Chris Johnston wrote:
While the tree in question does not readily fit into standardized "styles," (although it is obviously a twin trunk, it is highly stylized in a new direction) it certainly does not possess much of the characterization given by John Naka:
* It has shape or form but there is no definite pattern.
* It has no pattern, it is irregular and seems disfigured.
* It is like food that has no taste at the beginning but the more you chew the more flavor comes out. When you first look at Bunjin style there is nothing exciting about it, it is so skimpy and lonely. But the more you observe it the more the tree quality and natural traits will come out. You will feel something from inside of your mind, and not only through the surface eyes.
* It looks like it is struggling for its survival, or a form of agony. The tree itself should not be in this condition, in reality it should be healthy. The shape or form may indicate struggle but not health. It seems to be a very cruel method but it is only concept. Its appearance should not be too serious nor easy, it should be free, unconstrained, witty, clever, humorous and unconventional. A good example for this is a study of any of nature's tree that has survived some sort of problem or disaster.
* To avoid uselessness, the ultimate final form or shape is a very important technique.
* It should portray a simple abstract painting, Senryu, Haiku, poem, music and song.
* Shape or form is from wind, weather, not too rugged but more graceful.
Chris, what you have quoted above is directly from my article on Literati found at http://artofbonsai.org/feature_articles/literati.php
and, as I mentioned in the article, it is not all of John's thoughts on Literati. The list is not in the same order and there are omissions from the original, you should have cited my article.
However, had you followed the link in the references on the article, you could have found all his thoughts on Literati. Please see Golden Statements Magazine, March/April 1993 (Published by the Golden State Bonsai Federation) or "John Naka on Bunjin - Gi - Bunjin Style" (http://www.bssf.org/articles-and-storie ... jin-style/
On the first page of this thread I said "While I could easily describe most styles to you, using set and time honored guidelines, the same can not be said about Literati. John Naka mirrors most thoughts on this style, that the Literati style is a dream, a vision, more than reality, one can not simply nail the style down.
Lack of Nebari, direction of movement, trunk movement, foliage placement, scarcity of foliage, direction of growth, texture, shape, form, none of these things and yet all of these things can be attributed to the Literati style at one time, but not another."
Hence I said there were no guidelines for creating Literati, as the descriptions above could be applied to other styles as well.
Mike then stated that there certainly are guidelines, I asked him what they were. He then quoted Amy's words, "The trunk is slender, tall and graceful. As a result of low sunlight, the trunk has no branches on it’s lower part. Branches are sparse and short with many open spaces between them, giving the tree the appearance of fragility, elegance and unworldly grace."
And he stated, "Tall, graceful,serene, very slender, very little, if any taper,branches sparse and in the top 1/3 of the trunk. This, to me encapsulates the style"
To which I replied, ".....by your definition, a bonsai with taper, or branches below the top third of the height, or one with full foliage could not qualify as a Literati, is this correct? I did not get an answer.
With a few exceptions, this has been a fact finding thread, there really is no reason to get upset, not that there ever is a reason when your beliefs are questioned. Let's keep it civil and on topic.
Now that we have recapped, let's look at the guidelines presented.
John's guidelines are generic to the extreme, sure they touch on the nature of a Literati, but they better illustrate his thought that Literati is more like a dream or vision than they guide one in the creation.
Amy's words, again they touch upon the essence of Literati, but do little to guide one in the creation of such. Her statement that the branches are short is actually not correct in many cases.
Mike's statement about little taper is also not correct in many examples.
Now maybe you can see where I was going, although the descriptions above can not be said to be wrong, they can also not be said to be right in all cases. In fact, many can be applied to other styles. So, they do not work as guidelines and are not as clear cut as, let's say, a full cascade drops below the level of the pot and a semi cascade falls somewhere in between that level and the rim of the pot...or that a formal upright has a straight trunk with little, if any movement and the apex is directly above the base of the trunk.
Again, this is why I have said no one has developed guidelines for a literati yet, that I know of. Quoting others just wasn't doing it.....
I spent the day thinking of this problem and I have thought of three guidelines that work for Literati. They are simple, straightforward, and apply to every successful literati that I have seen. They are....
- Feminine in Nature
- Minimalistic (Which makes sense considering the one stroke tree paintings that inspired the style - thanks Vance)
- The emphasis is always on the trunk.
I believe that every successful Literati will have all three of these features. I would love to be shown (not told) that I am wrong and I would also love to see additional guidelines that could be added to this list.