Book review of Robert Steven's "Mission of Transformation"

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Book review of Robert Steven's "Mission of Transformation"

Post  Sam Ogranaja on Wed Oct 12, 2011 4:04 am

Robert Steven has been one of the most influential bonsai masters in my bonsai journey. As with most beginners, every bonsai I saw looked good. It wasn't until I started studying more and looking at more and more pictures that I started figuring out what made a good bonsai. I still have much to learn but with this book I feel as though I am getting closer to my goal.

What is bonsai? While the translation literally means "tree in a pot", the rest at times feels forever obscure. I think that in every art, artists develop certain styles and preferences of that art form. Although I very much enjoy the perfect forms of Japanese bonsai, I personally tend to prefer bonsai that emulate nature. This doesn't always mean they are the most perfect bonsai because usually they're not, but they are the most thought provoking and for those willing, soul touching. These bonsai have been styled in a way to emulate nature and nature isn't perfect. It's in these imperfections that true natural beauty is found. I believe that artists like Robert Steven and Walter Pall and many others in the international bonsai stage have discovered this truth. It's what I hoped to find one day and Robert's book has opened that door and kicked me through it. And it does so in a wonderful way.

It begins by showing you natural trees and bonsai, both successful and not. It goes on to explain various ways to transform your bonsai and designing it in a way that's convincing. It's not enough to have a tree in a pot because the tree must tell a story in order for it to be successful. The theme has to be consistent from the bottom of the stand to the last leaf and Robert teaches you the techniques to use so you can create your own "story". In effect, the man is teaching us his dirty secrets, but of course one has to practice for many years to master these. The book ends with Robert showing us raw material and their transformation. This is HUGE because in order to see the potential in that scraggly pine on the corner of the nursery, you need to train your eye. The only way to train your eye is to see what other artists have done and why and then use that training on your own material.

This review sounds lavish and it is. There are very few faults with this book. One of my concerns is sometimes the spelling isn't correct. I might catch some flack for writing this and I understand that Robert's native language may not be English, but neither is mine. I believe a written and published piece has to go out in perfect grammar. My only other concern is that I've read the book a bunch of times and it's starting to fall apart. I think it may have been the way it was put together.

These concerns are nothing compared to the quality and the power of the teaching material that is contained within this book. The beauty of any book, is that if you find the teachings relevant, you can go back and study them again and again. It gives you a study guide and in the case of this book, this is the most relevant study guide I have ever come across. Maybe this is the reason my book started falling apart on me and I can honestly say, I've read this book about 5 or 6 times and have opened it at least 30 - 40 times since I received it a couple of months ago.

Robert, I'm very honored that you sent this book to me and I look forward to reading it until it completely falls apart. I hope that you keep writing, although I feel you have covered so much here and in such detail, that the only thing left to do is to get really specific on how to grow and style certain species. But perhaps this is better left for your demonstrations. I'm grateful to be living in the time of such a visionary and to be able to learn from him even if only through published books and bonsai forums. My bonsai goal is to be able to create beautiful bonsai and information like this is a must have.

Have you ever wondered why internationally known artists create the type of bonsai they do??? This book will tell you!!!
Sam Ogranaja

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Re: Book review of Robert Steven's "Mission of Transformation"

Post  Harleyrider on Sat Oct 15, 2011 8:32 pm

Sam, thanks for providing us with such an interesting, well written review. I have been thinking of buying this book for a while and you have made my mind up!

However, despite any review you could give (however glowing and verbose), the biggest testament to the books' credentials surely comes from the fact that it is now beginning to fall apart, even after such a short time in your hands! Rather than curse the manufacturing process, I'd like to think that it has more to do with the authors' works pulling you back in time after time.

Once again, thank you for taking the time to review the book. I'm away now to scour the pages of Amazon for my own copy!

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