will fetch them.”

I went to my study and came back two minutes later. Fred still stood with wide open eyes. I knew it! He had never heard or this.

I did not even look a t him and stated to browse. “Well, let’s look – ‘beautiful bonsai’ here we are:

“ ‘Beautiful Bonsai’
if this expression occurs singularly as comment one must assume that the writer did this out of sheer friendliness and tradition. It is the expression of the viewer who does not see any successful artistic factor in the bonsai and who cannot make a positive remark. Since he assumes that the artist and the readers are not used to open criticism he uses the empty phrase ‘beautiful bonsai’.
The constructive substance for a tree critique is zero.”

“That’s complete nonsense!” Fred said with excitement. “Wait wait! What is with this commentary here ‘wow, hammer tree, this really cracks meup!’”

“Just a moment, I will look it up. Ah, here it is:

‘Wow’
- if this expression is used in connection with ‘beautiful bonsai’ see there.
- if the word is used in connexion with hammer .. or mega…one must conclude that the writer is on some sort of mild drug or forgot his medication.
In cases where this phrase is used with ‘cracks me up’ then the sentence above applies, only the word ‘mild’ has to be exchanged for ‘heavy’.
The constructive substance for a tree critique is zero.”

“But here, this commentary is full of praise. ‘Great, I have tried this one too, but yours is much better.’ This should be clear without your book.”

“Let’s see” I tried to look as cool as possible. Any lining of malicious joy would bring him to explosion.

“ Comparisons with own bonsai, where the bonsai that is being critiqued is called the better one:
has the writer got a similar bonsai that is clearly worse he would never mention it. If you still find this comparison you can take it that the pundit makes fun of your bonsai and want so to say ‘look at my web site if you want to see how this is really done, you sucker’. Since this honest critique would not be helpful one hides the real meaning behind empty praise.
The constructive substance for a tree critique is zero.”

Fred read a few more commentaries like super, fantastic, extraordinary, amazing etc.. The explanations of the book always were very simple. They said “look up ‘beautiful bonsai’”.

Fred made a last attempt. “Now here! This commentary is brief, explicit and it is not possible to misinterpret it: ‘super the photograph is really great’. Now lets see what your smart book says to this.”

Scroll, scroll .. oh yes here it is:

“‘great photograph’
there are various photographs, sometimes even great ones. There are various bananas, sometimes even great ones. If you take a photograph of a banana you have taken a photograph of a banana. If you take a great photograph of a banana, you have taken a great photograph of a banana. It makes no difference at all whether your object is good or bad, it is still a banana. The critique wants to express that there is nothing positive with the bonsai. To give his comment a friendly touch still, he admires something which has nothing to do with the quality of the bonsai, namely the photograph.
The constructive substance for a tree critique is zero.”

Fred rumpled his printout with the commentaries and looked quite pissed. ”I could have known that. The commentaries are similar to the ones of my Mary when she wants to get something out of me. But the IBC folks don’t want to get something out of me. Why all this wish-wash?

I shrugged and said “no idea, maybe some are simply craving for strokes. It is not really that bad as long as you understand how to interpret it. The danger exists though, that when you get a serious bonsai critique you take it personally and your ability for self critique vanes.”

“Cannot happen to me” Fred mentioned, “ I am always open to honest commentaries.”

“O yeah, sure”, I thought.

“There was one more commentary on your printout”, I remarked.
Fred frowned and he said “Yes, here one wrote simply ‘to the dumpsters’, but I have ignored him right away, he only wants to be provocative.”

“Oh, you have ignored him simply and he has not written more?”

“No no!” Fred responded, “that’s not what I meant. If someone expresses himself in a derogatory way one can put him on IGNORE at the IBC gallery and he cannot express himself anymore.”

“Mhm, that’s what they call self criticism at the IBC. Great outfit, what is not liked gets disposed of at once.”

Fred pondered a bit and then said “Well, if all that sounds positive is really negative, then the remark ‘to the dumpsters’ could really be something very positive.”

“Eh, what is positive in the expression ‘to the dumpsters’? That’s so clear, I don’t’ think that is in the book.” I said puzzled.

“Don’t yap, look up the book, you have not clue yourself.”

So well, then let’s look “Oh yes here it is.”

“ ‘to the dumpsters’
not very constructive, but to be taken very positively with some experience in bonsai critiques.”

“Hear, hear!”, Fred said in a pronounced tone.

“Just a moment, here is more to the expression”

“- The very positive meaning of the expression ‘to the dumpsters’ comes from the fact that it is a concise but honest answer that leaves no leeway for interpretations. ‘To the dumpsters’ means ‘to the dumpsters’ to everyone.
small modifications are ‘go fishing’, ‘scrap’, ‘rather go knitting’ etc.
‘to the dumpsters’ is the honest way to say ‘beautiful bonsai’, see there.e”

“Show me this g…..ed book”, Fred yelled. He read a bit in it and then said relatively ungently “just wait now! I will write commentaries from now on that will make them shiver.” He turned around and walked to his home. There came John from the Yodeling Group at him with a big grin on his face “Hi Fred, I looked up your website. Really all very beautiful bonsai!”

Fred stopped, flushed and stemmed the fists into his sides. ”I smack the beautiful bonsai right into your face you M…………R”

Then he went on to his home; John stood like a doused poodle, shrugged and said to me “What’s up with him? Have I said something wrong?”

“Oh no”, I said “Fred does not think much of these empty phrases. He needs constructive criticism.”

-------------------------------

So at the next tree critique remember that the artist may also own the International Guidelines for Bonsai Critiques. Be honest with your tree critique. It helps nobody to talk the bonsai beautiful. And if someone sets you on ignore you know that Reiner, mhm, no Fred has sneaked into other Forums too.

And now I don’t want to hear ‘Beautiful Story’.


Written closely according to an essay in the ‘Beautiful Website’ of The Buxtehuder Fotofreunde http://www.buxtehuder-fotofreunde.de/index.htm

With the kind permission of the original author, Thomas Tremmel. He wrote about the silly comments on photographs in a forum for photography


Last edited by Walter Pall on Thu Feb 11, 2010 5:54 pm; edited 1 time in total

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Re: Beautiful Bonsai!

Post  Dustin Mann on Thu Feb 11, 2010 11:43 am

Thanks Walter. I always enjoy your critique of our bonsai trees;also recent inspirations from nature. My first thought on your opening of "flowers on a pine" was sometimes poor bonsai look schizophrenic. Styling one bonsai to look like another bonsai. Exploring why you like a tree or "it's beautiful" -great. Hope others "get it". Check out Bougainvillea by Dorothy Schmitz recent post. Guess I either stuck my foot in my mouth our aroused something in Rob Kempinski, in terms of "beautiful Bonsai" as thread went to pines. Dustin Mann

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Re: Beautiful Bonsai!

Post  dorothy7774 on Sat Feb 13, 2010 3:01 am

Beautiful comment, Walter.

-dorothy

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Beautiful Bonsai!

Post  timatkinson on Sat Feb 13, 2010 4:27 am

Herr Pall - I laughed, I cried. Now I am laughing again. Thank you so much for being you. Regards!

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Re: Beautiful Bonsai!

Post  Joe Hatfield on Wed Mar 10, 2010 9:25 pm

I appreciate the narrative. It makes interesting points that I will remember. Thanks for this Walter, I enjoyed how it was written.

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Re: Beautiful Bonsai!

Post  lackhand on Thu Feb 07, 2013 3:00 pm

I just stumbled on this and read it again - still a great read with very good points. We all need true constructive critique to get any better. "Beautiful bonsai" helps nobody. I would rather hear that you hate my tree (at least I evoked an emotion) or that I need to start all over (as long as some helpful hints and information are given).

There is far too much beautiful bonsai talk in the US especially.

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Re: Beautiful Bonsai!

Post  Sam Ogranaja on Thu Feb 07, 2013 4:15 pm

lackhand wrote:I just stumbled on this and read it again - still a great read with very good points. We all need true constructive critique to get any better. "Beautiful bonsai" helps nobody. I would rather hear that you hate my tree (at least I evoked an emotion) or that I need to start all over (as long as some helpful hints and information are given).

There is far too much beautiful bonsai talk in the US especially.

I'm glad you found this. It was a good read.
Sam

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Re: Beautiful Bonsai!

Post  Guest on Fri Feb 08, 2013 3:12 am

Yes This is a good read.
But The problem here now in IBC is everytime somebody would make a constructive criticism on a tree or works like even simple wiring technique you will be branded as a rude person...I remember from not so long time ago, I gave a critique on a tree and even on a wiring done by a beginner, and it was not taken positively, even though my intention was to give an honest constructive opinion. I even got several PM's and reminders (scolding), That is how appreciations were done now. From then on I started to give comment only to my works and to those I know personally and counter comments on my works given by others.
The question I have in mind is what would you get in return for giving constructive criticism other than being perceive as rude and arrogant.
Review the new thread about "collecting ethics"...I tried to give a point of view from the other side of the fence, but somehow been received negatively by other posters. stop wondering why threads and simple posting of tree pictures (that was supposed open to criticism ) would go dormant and would not received constructive criticism here. I still remember a Criticism here done by Walter himself on a tree by others that almost resulted in a threat of a "fistfight"..hehehe, I love reading that thread.
This is just an observation...

regards,
jun Smile

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Re: Beautiful Bonsai!

Post  Todd Ellis on Fri Feb 08, 2013 3:33 am

I enjoyed the story, very clever. I think one solution to avoid hurting someone's feelings is to establish (and teach) that there are different classes, or levels, of expertise in bonsai or any art for that matter. Advanced and intermediate artists should be able to take constructive criticism. Beginners, on the other hand need to be coached and ENCOURAGED ... to keep on learning. Just like I will proudly put my grandchildren's art work on my refrigerator, so too will I tell some one that their tree is pretty, or "has potential" and comment on the positive aspects. I will also ask them if they want my to critique their tree.

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Re: Beautiful Bonsai!

Post  Guest on Fri Feb 08, 2013 3:59 am

Todd Ellis wrote:I enjoyed the story, very clever. I think one solution to avoid hurting someone's feelings is to establish (and teach) that there are different classes, or levels, of expertise in bonsai or any art for that matter. Advanced and intermediate artists should be able to take constructive criticism. Beginners, on the other hand need to be coached and ENCOURAGED ... to keep on learning. Just like I will proudly put my grandchildren's art work on my refrigerator, so too will I tell some one that their tree is pretty, or "has potential" and comment on the positive aspects. I will also ask them if they want my to critique their tree.

That is the ideal solution Todd, but in reality it is so difficult to apply. there are even people here who are trying to hide their true level (beginner) in the hobby as if giving more years to their experience will give more credentials. some are saying they are doing bonsai for decades but when you check the works through the threads they started and trees they showed it reflects the truth. How would you deal with people like that?,. This is the reason why I asked for trees of frequent posters if they could kindly share more trees specially those who are saying they are in the "business for very long time". that is the only way to check ones level- The typical answer to that is "oh I am not in it too seriously or Oh I am not planning to get famous in bonsai". It is one way of checking out if they will receive constructive criticism in the future threads, otherwise they will get offended...and should be avoided.
for me the fact that you shared/posted a tree or works here publicly you should be open to any form of criticism...and if you criticize a work the one who offered the criticism should also be open to "counter" critiques to his/her idea. This way healthy discussions will be achieved.

And please take note, Some of the much older hobbiests are the ones less open to constructive criticisms. Wink

In any art form- Constructive criticism is always the way to go. Saying "nice" is just the same as saying "hello" Razz

regards,
jun Smile


Last edited by jun on Fri Feb 08, 2013 4:17 am; edited 2 times in total

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Re: Beautiful Bonsai!

Post  lackhand on Fri Feb 08, 2013 4:10 am

Todd Ellis wrote:Advanced and intermediate artists should be able to take constructive criticism. Beginners, on the other hand need to be coached and ENCOURAGED ... to keep on learning. Just like I will proudly put my grandchildren's art work on my refrigerator, so too will I tell some one that their tree is pretty, or "has potential" and comment on the positive aspects. I will also ask them if they want my to critique their tree.

Beginners definitely need encouragement, and you're right that more advanced artists are generally more understanding of critique. I think the real problem relates to the audience and the expectation. If you just want somebody to say, "Beautiful bonsai", then share it with a close friend - you can expect that audience to appreciate your effort. If you show it to a professional and ask for their genuine critique, you should expect to hear some things you could have done better - this is the audience where you should expect to hear all of the bad along with the good. I think it's worth mentioning too that no two artists will ever see things the same. One may say wonderful things about your effort, and another may hate the tree.

Even if they hate the tree though, critiques should always be done in a helpful, constructive, and friendly manner. The purpose should be to help the artist do better work next time, and to improve the tree. While "to the dumpster!" may be better than "beautiful bonsai" for its honesty, it is also not very helpful.

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Re: Beautiful Bonsai!

Post  Khaimraj Seepersad on Wed Feb 13, 2013 1:18 am

When someone presents a finished item, the response is appreciation.

If someone asks for a critique, you take into account the level of ability, before responding.
Later.
Khaimraj

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Re: Beautiful Bonsai!

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