Styling trees different from their natural form...anomalous?

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Styling trees different from their natural form...anomalous?

Post  Poink88 on Wed Jan 25, 2012 2:49 pm

This is based on a post by jrodriguez from this thread... http://ibonsaiclub.forumotion.com/t8141p15-guy-guidry-carving-away

Rather than pursue it there, I elected to start a new thread to focus on this and get other opinions. Part of his comment (related to this thread) is below.

jrodriguez wrote:
Well, coming from a place in which this material is quite common, I have to admit they are really not the best trees to work with. In nature, at least in my neck of the woods, these trees exhibit fluted trunks and no dead wood. They grow in coastal swamps that are under water for quite a few months throughout the year. Even in the dry season, the freatic level makes it possible for the area to remain quite humid. Like bald cypress, the trees exhibit swollen basal flare as a primary characteristic.

Most of the examples I have seen have yet to emulate their true nature. Because dead portions are not commonplace ( at least in Puerto Rico), excessive carving looks anomalous to me.

..............

Kind regards,

Jose Luis

I am new and probably should know better but I do not plan on restricting my design to the natural form of the tree. If it lends itself to another form or I see no other way to go around it (carving a chop for instance) then I would definitely try other methods whichever I feel/believe is appropriate (even if it is unnatural).

Normally I will just let comments like this fly by but this is from someone who; knows the tree, knowledgeable about bonsai, and respected. If he is right, I would like to know since it would impact (and I might have to re-think) my general bonsai game plan.

Thoughts?


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Re: Styling trees different from their natural form...anomalous?

Post  Russell Coker on Wed Jan 25, 2012 3:12 pm

Dario,

FOR ME, I agree with JL. I like to see trees styled in the ways I'd see them growing naturally, that's just personal taste. I don't want to see a cascade bald cypress. A while back Randy Davis posted an elm he plans to style as an African savanna type flat top. Not my taste, but everyone else seemed to think it was a wonderful idea. On the other hand, there is plenty of material grown as bonsai that simply doesn't have a natural tree form so we are free to interpret it any way we like: azaleas, camellias, boxwood. etc.

Just my 2 cents.

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Re: Styling trees different from their natural form...anomalous?

Post  Poink88 on Wed Jan 25, 2012 3:40 pm

Russell,

I think I am (mostly) in the same boat as you but sometimes you just get a stock that won't lend itself to that and have to be "creative". Wink

By the way, I think elm would work styled to look like a flat top acacia in African savannah. Wink Thanks!

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Re: Styling trees different from their natural form...anomalous?

Post  Russell Coker on Wed Jan 25, 2012 4:03 pm

Poink88 wrote:By the way, I think elm would work styled to look like a flat top acacia in African savannah. Wink Thanks!

Oh, I think it will work too. I also think Randy will do a wonderful job with it. It's just me - I would have never looked at that elm and gone that direction. Well, probably never. Maybe I'm not that imaginative. And if I were to see something like that at a show or in photos here I'd probably say "Wow, that's different. Not me cup of tea, but interesting...". Then on the other hand, if I really loved that style of tree, maybe I'd try to find something that would closely emulate it. Haven't had to cross that bridge yet!

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Re: Styling trees different from their natural form...anomalous?

Post  JimLewis on Wed Jan 25, 2012 5:54 pm

How's this for an unequivocal answer:?

It depends.

Ninety-nine percent of the time I'm of the grow-it-like-IT-would-grow school. After all, we are growing (and designing) trees, and it seems only logical -- and in a perverse way, even kind -- to grow a tree in the form it would prefer to take. Like Russell, I'd consider a cascade bald cypress an abomination -- even worse would be a cascade redwood. Or imagine a typically broom-shaped pine. And I always shudder when I see deciduous trees that look like pines.

But then there are the plants which:

1. aren't trees in the first place (azalea, boxwood, wisteria, ivy, and other "shrubs" and vines),
2. come to you in an already grotesque form, through damage by grazing, mowing, or the elements.

With these you have a free rein on your design. Ben Oki used to come to the club in Florida every year. And every year someone would present him with a large Buxus mycrophylla. And every year it would end up looking like a juniper bonsai -- lots of jin and shari, and distinct foliage pads. That is OK. No one really knows what a boxwood would look like if left to its own and Ma Nature's whims.

And, single trunk azalea are uncommon in garden beds or nature -- except in bonsai pots -- as are wisteria "trees."

So, it depends.

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Re: Styling trees different from their natural form...anomalous?

Post  Rob Kempinski on Wed Jan 25, 2012 8:24 pm

I believe a tree's natural form is one good model for a bonsai design, but the skies the limit as for other potential designs. If you believe bonsai is an art, then whatever creative expression you can make in your art is fair game. I have designed trees that look like trees, like snakes, like sea monsters, like aliens attacking earth, like the space shuttle etc. Have fun and let your imagination go wild.

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Re: Styling trees different from their natural form...anomalous?

Post  Tony on Wed Jan 25, 2012 9:30 pm

Rob Kempinski wrote:I believe a tree's natural form is one good model for a bonsai design, but the skies the limit as for other potential designs. If you believe bonsai is an art, then whatever creative expression you can make in your art is fair game. I have designed trees that look like trees, like snakes, like sea monsters, like aliens attacking earth, like the space shuttle etc. Have fun and let your imagination go wild.

Nicely Put Rob... my thoughts Exactly ThumbsUp

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Re: Styling trees different from their natural form...anomalous?

Post  Randy_Davis on Thu Jan 26, 2012 12:38 am

Rob Kempinski wrote:I believe a tree's natural form is one good model for a bonsai design, but the skies the limit as for other potential designs. If you believe bonsai is an art, then whatever creative expression you can make in your art is fair game. I have designed trees that look like trees, like snakes, like sea monsters, like aliens attacking earth, like the space shuttle etc. Have fun and let your imagination go wild.

Rob,

I have to agree with your setiment completely!!!!!!! your statement, "If you believe bonsai is an art, then whatever creative expression you can make in your art is fair game." is right on target!!! After 40 years of playing with the traditional model of bonsai design, in my old age I've decided that it's finally time to head in a direction where the heart tells you to go and be free to express your personal relationship to nature through design and the influences of the fine arts. The result could prove to be intresting, provocative and just plain fun.

Poink88 and Russell,

Yes the project goes on! In my humble opinion, the slection of the right tree for the style is important. For my part i'm using U.p. "Seiju" purporsefully for this design due to it's very small leaves which will be reminicent of the bipinate leaves of the African Acacia compared to any of the other elms. I am also working with an American Native tree Gleditsia triacanthos (Honey locust) that has both bipinnate leaves and thorns which if it works will be a far better choice of plant material to use. Time will tell!

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Re: Styling trees different from their natural form...anomalous?

Post  Poink88 on Thu Jan 26, 2012 1:12 am

Rob Kempinski wrote:I believe a tree's natural form is one good model for a bonsai design, but the skies the limit as for other potential designs. If you believe bonsai is an art, then whatever creative expression you can make in your art is fair game. I have designed trees that look like trees, like snakes, like sea monsters, like aliens attacking earth, like the space shuttle etc. Have fun and let your imagination go wild.
I will echo what was said above...I agree! I was hoping to get this type of reply and you provided it. Thank you Rob!

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Re: Styling trees different from their natural form...anomalous?

Post  marcus watts on Thu Jan 26, 2012 7:38 am

hi,
i feel to try and style the majority of your material to look like the 'typical' tree from the wild is to limit your own creativity. Plus most wild trees have crossing branches, bits pointing up, down, straight at you etc (and wild trees dont have a front viewing angle by design). The 'natural stylist' always seems to ignore putting these bits in the bonsai design so it looks like a 'bonsai' anyway, so they arent actually styling true to nature (not very often anyway).

If your personal taste is to shy away from carving, jin, shari, contortion etc there is nothing at all wrong with that, and if you are drawn by the abstract art of such features then use them wherever you can, on whichever species will take it.

In recent years i've balanced my collection to show a selection of speicies and styles - i guess 20% have some dead features - that is probably quite low but I find it a pleasing balance. I have seen collections 95% carved and bleached and i do find that boring, but it just personal taste.

cheers Marcus

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Re: Styling trees different from their natural form...anomalous?

Post  Guest on Thu Jan 26, 2012 11:16 am

Anomalous?

...I don't think so Dario. otherwise, bonsais belonging to a particular specie would look more or less the same, with only sizes for variations ... and it will become a good excuse to create cookie cutter type of bonsai.

It is basically the trunk that dictates where the tree's design is going and not the specie it belongs to.


regards,
jun Smile



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Re: Styling trees different from their natural form...anomalous?

Post  jrodriguez on Thu Jan 26, 2012 1:04 pm

Good Morning and Good Evening to my Asian friends,

I have followed this thread with mixed feelings. Perhaps, the fact that I did not start it has a little to do with it. Anyhow, I believe that the true nature of its genesis has to do with the fact that a person that has a keen interest in the bonsai art wishes to find a north (盆栽道途/pénzai dáo tú). To me, this is important. Below, I include one two pictures of a Haematoxylon Campechianum that was displayed at the 2011 Hwa Fong Exhibition (National Bonsai Style Competition and Exhibition of Taiwan). Per my experience, this tree emulates the inherent characteristics of the species, a fact that makes the creation more credible and alusive of its giant brothers and sisters in nature (老树/ lao shú/ old tree).



As this sister thread began with my words, I feel that an explanation of my bonsai background will clarify subsequent misinterpretations of my comments. An anomaly is something that deviates from the norm or from expectations. It can also be identified as an irregularity, something strange and difficult to identify or classify. Because dead wood is NOT present in the natural Haematoxylon I have seen in my country, to me it is anomalous. Perhaps you might gather the same feeling when you see a ficus with dead wood, a Portulacaria or a bougainvillea with dead portions: It does not happen unless someone created it.

I come from the Taiwanese School of bonsai, specifically from the teachings of Lao Tze Cheng Cheng Kung and Lo Min Hsuan. As part of the Taiwanese bonsai philosophy, we believe that emulating the natural traits of tree species result in a better composition and a healthier plant. To those that are familiar with his books, before the actual bonsai examples of each plant, an in-depth study of the ecological habitats of each plants species is offered as a means of educating the artist in shapes and behavior inherent to the plant material.

In bonsai art there are many avenues and ways of expression that artists might opt for. In any way or fashion I am implying that my way is the right way or best way. It is just the path I chose to be correct and adept to my taste, growing conditions and intelectual curiosity. All forms of expression are valid. You as an artist should choose what its correct for you and let other forms of expression go about their way. Learn to respect, before you earn respect. Learn all forms of expression in bonsai art and forge your own. Absorb all sources of knowledge, no matter how insignificant they might be. Only then, you will reach maturity as an artist, a person and spirit.



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Re: Styling trees different from their natural form...anomalous?

Post  jrodriguez on Thu Jan 26, 2012 1:05 pm



Detail of the basal structure and roots. Quite impressive.


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Re: Styling trees different from their natural form...anomalous?

Post  jrodriguez on Thu Jan 26, 2012 1:50 pm

jun wrote:Anomalous?

...I don't think so Dario. otherwise, bonsais belonging to a particular specie would look more or less the same, with only sizes for variations ... and it will become a good excuse to create cookie cutter type of bonsai.

It is basically the trunk that dictates where the tree's design is going and not the specie it belongs to.


regards,
jun Smile



Jun, you have evolved as a bonsai artist from your empirical knowledge of the tree species you work with. Perhaps, you are not completely conscious. I am afraid that your statement in not completely true. Let's use one of the species you are familiar with, Ficus. Let me ask you this, have you ever placed a ficus branch into position, waited a few months until the wire did its job, removed it, only to find out that later the sap force moved the branch? It has EVERYTHING to do with the species.

Only by periodical growing, cutting, wiring, growing and cutting you will be able to interrupt the sap flow of a ficus and be able to properly shape its branches. It has everything to do with the species.

Let's take azaleas as another example. the lower portion is more vigorous. Ficus is the same way. This will lead to proportion problems that have to be managed by solely horticultural techniques and keen knowledge of the species. Another example is pemphis. It has a unque replanting method because of its brittle roots. Again, inherent characteristics of the species.

In sum, without prior knowledge of the ecological and inherent particularities of the species, not styling can be successful. Without this, the only direction the trunk will go to is the garbage/charcoal pile.

Warm regards,

Jose Luis


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Re: Styling trees different from their natural form...anomalous?

Post  JimLewis on Thu Jan 26, 2012 2:10 pm

The result could prove to be intresting, provocative and just plain fun.

Or topiary.

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Re: Styling trees different from their natural form...anomalous?

Post  Russell Coker on Thu Jan 26, 2012 2:27 pm



jrodriguez wrote: In bonsai art there are many avenues and ways of expression that artists might opt for. In any way or fashion I am implying that my way is the right way or best way. It is just the path I chose to be correct and adept to my taste, growing conditions and intelectual curiosity. All forms of expression are valid. You as an artist should choose what its correct for you and let other forms of expression go about their way. Learn to respect, before you earn respect. Learn all forms of expression in bonsai art and forge your own. Absorb all sources of knowledge, no matter how insignificant they might be. Only then, you will reach maturity as an artist, a person and spirit.



Thanks Jose Luis, beautifully said.


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Re: Styling trees different from their natural form...anomalous?

Post  Poink88 on Thu Jan 26, 2012 2:42 pm

jrodriguez wrote:I have followed this thread with mixed feelings. Perhaps, the fact that I did not start it has a little to do with it. Anyhow, I believe that the true nature of its genesis has to do with the fact that a person that has a keen interest in the bonsai art wishes to find a north (盆栽道途/pénzai dáo tú). To me, this is important.
Jose,

As I stated, I value & respect your comment enough to start this thread. If it offended you, I apologize. Like you, finding "my north" is also important and the reason for this inquiry.

jrodriguez wrote:
In bonsai art there are many avenues and ways of expression that artists might opt for. In any way or fashion I am implying that my way is the right way or best way. It is just the path I chose to be correct and adept to my taste, growing conditions and intelectual curiosity. All forms of expression are valid. You as an artist should choose what its correct for you and let other forms of expression go about their way. Learn to respect, before you earn respect. Learn all forms of expression in bonsai art and forge your own. Absorb all sources of knowledge, no matter how insignificant they might be. Only then, you will reach maturity as an artist, a person and spirit.
I think these sums it all up for me. Thank you.


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Re: Styling trees different from their natural form...anomalous?

Post  Poink88 on Thu Jan 26, 2012 2:53 pm

jun wrote:Anomalous?

...I don't think so Dario. otherwise, bonsais belonging to a particular specie would look more or less the same, with only sizes for variations ... and it will become a good excuse to create cookie cutter type of bonsai.

It is basically the trunk that dictates where the tree's design is going and not the specie it belongs to.

regards,
jun Smile
Jun,

I believe so too. I tend to play with what cards I am dealt with and the trunk usually is my ace and build around it best I can (that is my game plan anyway being a newbie). After reading Luis' counter comment, I also agree that it can only be done to some extent as well...the good thing is there is always a happy medium...or a compromise (at least for me).

Thank you guys!

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Re: Styling trees different from their natural form...anomalous?

Post  jrodriguez on Thu Jan 26, 2012 2:56 pm

Poink88 wrote:
jrodriguez wrote:I have followed this thread with mixed feelings. Perhaps, the fact that I did not start it has a little to do with it. Anyhow, I believe that the true nature of its genesis has to do with the fact that a person that has a keen interest in the bonsai art wishes to find a north (盆栽道途/pénzai dáo tú). To me, this is important.
Jose,

As I stated, I value & respect your comment enough to start this thread. If it offended you, I apologize. Like you, finding my "north" is also important and the reason for this inquiry.

jrodriguez wrote:
In bonsai art there are many avenues and ways of expression that artists might opt for. In any way or fashion I am implying that my way is the right way or best way. It is just the path I chose to be correct and adept to my taste, growing conditions and intelectual curiosity. All forms of expression are valid. You as an artist should choose what its correct for you and let other forms of expression go about their way. Learn to respect, before you earn respect. Learn all forms of expression in bonsai art and forge your own. Absorb all sources of knowledge, no matter how insignificant they might be. Only then, you will reach maturity as an artist, a person and spirit.
I think these sums it all up to me. Thank you.

Poink88,

I am not easily offended. My proffesion (attourney) does not allow it!!!! I have 25 plus years experience in bonsai art and started at a very young age. Luckily, I have parents that supported and nurtured my bonsai passion. In your own path, you will encounter all sorts of people (the good, the great, the transcendental and the less good), as wel as comments and pitfalls. Just learn from experience and go on. Bonsai is not a hobby. It is more than that. With it comes friendship, creativity, personal and collective satisfaction, and, in some cases, spiritual growth.

Warm regards,

Jose Luis

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Re: Styling trees different from their natural form...anomalous?

Post  jrodriguez on Thu Jan 26, 2012 2:58 pm

Russell Coker wrote:

jrodriguez wrote: In bonsai art there are many avenues and ways of expression that artists might opt for. In any way or fashion I am implying that my way is the right way or best way. It is just the path I chose to be correct and adept to my taste, growing conditions and intelectual curiosity. All forms of expression are valid. You as an artist should choose what its correct for you and let other forms of expression go about their way. Learn to respect, before you earn respect. Learn all forms of expression in bonsai art and forge your own. Absorb all sources of knowledge, no matter how insignificant they might be. Only then, you will reach maturity as an artist, a person and spirit.



Thanks Jose Luis, beautifully said.


Thanks Russell. I try my best to convey my exact feelings before I hit 'send'. So, enough about my words....What do you think about the tree?

Warm regards,

Jose Luis

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Re: Styling trees different from their natural form...anomalous?

Post  Russell Coker on Thu Jan 26, 2012 3:51 pm

The tree you posted? It's beautiful. I think the bonsai you share here from Taiwan are some of the most elegant, natural looking bonsai I've ever seen.

As for this thread, I said my piece at the beginning. Just my feelings, fantasy and whimsy combined with bonsai don't appeal to me personally.

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Re: Styling trees different from their natural form...anomalous?

Post  Guest on Thu Jan 26, 2012 11:56 pm

jrodriguez wrote:

Detail of the basal structure and roots. Quite impressive.


Very impressive indeed!

Thanks Jose Luis for the detailed explanation. I do respect your point of view. I guess the styles or path taken by a particular person really depends on his/her taste. Like Russell said Fancy, Whimsical character is not the style he likes, which is the opposite on my case, the more different the tree or composition is the more I am attracted to it.
I love Taiwanese style of bonsai, like the one you posted above. but I think some of the species done there are becoming to look the same, like the example you mentioned, Most of the Ficus microcarpa I saw got the same feeling to it with very small variations between each trees, except probably with the style done by Master Min Hsuan Lo which is natural but still very evocative and stand out among the other Ficus.
Robert Steven Phempis designs are are also natural but also stand out compared to other Phempis designs, it got a different feel to it.
Walter Pall's designs are also natural and represents the species in the natural environment, but still very evocative and different from the other styles done with the same species.
I can name more superb artists, but my observation would still be the same.

...So my conclusion (personal), The tree should still look natural but extra effort should be done to give a character to the composition making it more interesting. I guess that is where artistry comes in and separate the top artists and their creations from the rest of the crowd (painful to some but it is a fact of life).


regards,
jun Smile



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Re: Styling trees different from their natural form...anomalous?

Post  Poink88 on Fri Jan 27, 2012 12:24 am

jrodriguez wrote:

Detail of the basal structure and roots. Quite impressive.

Impressive indeed!

Sorry for the delayed reaction...I cannot see the pics earlier.

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