Standards for Bonsai

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Re: Standards for Bonsai

Post  Will Heath on Tue May 12, 2009 9:14 pm

There are many who do not like to hear this, but I have said all along that the only rule in bonsai and the only standard that they should be judged by is that they must be artistically successful. This is also what defines a bonsai from a tree in a pot.


It is really that simple.




Will

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Re: Standards for Bonsai

Post  Rob Kempinski on Tue May 12, 2009 10:27 pm

Will Heath wrote:There are many who do not like to hear this, but I have said all along that the only rule in bonsai and the only standard that they should be judged by is that they must be artistically successful. This is also what defines a bonsai from a tree in a pot.

It is really that simple.
Will

I agree. It's simple to state but not so to execute. Kinda like E= mc**2. Cool

Debating what is art is pointless. Everyone has their own likes and dislikes.

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Re: Standards for Bonsai

Post  fiona on Tue May 12, 2009 11:06 pm

So how artistically successful is this Hawthorn? It was on a gold medal winning stand at a UK flower show yet I suspect it wouldn't even make the selection cut at something like Newstead or Best of British? The difficulty we have over here is that in all too many cases the "tree in the pot" is what is being classed as (and judged as) proper bonsai. This is partly because of the dominance of the flower show style of exhibiting and its consequent lack of robustness because the people judging (as Darky said in an earlier post) often are not bonsai people but experts in another field. I have heard a show manager at a flower show tell a judge (a sweet pea expert) that all you had to do to judge bonsai was 'choose the most deformed'. At that show a piece of mallsai (complete with obligatory s-bend) won the best informal upright class and a bunch of Sycamore seedlings in what looked like a lasagne dish won best forest/group planting - partly through the ignorance of the judge and partly because of the paucity of good bonsai at these events. We either say some sort of judging standard is needed to counter this stuff or we say (some would say snobbishly) that this type of show doesn't matter and true bonsai exhibitions are what counts. In which case bonsai in the UK is almost doomed to fail as the public in their thousands see the flower show stuff as opposed to the already converted hundred or so who go to the "proper" exhibitions. While I'm in complete agreement with the point that "rules" can have a stifling effect and create (to use my recently learned term from this forum) cookie cutter bonsai, I am interested in how we counter the "tree in the pot" mentality that can hold back bonsai societies and national bonsai organisations.



BTW re judging and dogs: my breeder friend is of the opinion that changes to the judging standard for some breeds to suit some so-called aesthetics is actually causing physical harm to the dogs.

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Re: Standards for Bonsai

Post  mike page on Wed May 13, 2009 12:33 am

The tree illustrated in the previous post would not win a prize in any judged exhibit that had knowledgeable judges using rational criteria to judge bonsai.

Mike

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Re: Standards for Bonsai

Post  mike page on Wed May 13, 2009 12:52 am

As the virtual shows, it wouldn't take a lot of work to make the tree more presentable.

Mike


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Re: Standards for Bonsai

Post  Norma on Wed May 13, 2009 1:11 am

Will,

I agree that a winning bonsai must have "artistic success" but should it not show "horticultural success" also. If after you have carved the deadwood and twisted the limbs creating a work of art, would it not be reasonable to assume the tree would live and show vitality? I believe to have a winning bonsai you must be proficient in both art and horticulture and thus both skills must be evident to a judge and taken into consideration.

Norma

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Re: Standards for Bonsai

Post  darky on Wed May 13, 2009 2:07 am

As I have read replies here, I have wondered how the general public which go to exhibitions felt. This was once mentioned at a committee meeting.
To alleviate the bitchiness associated with judging it was put forward a people choice!!! Numbers were put in front of each exhibit.
This particular club encourages all members to put in trees. The first thing that arose was the first exhibit, was at the entrance, and as an example of Tokonoma display in Miniature. The first fight stopped by taking the number off. I am among those who care less at our shows ( if I want competition I entered judged shows!!. The next was a Saikei setting complete with Dinosaurs you guessed it it won by streets. The kids got Mom and Dad to vote as well. So to sum up will we ever get it right.
The last Judged show In Western Australia. Was the The Royal Agriculture show. In 1997 there was one entrant. He won every thing except the Championship as this was required to have three exhibits. He did not have enough trees to fill this spot. He still won best in show!!.

So maybe this hawthorn was part of an overall exhibit, as an individual tree it score is minimal but the others could be very high to carry enough points.

In one of the first books I read on Bonsai was by Yuji Yoshimura and Giovanna M. Halford Chapter 8 page165 is dedicated to Judging and Exhibiting Bonsai. I do not see any reference to point scoring, Which seems to be the big thing. Just a humble point of view. Darky Smile

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Standards of Bonsai

Post  LLK on Wed May 13, 2009 2:28 am

Norma, I agree wholeheartedly.

Standards of bonsai are passed on through generations of afficionados by those who are respected as authorities in the art. Returning to Australian standards, it may be of interest to know that the AABC has a system of accreditation in this respect. Would-be accredited demonstrators/workshop leaders actually have to pass an exam, their work being evaluated by a panel of senior accredited judges. I believe that the criteria are broadly based on the Koreshoff principles, but don't know any details. See also the URL below.
Clubs registered with the AABC can invite an acccredited demonstrator from their general reegion once a year and have his/her travel costs refunded.

LLK
http://www.aabcltd.org/demo.htm

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Re: Standards for Bonsai

Post  fiona on Wed May 13, 2009 7:58 am

mike page wrote:The tree illustrated in the previous post would not win a prize in any judged exhibit that had knowledgeable judges using rational criteria to judge bonsai.Mike

This was my point exactly and it's good to have it confirmed. The other trees in the exhibit, incidentally, were of similar standard yet the exhibit won a Gold medal at what is billed as the 'highlight of the horticultural calendar' in Scotland. While it's not the Chelsea of the north as a show, the key point is that the judging standard is supposed to be the same - using the Royal Horticultural Society's judging criteria. To compare the trees on this exhibit with those put up at Chelsea by the likes of Peter Chan or FoBBS must surely indicate that judging is as subjective (flawed?) even when working within a standard as it is using the shoot from the hip method.

Incidentally a good point of the RHS standard is that it does strongly judge on tree health. I too agree wholeheartedly with Norma and LLK that the tree must display excellent health. If we don't push this aspect, we might as well just carve dead stumps and call ourselves sculptors rather than artists working with living material.

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Re: Standards for Bonsai

Post  wabashene on Wed May 13, 2009 11:54 am

Well Jim - to answer your original question.

A quick Google about shows that there are judging criteria around in Europe for sure. I also copied some really complex rules for judging to minute levels including scoring grids and the like from somewhere like Oz or Indonesia a few years ago but lost it in a PC crash.

See copies of judging Rules for the European Bonsai Association - New Talent Contest and FoBBS (Fed of British Bonsai Societies) competitions below.

These both seem to be pretty much common sense.

" For New Talent Contest-Evaluation scheme, see at the EBA Website, under EBA
RULES – New Talents Contest Rules – http://www.ebabonsai.com/


The criteria to judge NTC-trees must take into account that the candidate did not have the choice of material as he had to take one of the trees offered for the contest. As such, defects as for instance the absence of nebari, an inverse taper of a trunk, can not be overcome.

Nebari:
Surface roots : the most important factor to observe for styling a good tree, and also the one that is difficult to correct. It plays a crucial role in defining the front of the tree.

It is very well possible that the material of the candidate does not have any surface roots or even show some taper at the base of the trunk.

The candidate should have made in any case a serious attempt to search for it and look for possible surface roots deeper in the pot

Tachiagari: Lower trunk : was the front of the tree chosen while showing the trunk to its best ?

Was it a second best choice because of a nice nebari or a better branch placement ?

Was the trunk at least cleaned if needed ?

Branches:
Are the sashi-eda (primary and largest branch) and the uke-eda (counterbalancebranch) well defined ?

Are the main branches correctly placed without interfering or covering eachother ?

Is there enough negative space between the branches?

Does the form of the branches logically coincide with the style and the trunk movement ?

Is the apex well defined ?

Techniques
Wiring:
Correct wiring, not excessive
Strong enough to hold branches in place
Without damaging the bark of the tree.

Techniques :
Correctly pruned, no stumps, finished pruning cuts

Pruning: Enough pruning or not ?
Other techniques (Jin, Shari, Uro ..): If any, well defined jin, shari and uro, no excessive carving or marks of revolving tools. Natural aspect of the work
Health: Was the health of the tree, through excessive work, put in danger by the candidate ?
Can the tree normally survive its first styling ?
Excessive work must be marked down.

Aesthetics Design:
Are the respective volumes compared to each other in harmony and are these volumes in proportion to the trees ?

Aesthetics Natural appearance:

Styling a tree might cause an artificial appearance. Is the work on the tree done in such a way that it still gives the impression that the artist merely interfered in the natural appearance of the tree.

Aesthetics Balance:
In two aspects to be observed. Although the tree is not potted, it must be
presented in the correct angle as if it were properly planted, thus showing that the balance of the tree is correct.

FoBBS (http://www.fobbsbonsai.co.uk/members/index.html#h-12.2)


Suggested Judging points.-

ROOTS. Roots should spread out evenly from the base of the trunk forming a good buttress, they should be free of exposed hair roots. Crossed roots are undesirable. Root over rock styles should have their roots firmly attached to the rock and be evenly placed.

TRUNK
the trunk must respect the style indicated by the exhibitor and should have a good/even taper. Pruning scars should be minimal and be neatly calloused. Jin/Sharimiki effects should enhance rather than distract (consider the over whitened effects of some Jins) Bark development should suggest maturity.

BRANCHES. The branches should be in proportion to the trunk, with the large ones in the lower part of the tree and should alternate avoiding opposing branches. They should be well set if wired and have good twig ramification. A well formed crown is desirable. Wire scars can detract from the presentation of branches. Good structure is vitally important to the presentation of the tree.

FOLIAGE The foliage should be in proportion to the size of the tree, it should be of good colour, healthy and free from pests and disease.

Excess foliage should be avoided, too dense a canopy may create a lop-heavy appearance and so detract from the harmony of the presentation. Space between the foliage reduces the visual weight and provides light and air within the composition.

POTS. The pot should display the tree to is best advantage. The colour should harmonise with the tree, be subdued to avoid the pot overpowering the tree in its presentation. It should be of the appropriate shape to provide balance and harmony the exhibit. Garish colours should be avoided. Rocks/slabs should be given the same consideration when use instead of a pot.

SURFACE TREATMENT .Must always be weed free, it must serve to present the tree to its best advantage, surface material should be of a fine nature to accentuate rather than detract. The purpose of the surface is to mimic the landscape and so attention to detail should be paramount. Moss if used must be healthy and of a good colour.

OVERALL PRESENTATION The overall presentation of the exhibit should account for at least 50% of the judging marks. Points to consider, does it present with harmony to the eye perhaps as a mature tree in it's natural state in the wild, consider the positive aspects of the presentation worry less about the demerits unless they far exceed the merits of the tree. Major factors to consider are, health, vigour, the tree/pot combination, the stand if so presented. Does the overall presentation produce a picture of harmony that works well and pleases the viewer with a living work of art?"
*****

Interesting to note that the FoBBS "rules" suggest that overall impression should be worth at least 50% of the marks.By inferrence, a "flair" stylist with a mediocre tree could outdo a "by the numbers" technician with a poorly presented stunner.

I also see the "A" word appears right at the end but I'm not going there.

lol
thks

TimR

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Re: Standards for Bonsai

Post  Tony on Wed May 13, 2009 1:38 pm

wabashene wrote:

Interesting to note that the FoBBS "rules" suggest that overall impression should be worth at least 50% of the marks.By inferrence, a "flair" stylist with a mediocre tree could outdo a "by the numbers" technician with a poorly presented stunner.

THIS HAS HAPPENED
but the other way around, a beautifully styled tree, lost out... due to not quite 'ticking the boxes' in some categories... much to the surprise of ALL lovers of bonsai who were at the event!

Tim, as the first UK 'winner' and 3rd finalist of the NTC back in 1997, coached three other on to win, witnessed and judged at a few... I would like to believe I am something of an authority on European NTC. The 'Original' rules were crafted by Craig Coussins around the year 2000 and all subsequent iterations have been fine tunings from the original. I can honestly tell you that EVERY NTC has been surrounded in controversy. Be it 'favoritism' 'nationalism' 'perceived grudge' 'Ignorance' 'poor material' 'inconsistent material' the list goes on and on.

When I prepare students for NTC they must first get the style correct, then attention to detail, and not miss any of the 'box ticking'... its a tough call, what should always win through is the style and refinement.

The bottom line is that there must be rules or else there is chaos... but for my money, The overall presentation of the exhibit should account for at least 70% of the judging marks.

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Re: Standards for Bonsai

Post  chrish on Mon Oct 03, 2011 7:35 pm

As far as a standard for bonsai goes, I am dead against. It would take the artistic value out of bonsai and replace it with a structured set of guide lines (rules) which would have to be followed. However, a standard judging method which every judge has to follow would take away the guess work of exhibitor trying to figuer out if this judge likes conifers or broard leaf trees. At the moment you can show a tree at three (3) different shows ain front of three (3) different judges and get three (3) different results because it goes on the judges likes and dislikes. A judging standard which rates all the seperate elements of a bonsai, would then give the exhibitor feedback so he/she can see what is excellent, good or needs improvement with their bonsai and with this infomation improving their bonsai thus raising the standard of bonsai. Instead of taking their bonsai home, as they do now, being none the wiser what the judge liked or disliked about their tree. I'm a firm believer in, to improve what you have you must compete, be it horses, chickens or bonsai, only competition can show you what yous is lacking and what you need to do to improve it, thus raising the standard for all involved.

chris

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Re: Standards for Bonsai

Post  JimLewis on Mon Oct 03, 2011 8:34 pm

Wow! Resurrection! I started this in early 2009.

However, a standard judging method which every judge has to follow would take away the guess work of exhibitor trying to figure out if this judge likes conifers or broad leaf trees. At the moment you can show a tree at three (3) different shows in front of three (3) different judges and get three (3) different results because it goes on the judges likes and dislikes. A judging standard which rates all the separate elements of a bonsai, would then give the exhibitor feedback so he/she can see what is excellent, good or needs improvement with their bonsai and with this information improving their bonsai thus raising the standard of bonsai.

A "Judging Method/Standard" would quickly become a de facto "Bonsai Standard" as wannabe winners check all the same boxes the judges are looking at. Subjectivity is necessary. And even good. This is art (or craft); we're not working with machine tools.

In lots of other judged shows of one kind or another, regular competitors learn which judges they want to present their work to and which they do not (or at least which judges are more likely to give their kind of work a better score.).

And besides, it really, really is good for you to occasionally hear someone tell you the "faults" they see in your tree, rather than someone who -- for whatever reason -- you know is going to gush over your work.

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Re: Standards for Bonsai

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