Bonsai balance and movement

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Bonsai balance and movement

Post  Guest on Thu Mar 24, 2011 2:09 pm

Another topic asked how the trees movement and direction was read. Because some disagreement assumed that some Shohin were misplaced at a rack, I hereby give my explanation to the topic as asked for.

All the Shohin shown at the specific display were well placed. The movement is not as commonly misunderstood only to look at the canopy and its volume/direction. The slanting trunk, counterbalancing/anchoring roots, counterbalancing branches and most important, the leading7main branch are all essential.
If the tree is not styled with this in mind, of course some diffusion and difficulty in reading the balance and movement of the bonsai may happen. In some cases it might even be plausible to see tow direction in the same tree. Some times the case with very formal trees with no clear leading branch.

Below two examples of how to read the movement and direction of a bonsai. How it is understandable.

Best regards
Morten Albek


The leading branch is at the left side, and the right side have the counter balancing branches. This is because the trunk leans towards the left, and the root at the right further underlines this movement.


A classic shohin display, Toko-kazari showing how the movement and balance in each tree is read. The assisting tree far right has no clear counterbalancing branches, therefore not indicated. The movement is very clear though.

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Bonsai balance and movement

Post  Guest on Thu Mar 24, 2011 2:37 pm

Hello Morton. I'm very pleased to see you've started this thread on movement within the shohin display. I would be interested to know if you understand and feel you could comment on Alex's critisizm of Mark and Ritta's display? My interpretation of those trees movement is obviously different to his, as he seemed to be focusing on a different part of the tree. Your opinion will be appreciated.

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bonsai balance and movement

Post  Bob Bailey on Thu Mar 24, 2011 2:42 pm

Hi Morten
Many thanks for your informative and detailed explanation on the movement and balance of displaying trees in a rack.I don,t think anybody is truely satisfied with any display they put out,there is always something you think you cauld do better,even after hours of working out what you think is the best combination of trees/pots stand . Shohin displayed in a rack is the most difficult part of Shohin display ,but if you follow certain guidelines as explained by you on your Shohin Site and also read Willi Benz excellent book(Bonsai Kusamono Suiseki), this can make this difficult part of our art easier and more harmonious.
Thankyou once again for your input
Bob

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Re: Bonsai balance and movement

Post  fiona on Thu Mar 24, 2011 2:55 pm

Yes, thanks for taking up a potentially poisoned chalice on this one, Morten. Smile

As I said on that other thread, I think the problem begins where there is a pronounced direction change (bend) in the trunk line of a tree. In your examples the trunk line and canopy are going in the same direction. Other trees are obvious. I'm still at work but will post a couple of examples of my own where my thought as to the direction was not the feeling of a leading European bonsai artist.

Good thread developing here. And civilised.

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Re: Bonsai balance and movement

Post  Alex on Thu Mar 24, 2011 3:00 pm

Mr. Morten,

My english is poor. My post, when read top of tree, it really meant movement of tree. I think you post is not so different from mine, only use better words.

The Japanese display is very good. I disagree a little with the two trees at third (bottom) level. Movement is not that clear.

I hope trouble don start again.

Regards,

Alex


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Re: Bonsai balance and movement

Post  Khaimraj Seepersad on Thu Mar 24, 2011 4:10 pm

Just a few points,
[No offence is intended,]

if these images are seen as - Still Life - and meant for long term contemplation, presenting these images, you need to watch how you crop the images.

For example the root anchor / balancing feels excessive and suggests a needed repotting. This shift then reharmonises the image to fit better within a viewing shape.
Additionally it is very ugly to have the back of the surface the pot is on, kissing ] passing through the
the line ornament of the pot's base.

Makes the viewing visually very uncomfortable.

As the shapes go on the second image the top tree feels like it needs to shift and more kissing is taking place at the base. Too much of the same green and the blue of the pot sticks out.
Something also has be done with the accent.

I think if one looks at Bonsai International 2007 no. 2, the work of Paul Goff, and Mario Komsta where the photography is precise, and there is a sense of depth, the points being illustrated here would come over better.

Anyhow, this is how a painter working on a Still Life, would balance these objects.
Humble apologies in advance.
Khaimraj

* One could ask Mr. Valavanis to show the images.


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Re: Bonsai balance and movement

Post  wabashene on Thu Mar 24, 2011 5:14 pm

If I'm trying to figure out what a tree is doing or can do movement-wise, I have a Golden Rectangle etched into a clear perspex sheet.

I hold it up and look through it at the tree, adjusting the field so it covers tree AND pot by extending or shortening my arm or by moving nearer or further away.

Centring the confluence of rectangles on the real or perceived focal point and flipping it to give the correct orientation should give you an idea of where the tree is going and if anything is out of line.

Take this example of Pavel's virt of my San Jose Cascade and why his image is so much better than my actual picture on the right which has elements outside the field- circled in white.



Thing is, this is just a theory ( not original either) and I don’t apply it to my own trees often enough.

Similarly, I have used this idea on a shohin display posted recently.

Even if you switch the focal point from top left to bottom right, nothing gets too far out of line and a natural flow line is evident.

So in a display context, perhaps individual elements may be able to oppose, objectively or subjectively, as long as the overall flow is coherent.

And I said I would never get involved in a bonsai and A** discussion again

thks

TimR






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Re: Bonsai balance and movement

Post  fiona on Thu Mar 24, 2011 5:45 pm

Alex - you make your point well and courteously. Thank you and don't feel the need to apologise for your English. .

Now, please don't shoot me everyone. I am not presenting an opinion of any sort - rather I am asking a question that hopefully one or more of you will be able to answer and which will makes things clearer to this relative (but a highly interested) beginner to the principles of display. Here goes.

The tree on the bottom left of Mark and Ritta's display (the one in Wabashene's pics) has a definite change of direction mid-way up the trunk. Here it is in close-up:



Now to my largely uneducated eye, the tree is going to the left, therefore away from the direction that would be required by Morten's well-explained princples. This is what I meant in my earlier post when I said it was easy when trunk and canopy were going the same direction but not when the trunk bends.

As I say, I am posing this as a question, not an opinion. Educate me please.

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Re: Bonsai balance and movement

Post  Khaimraj Seepersad on Thu Mar 24, 2011 6:04 pm

Fiona,

please forgive me, but before we discuss anything, don't you find the pot too small for the tree ?
The feet of the pot don't help the with weight of the tree either or do they ?
That is a very healthy, full, heavy set tree.

So if the pot - may - be too small, wouldn't it visually bother the eye, while one is trying to handle the guidelines of a total display?

Just a question.
Khaimraj

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Bonsai balance and movement

Post  Guest on Thu Mar 24, 2011 6:38 pm

Please Khaimraj with the greatest respect, can you stick to the topic? If you need to dicuss this, start another thread.

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Re: Bonsai balance and movement

Post  fiona on Thu Mar 24, 2011 6:45 pm

It might in the photo but maybe that is more to do with the photo than anything else. It certainly doesn't seem out of keeping in real life. And one thing at a time anyway - I've had a hard day and my head is ready to explode.

And on to the next tree:

Well it would have been but servimg seems to have gone down for the moment.

Ah well. As Khaimraj would say:

Later

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Re: Bonsai balance and movement

Post  fiona on Thu Mar 24, 2011 6:46 pm

Oops, Will and I seem to have crossed in the post. Think I've answered K's point anyway.

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Re: Bonsai balance and movement

Post  Guest on Thu Mar 24, 2011 6:49 pm

will baddeley wrote:Hello Morton. I'm very pleased to see you've started this thread on movement within the shohin display. I would be interested to know if you understand and feel you could comment on Alex's critisizm of Mark and Ritta's display? My interpretation of those trees movement is obviously different to his, as he seemed to be focusing on a different part of the tree. Your opinion will be appreciated.

I really like to make a comment of this display, because basically I find it very beautiful, peaceful and harmonic. If I am forced to find some details to comment I have to be very picky. Then I could point out that the main tree (the top tree at the rack) is a little too large compared with the other bonsai in the display (to my taste). The Zelkova (?) is formal and any direction/movement is difficult to see. If picky picky, the placement in the pot slightly to the left shows its movement is to the right, but the tree doesn't show that itself, so it could be placed anywhere really.
The lower left tree does not have a direction out of the display as Alex suggests, because when I look at another picture taken from another angle, it shows the balance and direction is inwards into the display middle (but I can see why Alex thought so because the camera angle makes it look so at a first glance).

Summarising it all, I find it a very very good display - but as always we can all approve and FINALLY!: The artist decide wholeheartedly what works and what feeling he and she puts in it. Remember: NO RULES - ONLY GUIDELINES.

The directions and movement described at my own website and elsewhere are only meant to guide people into understanding and ease the practise, getting the display to balance and work. But exceptions are always there, and personal favourites and taste do play a part of this art.

Next I want to be picky with the positive elements of this display. The trees match perfectly with the style of the rack. Both trees and rack are slightly formal in the overall expression. All trees match in this style, and therefore harmony is achieved. There is enough space around the trees, making it peacefully and not crowded, but light and easy like the watercolour painting/Japanese landscape painting to which the Shohin display refers. Colours of trees and pots are kept modest, and the time of year is clearly shown what may be one of the most important expressions of the shohin display.
Personal touch and taste, and that's why we see different displays at the same time of year and with the same species of trees. But shown very different depending on the artist and the mood of the display.

The work of Rita and Mark is very very good, and I respect their approach to this art much.

Best regards
Morten






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Re: Bonsai balance and movement

Post  fiona on Thu Mar 24, 2011 6:57 pm

try again.

And on to the next tree - this time one of my own which I didn't have at Willowbog as it has not had its annual haircut. (Apologies for the hasty snap as well)




In the pic, despite the trunk going to the left, the canopy has a distinct tilt to the right so the tree direction to me is determined by that.

As I said before I am not giving an opinion - merely asking the question and I am happy to accept my take on things is incorrect.


Last edited by fiona on Thu Mar 24, 2011 7:52 pm; edited 1 time in total

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Re: Bonsai balance and movement

Post  Khaimraj Seepersad on Thu Mar 24, 2011 7:01 pm

Will and Fiona,

my point would have been simply this - if the tree is out of alignment with it's pot, and the eye is detecting it, perhaps unconsciously, any other critiques on the main display would be a waste.

You have to get the basics correct and then move on. So perhaps any negative comments to be made were really being generated by the improper pot size /shape or even colour.
Until.
Khaimraj

* Fiona, I know your head hurts, but same situation, pot problems. Don't worry I won't post on this topic again. Smile


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Re: Bonsai balance and movement

Post  fiona on Thu Mar 24, 2011 7:31 pm

Leaving the pots aside. My system is weird tonight -I swear Morten's post wasn't there before I put my other one on. Pity as it really helped explain my first stuff.

Morten, are we saying that in general the display direction is dictated by the direction of the leading branch rather than the trunk? That would make sense of something. This tree was always displayed on the left of a display facing to the right (trunk direction) by both myself and its previous owner. Yet at Willowbog two years ago, Marco changed it to the other side of the display so it was in effect going to the left. I didn't want to argue wth him but I did hear several others comment on how it was the "wrong way round". I am assuming now with hindsight that this was to do with the leading branch direction.

Interesting


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bonsai balance and movement

Post  Bob Bailey on Thu Mar 24, 2011 8:01 pm

Hi Fiona
Marco was correct,the tree is definitely right /left, you have even positioned in the pot for that bias. This bias must have been in your mind when you repotted !
Bob

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Re: Bonsai balance and movement

Post  fiona on Thu Mar 24, 2011 8:11 pm

Haha. Bob, thank goodness something that goes on in my mind is right! Rolling Eyes

But it just goes to show you how you can get your mind going down one road and it's only when someone who knows what they're tallking about says or does something different that you start to actually think about it. I must admit that I hadn't been convinced by previous explanations, but Morten's exposition of leading branches was for me a classic light bulb moment. Idea

So this thread has been a succes for me in terms of education and enlightenment. I'd like it to continue in that vein but what I'd suggest is that people bring to the debate their own trees to discuss as I think we've exhausted the discussion on previous ones. In the light of day tomorrow I am going to go and really look at my own trees and photograph and post any I feel are "debatable" in terms of direction. Anyone else care to do likewise? Thick skin and/or bullet-proof vest provided.

And btw it doesn't need to be shohin trees - my one above is more chuhin sized.

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Re: Bonsai balance and movement

Post  Guest on Fri Mar 25, 2011 6:45 am

fiona wrote:Alex - you make your point well and courteously. Thank you and don't feel the need to apologise for your English. .

Now, please don't shoot me everyone. I am not presenting an opinion of any sort - rather I am asking a question that hopefully one or more of you will be able to answer and which will makes things clearer to this relative (but a highly interested) beginner to the principles of display. Here goes.

The tree on the bottom left of Mark and Ritta's display (the one in Wabashene's pics) has a definite change of direction mid-way up the trunk. Here it is in close-up:



Now to my largely uneducated eye, the tree is going to the left, therefore away from the direction that would be required by Morten's well-explained princples. This is what I meant in my earlier post when I said it was easy when trunk and canopy were going the same direction but not when the trunk bends.

As I say, I am posing this as a question, not an opinion. Educate me please.

Much better view at the picture taken precisely from the front. At first I misjudged the tree because the angle of the photo did not show it correctly (bonsai photos are not easy too judge in all circumstances). You are fully right here Fiona. The tree is pointing outwards of the display and should point inwards.

Not only the leading branch tells which direction/flow the tree has but it is an important feature. Also the balance of the tree matters. If you take a chopstick e.g. and place it at the middle of the trunk base and at the top middle part of the canopy you have an indication of the direction of the tree too. The main or leading branch should underline this, and the counter balance branch opposite placed underlines it. This works no matter which moves the trunk makes from trunk base middle to top middle. Exceptions may be found but on well styled trees this is how it shows.
This is the basic guideline. Feeling the image and expression is more important.

Regards
Morten




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Re: Bonsai balance and movement

Post  Guest on Fri Mar 25, 2011 6:53 am

fiona wrote:Leaving the pots aside. My system is weird tonight -I swear Morten's post wasn't there before I put my other one on. Pity as it really helped explain my first stuff.

Morten, are we saying that in general the display direction is dictated by the direction of the leading branch rather than the trunk? That would make sense of something. This tree was always displayed on the left of a display facing to the right (trunk direction) by both myself and its previous owner. Yet at Willowbog two years ago, Marco changed it to the other side of the display so it was in effect going to the left. I didn't want to argue wth him but I did hear several others comment on how it was the "wrong way round". I am assuming now with hindsight that this was to do with the leading branch direction.

Interesting


Fiona. This image shows a tree not positioned well in the pot in my opinion. It should at least have the trunk straight up or leaning slightly to the left. The tree is unbalanced and lacks harmony because it is not planted correctly. It works against its own growth so to speak, not looking natural and peaceful. The top of the canopy and base middle of the trunk goes right and the branch leader goes left. This can easily be corrected and a calmer and more pleasing image is achieved I think. Just change the planting angle slightly. The branches are well positioned and the tree has a natural pleasing expression as I see it.
Back to your first question: ... are we saying that in general the display direction is dictated by the direction of the leading branch rather than the trunk? No and yes. Both trunk and leading branch (and counter balancing branches) should all underline the movement of the tree. If I neglect this, the image doesn't work well basically I think.
Regards
Morten

I changed the position slightly. I hope it is all right.


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Re: Bonsai balance and movement

Post  AJ on Fri Mar 25, 2011 1:41 pm

Fiona wrote: "The tree on the bottom left of Mark and Ritta's display (the one in Wabashene's pics) has a definite change of direction mid-way up the trunk."

The lower part of the tree, movement from left to right:


The upper part of the tree, movement from right to left:


Yellow line drops straight down from the apex. Red line divides the tree in half, vertically, following the movement of the upper and lower parts:


In my view, Fiona is correct. It's a nice looking bonsai, but its visual movement is ambiguous, or perhaps conflicted.

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Re: Bonsai balance and movement

Post  Guest on Fri Mar 25, 2011 2:25 pm

AJ - (your real name please :-) )

Many many bonsai trunks changes direction and are not straight forward. Movement is part of a informal upright tree. I see a well balanced tree very well styled. I see a well balanced tree too, and I am not sure which problems you see. There are no conflicts in this tree at all in my view. It has an aged appearance, whit beautiful old bark and a dense ramification, good nebari and is high quality shohin IMHO.
No tree is perfect. If it is, it is not bonsai.

Best regards
Morten Albek

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Re: Bonsai balance and movement

Post  Guest on Fri Mar 25, 2011 2:57 pm

Hello AJ. I see a photo of this tree taken slightly left of centre. Your straight up and down line is left of centre of the nebari also?

Thankyou very much, Morton for your detailed explanation on this brain bursting subject. Should all the trees within the stand, always face inwards?

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Re: Bonsai balance and movement

Post  fiona on Fri Mar 25, 2011 3:17 pm

Thanks for your input Arthur (though I believe people will readily recognise you as AJ across the pond).
It is one of those situations where the "direction" is deceptive and subtle at the same time. It is also obvious that there are going to be two opposite arguments - reminds me of being in an art gallery once where a particular seascape was being discussed and the only real argument was whether the tide was going out or coming in. So much time was spent in this particular detail that the artistic effect of the whole painting was lost.

Are we in danger of not seeing the wood for the trees? (Or in our bonsai case perhaps that should be not seeing the tree for the wood.) Are we in danger of being so intent on finding fault that we fail to see the good?

I've had an enlightening comment that in Japan inconsitencies are not referred to as "faults" but as "demerits", and often these are minor. That to me is a good distinction. I haven't seen anything that is glaringly "wrong" and I'm willing to bet that had we seen that elm out of leaf, we'd be having an entirely different discussion.

Anyway, perhaps we could put up some other pictures for discussion as this tree is about exhausted.


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Re: Bonsai balance and movement

Post  newzealandteatree on Fri Mar 25, 2011 3:50 pm

That is a lovely little tree and I will gladly have it in my garden. A slightly bigger pot will make it even more beautiful. I can well imagine the amount of time, attention and dedication over the years to bring a tree to this standard. Within the limitation of a 2 dimensional picture taken off centre, I see a tree moving from right to left. As no bonsai is perfect, I will wish that root in front is not too overpowering. This I must add is a personal taste and others are free to disagree with me.

Cheers.

CJ
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Re: Bonsai balance and movement

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