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 Post subject: Re:
PostPosted: Wed Jun 06, 2007 12:33 am 
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Location: Fresno, CA
Will Heath wrote:
So is changing trees from "notable artists" into "Keppler trees" a good thing in your opinion?

Will

Well there is no way for you to comprehend this unless you have been practicing this on a collection of trees. A collection of trees from dead people. A collection of trees from dead people who you can no longer ask how this was done or what was trying to be said with the tree.
For instance working on a tree from someone else that has donated the art due to death is always a challangeing pospect. The first year is easy. The second year choices have to be made. The third year requires repots, and design issues. Trunks grow, roots grow, branches grow. A new shoot emerges. What would the old artist do. Would they grow that out and graft it in a new place? Would they cut it off? The caretaker has to make all these decisions and more. I now have a tree in a collection. I am very alive and will see this tree from time to time. I can offer suggestions and work on it anytime I wish. There will be times that I may not see the tree for extended periods of time. Since it is a forest of very vigorous elm trees, I know that it will take weekly care. It will need to be pruned much more than I have time for. It will need branches pruned monthly for it is not out of the ordinary for a small branch the size of a twig to grow pencil size in a month. Would I be so naive to think this forest is going to stay true to what I styled? You got to be kidding. I fully hope that thru the combined talents of those at the collection it improves during its life at the collection.
I have no ego to keep it as I styled it. I gave it away. It is theirs to do whatever they wish. It will always be mine beacuse I donated it. It will forever be the combined efforts of those that work on it for its new life. If I had sold it, I would have said goodbye to Al Keppler's forest of elms and would have been very comfortable in the fact that if seen ten years from now on the pages of Bonsai Focus with Walter Pall's name on it, I could be fully sure that he had improved it way beyond my talents. Sure I started it but he finished it and that is what counts. The finishing!
It is very tough to make decisions on a tree that people remember and may wish to bring someone back years from now to see, and all of a sudden see something different. What about the living realitives? How much input might they have. Not too much sometimes. It is very easy to make the statement you made. It is very hard to comprehend working on something that is everchanging and a desire to improve it. You have to believe the owner was in a frame of mind to keep improving the tree, correct. If I am intrusted with the tree, then I have to move on with it. Does this make sense?
Here's a scenario. You and Vance Wood are pretty good freinds. How about you guys trade collections for five years. You can't have any contact with each other about the trees. No photo's no email's. How might the two collections progress? Will they change? Will they suffer? Will Vance do something to it that you may have envisioned differently? Will it be better, or would you try to change it back? I say SCARY!
We do a nice thing each year in a club I used to belong to. They have so few members that the club disbanded years ago. Each year we would take pairs of trees. A member would be given the tree and it was their time with the tree for one hour. At the end of the hour the tree would be turned over to the other partner. They got the tree you started for the final hour. After the two hours were up we all picked over the trees and seen how some changed much and some kept fairly true to the first guys idea. A lot of fun, and one I highly reccomend at the yearly Christmas party. Alcohol always helps!
Cheers, Al


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PostPosted: Wed Jun 06, 2007 6:12 am 
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Al,
You'd be amazed at what I do comprehend, for example, although I appreciate your long reply on the subject, I noticed that you did not directly answer my question, is changing trees from "notable artists" into "Keppler trees" a good thing in your opinion?
People maintain collections all the time, Famous Collections such as trees of Naka and Larz Anderson. It is important to retain as much as their vision as possible...I would be quite sadden if someone took it upon themselves to remake Goshin to their own vision.
While it is true that artists who have passed away can no longer be asked for direction, photos and drawings often remain, as does the tree itself, which can tell one quite a bit about where it has been.

Will


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Jun 06, 2007 8:31 am 
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Location: Waxhaw, North Carolina USA
Will Heath asked Al Keppler "I noticed that you did not directly answer my question, is changing trees from "notable artists" into "Keppler trees" a good thing in your opinion? "
After reading Al's reply, I understood that change to the tree is inevitable, neither good nor bad, unless the tree dies or gets ugly. Then it is bad thing.
The Curator's job (or the new owner's job, or the initial styling artist's job) is to make the tree as impressive as it can be in the short term, and leave room for the tree to become more impressive over time. Then it is a good thing.
Regards,
Martin


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Jun 06, 2007 10:37 am 
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Will asked Al...."I noticed that you did not directly answer my question, is changing trees from "notable artists" into "Keppler trees" a good thing in your opinion?"
I can't answer for Al ofcourse.My opinion is that it would depend on the outcome.Was the tree improved?I wouldn't say that this outcome(improvement) is impossible.The sad thing is, to many people the "famous" creator's name is more important(and valuable) than the creation's quality.
I think it all comes down to whether the statement "it's all about the tree" holds any water at all.Is it about the tree?Is it about the art?..or is it about the artists' egos?
andy


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Jun 06, 2007 11:53 am 
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Will,
Your question to Al was not fair, if you asked me this question, I wouldn't know what to answer. If I say "it's a good thing", I sound like bragging, if I say "it's a bad thing" then the whole thing doesn't make sense, why I am working on the tree if I am doing a bad job.
Only others are entitled to tell whether it is a good or a bad thing.
I like Al's answer, he brings up a lot of hard decisions that have to be made when working with legacy trees. There are times when, even if you want to keep the tree exactly as it was, you cannot. That's because some branches thicken out of proportion in time, and you have to replace them with others. In this case, you will try to preserve "the spirit" of the work, but you will have to decide on your own what to replace it with.
Talented artist, however, have an eye of recognizing the style of the original creator, and so they can adapt the subsequent work on the tree to this original style, in order to preserve the original image. Just an example: if the tree was created, using the clip-and-grow method, with zig-zag branches and stubs at the end of branches left on intentionally, then the resturator should use the same clip-and-grow method and create similar stubs when growing new branches.
If, however, the branches have wavy, lazy curves, the subsequent work should be done accordingly. Observing all the little details, and the overall structure of the tree, one can keep building or maintaining it in the same spirit.
I think that it should be mandatory with donated collections that the curator takes detailed pictures from all angles, of every tree. Also, they should hire an artist to make sketches of some details that make each tree unique (you can find those artists in certain city parks, making portraits of people for 10 bucks apiece). I know this would cost some money, but in the case of valuable collections, it is worth doing it. This would help preserve them more or less similar looking over the years.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Jun 06, 2007 1:53 pm 
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Martin, Andy, Attila, have all given very good answers and insight into this question. Attila went deeply into the issue and hit the nail right on the head...trees from "notable artists" should be well documented and every effort should be made to preserve them.
We don't paint over or change works of art from different periods just because the styles or fads have changed, we preserve them as a record of past art, of history, of the evolution of the art form.
Bonsai should be no different, the works of Naka, Banting, or Larz Anderson should never be changed by one person who thinks the tree could be better, they should never be made into someone else's trees. So what if they could be made better, the point is the shouldn't be changed, they shouldn't be "made better" they should be preserved.
Look at Goshin when it underwent re-potting, great care was taken to document the position of every tree, charts were made, many measurements taken, and many, many photographs were taken as well to assure the piece retained the exact placement the artist set it at originally.
What if some one decided it had one tree too many and took one out or moved a few trees around...? What if someone decided to make it their tree just because the artist has passed away or because they thought they could make it better?
Leave the creating to your own trees, leave the maintaining and preserving history to those who do not feel the need to leave their mark on the trees.
Will

P.S. No, I do not think my question was unfair at all, Al himself brought up that he has worked on large collections and was creating from them, "Keppler Trees."
My inquiry as to if he thought this was a good thing, was directly related to his assertions and was relevant to the discussion at hand. I certainly do not think changing (as opposed to maintaining) a bonsai from a notable artist, that is in a public collection, is a good thing at all.


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 Post subject: Re:
PostPosted: Wed Jun 06, 2007 2:18 pm 
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Will Heath wrote:
I certainly do not think changing (as opposed to maintaining) a bonsai from a notable artist, that is in a public collection, is a good thing at all.

All good points, Will.
But, regarding your question to Al, you've just made it clear in the above quote that it was a rhetorical question (rhetorical questions are those where you already know the answer).
And if it was a rhetorical question, then you shouldn't expect Al to answer it, right?
Cheers,


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Jun 06, 2007 2:38 pm 
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Attila,
Excellent point, you are right, it was a rhetorical question by definition and as such I should not have pressed for an answer, it was bad form to back Al into a corner on that point.

Will


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Jun 06, 2007 5:17 pm 
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Location: San Antonio, Texas
Mr. Will,
As usual you have produced a very well written article, but I do find it quite difficult to accept the comparison of paintings and bonsai in the context you have presented...Our trees have the unique characteristic of changing weekly, or even daily at certain times of the growing season, whereas, a painting will remain unchanged perceptibly for many centuries...I am of the opinion that the 'known' history of a tree is extremely important also, but the only way to preserve what any given 'artist' has accomplished on any tree would be to remove 'life' from the tree at a specific moment and "freeze it in time"...Photos are one means of accomplishing this, although even that leaves much to be desired...Perhaps a tree could be 'freeze dried' and preserved at an artist's chosen moment in order to make it as static as a painting, and then certainly the artist deciding the moment of freezing could claim for eternity the work as 'HIS/HER' art...But, then it would no longer be a bonsai would it?...
Trees that are of the relevance of 'National Treasures', museum collections, and historical significance, of course should be maintained as closely as possible to the 'spirit' of the tree at the time of their acquisition, however, in my opinion, trees which are purchased to be developed, shown, or merely enjoyed by the owner, need not carry the baggage of a historical pedigree of artists or craftsmen that have worked on, cared for, or owned, the tree...
Some of my favorite and best trees in my garden have come to me as gifts from various people that originally set the tree on a path to become bonsai...I would be amiss, as long as those trees are in my possession, to fail to give credit to those 'known' artists, craftsmen, growers, collectors, or whatever one chooses to call them...When the tree passes from my possession I can only hope it will be a significant enough tree 'artistically' that the new owner will feel obligated to give credit for the trees history, however that will and certainly should be the prerogative of the new owner...
This has so far been a very good discussion and I do hope it continues...There is so much to consider in this area, and even though there will be no 'final' result, the discussion is enlightening and thought provoking...
Regards
Behr


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Jun 06, 2007 11:33 pm 
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Location: Fresno, CA
Thanks for the vote of confidence Will. I can appreciate your stance on this controversial subject of collection trees. While my long reply might seem long for a web site, it is very short on detail. While you may comprehend my reply, unless you have worked extensively on donated trees you can't possibly comprehend what goes into trying to keep to the original work and keeping a tree moving forward in a manner consistant of its previous look.
"Leave the creating to your own trees, leave the maintaining and preserving history to those who do not feel the need to leave their mark on the trees."
That quote is pretty packed with arrogance and hutzpah! If someone other than the original artists works on a tree for the future, they leave their mark on it whether you like it or not. For better or worse it's what goes into maintaining a collection. I agree with your sentiment and I wish each tree could be a snapshot for a hundred years. Just not going to happen. You have no idea how thankfull we are that we have very few deciduous trees. That would be a whole new can of worms.
I have worked on a tree that came from John Naka, a very full headed elm. It is not very large, maybe a crown as large as 2 feet in diameter and a trunk about 1.5 inches. The tree is maybe 25 inches tall. The tree looks like the day it was recieved. It has had no changes done to it. I can tell you that I have pruned off branches as large as a pencil and the tree requires constant attention due to the fact it is an elm. The branches will grow enormous if given the chance to bolt. As the collection grows it is more and more difficult to keep all the chicks close to mother hen.
Will the tree retain its look for it's entire life, I hope so. Is it totally realistic to expect it to, I think so. Will it happen, time will tell.
I took this quote from your original article starting this thread:
"It is also interesting to note that all the collections such as the national Collection attribute the creation to the artist, when known and not to the following caretakers, no matter what maintenance or changes are made and no matter if the original artist is known or not."
Do you concede that at times changes are made, or have you changed your position on this part?

One other thing for you to ponder and have absolutely no idea about is growing conditions. I think it might be a piece of cake to maintain a collection at your latitude and mean average temperature. Try doing it in a place that has a 10 month growing cycle and can reach temperatures as high as 112 degrees daily for weeks at a time. Just think, if you moved to Fresno next month, you would lose your entire collection inside of a month. Not fun at all. Elms grow all year hear, never go into dormancy. I fertilize all year with my trees, as well as the collection. You have to, considering what we put them thru. Trees here start growing around Feb. 15 and taper off around the end of Nov. They get the month of Dec. and Jan. off, big deal. Doesn't give me much rest either!
I might turn the tables, I was hoping to hear from you also about my inquirey to exchange collections with someone else. It doesn't have to be Vance maybe you could exchange with Candy Shirey. Give you a chance to work on those Lenz trees. Talk about responsibility.
Cheers, Al


Last edited by Al Keppler on Thu Jun 07, 2007 12:55 am, edited 2 times in total.

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 Post subject: Re:
PostPosted: Wed Jun 06, 2007 11:44 pm 
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Location: Michigan USA
Hi Behr,
It is always a pleasure reading your in depth thoughts and I always welcome them in any debate.
Behr Appleby wrote:
As usual you have produced a very well written article, but I do find it quite difficult to accept the comparison of paintings and bonsai in the context you have presented...Our trees have the unique characteristic of changing weekly, or even daily at certain times of the growing season, whereas, a painting will remain unchanged perceptibly for many centuries...

Unfortunately there is no exact comparison with any other art form for bonsai, but we still must look to other forms for answers to our questions. Every art object degrades, changes, deteriorates over time, bonsai just does it quicker and therefore they need "Restoration" on a more regular basis than other art forms.
I used painting because it was the easiest to compare such things as "painting over the canvas" and "scraping off the paint" to completely erasing or completely restyling a bonsai so that it becomes something totally different than it was before.
Paintings also hold the name of the original artists, no matter where they are displayed or what restorations they have undergone, as mentioned, major portions of the Last Supper were painted over, but it is still considered Di Vinci's work, even though many claim the colors are paler than the original.
So, other than the time frame, paintings and bonsai both change over time, both need maintenance and both eventually will need some sort of restoration. Both also need special climatic conditions to survive for any length of time. They both also have creators who transfered a vision into a tangible object and who deserve full and complete credit for the work.

Behr Appleby wrote:
I am of the opinion that the 'known' history of a tree is extremely important also, but the only way to preserve what any given 'artist' has accomplished on any tree would be to remove 'life' from the tree at a specific moment and "freeze it in time"...

On this we differ, has Goshin changed so much over the years? A little more mature certainly, but it still carries the weight of Naka's artistic vision. For a long time frame see the Larz Anderson collection at Harvard, these trees date back almost a hundred years and there are pictures of them dating back to almost that time. Most have not changed enough to be unrecognizable, many preserve the integrity of the original design of the Japanese artists who created them. This collection is also one of the few places that we can see original "Octopus" styling as it was practiced at the time in Japan.
What a marvelous, educational, and historic collection of trees, and all preserved for our pleasure. Imagine if they were restyled beyond recognition in the past, what we would have lost.
Behr Appleby wrote:
Trees that are of the relevance of 'National Treasures', museum collections, and historical significance, of course should be maintained as closely as possible to the 'spirit' of the tree at the time of their acquisition, however, in my opinion, trees which are purchased to be developed, shown, or merely enjoyed by the owner, need not carry the baggage of a historical pedigree of artists or craftsmen that have worked on, cared for, or owned, the tree...

I agree that trees that are purchased to be redesigned or treated as stock should not carry on the growers name as there is no doubt a completed redesign in store. However trees that are purchased to be shown certainly should give credit to the person who created it. If I purchased a Bonsai from Boon, trimmed a few shoots off, added some moss, and polished the pot and then showed it under my name, that borders on the unethical. I can show it, but credit for styling should be given to Boon, it is his art, after all.
Behr Appleby wrote:
This has so far been a very good discussion and I do hope it continues...There is so much to consider in this area, and even though there will be no 'final' result, the discussion is enlightening and thought provoking...

I agree, there has been a lot said here that needs to be measured and weighed, the outcome can only be a better understanding of the issue by all involved. Who was it that said Knowledge is forged in the fires of debate?
Excellent thoughts Behr, thanks,

Will


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Jun 07, 2007 6:47 am 
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Will wrote:
Bonsai should be no different, the works of Naka, Banting, or Larz Anderson should never be changed by one person who thinks the tree could be better, they should never be made into someone else's trees. So what if they could be made better, the point is the shouldn't be changed, they shouldn't be "made better" they should be preserved.
I agree that trees that are purchased to be redesigned or treated as stock should not carry on the growers name as there is no doubt a completed redesign in store. However trees that are purchased to be shown certainly should give credit to the person who created it. If I purchased a Bonsai from Boon, trimmed a few shoots off, added some moss, and polished the pot and then showed it under my name, that borders on the unethical. I can show it, but credit for styling should be given to Boon, it is his art, after all.

This discussion is interesting and stimulating to say the least. In order to fully comprehend the intention of the author we have delved into the depths of the artistic world, and at times it seems we have failed to comprehend the metaphors used. I believe the article can be summed up on ?integrity? and as we know, levels vary with each and every individual.
In discussing, we have gone to the depth of restoration and preservation. Whilst these two points are valid arguments to the discussion, they have led us off track as to the intent of the original question IMO: acquiring a bonsai, designed by someone else, giving it a manicure and claiming said tree as ones own.
As previously mentioned, each artist possesses his/her individual brush strokes and these are not dissimilar to fingerprints, e.g. Walter?s submission in the K of B contest. Although still very much in the early stages of styling, one can see his fingerprints all over this tree. Is this a bad thing? I don?t believe so and, as Walter and I have discussed why would it not be a ?Walter tree? and very much so. As he explained this tree was acquired as pre bonsai stock. Some may disagree with this statement, but who are we to judge without seeing the tree in person. The owner acquired what he thought was a bonsai, only to find out to his dismay that the tree was flawed. Therefore, in the careful hands of a talented artist the true beauty of the tree can be revealed, or as close to humanly possible with the stock at hand. Once the restoration done, (I used the word restoration vice transformation, as it is too early to qualify the work done) will the owner pay Caesar his due? If it were my tree I wouldn?t have any reservations charting its pedigree.
I guess the passion we render in this discussion surrounds the mythical aura of practising bonsai vice owning them. Why would anyone want to own world-class trees just to display them? I guess it becomes just another piece of art like many others, whilst the enthusiast knows the difference, the journey into its creation, different strokes for different folks.
Attila wrote:
I like Al's answer, he brings up a lot of hard decisions that have to be made when working with legacy trees. There are times when, even if you want to keep the tree exactly as it was, you cannot. That's because some branches thicken out of proportion in time, and you have to replace them with others. In this case, you will try to preserve "the spirit" of the work, but you will have to decide on your own what to replace it with
Talented artist, however, have an eye of recognizing the style of the original creator, and so they can adapt the subsequent work on the tree to this original style, in order to preserve the original image. Just an example: if the tree was created, using the clip-and-grow method, with zig-zag branches and stubs at the end of branches left on intentionally, then the resturator should use the same clip-and-grow method and create similar stubs when growing new branches.
If, however, the branches have wavy, lazy curves, the subsequent work should be done accordingly. Observing all the little details, and the overall structure of the tree, one can keep building or maintaining it in the same spirit.

These accurate observations enforce artistic integrity when we talk restoration. As previously mentioned wrt individual brush strokes, museums will quest for handedness when restoring great works of art, as the brush stroke of a right or left handed painter is inherently different. The same applies to wiring whether wired conventionally or via the ?lingnan? method, each produce different results and are not dissimilar to the aforementioned ?handed? observation.
It is true that a bonsai is a dynamic piece of art that continually evolves, but in the hands of a learnt and truly talented artist, the tree can be ?freeze framed? for perpetuity. The latter statement is bold and albeit the tree will undoubtedly change, the spirit will be preserved, not unlike ?Goshin?.
Therefore, when does a tree cease to be one and become the other? IMHO, when all artistic impressions are no longer discernable from the originating artist.


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 Post subject: Ownership of Bonsai
PostPosted: Fri Jun 08, 2007 12:15 pm 
A few years ago, I won a beautiful crabapple bunjin that was the demonstration tree styled by Bill Valvanis. It only cost me about $300 in raffle tickets too!
http://www.bssf.org/gallery2/v/BSSF+Sho ... 2.JPG.html
I displayed the tree at our next club show, carefully stating its history and that I did not, yet, consider it my tree. I'm not sure it is even Bill's tree since the major styling had already been done before Kathy Shaner obtained it for the GSBF 2004 convention. Note that the original styler's name has already been lost. (Posting this comment reminds me to try to obtain more information about the tree from Kathy.)
But one day it will be my tree or someone else's tree. I say this because of something I asked Kathy Shaner one day: why are there no Living National Treasures in Japanese Bonsai as there are in other arts such as ceramics, painting, woodworking, etc. Her answer is telling in this context of ownership. It's because the trees do not remain the same, they are living, they change and are changed even more by styling done by each Master's hands.
We've all seen bonsai masters radically change trees - in person or in magazines. Is it not then the tree of the latest master? I think that must be so, but I'm relatively new to this whole art and am just positing another perspective.
Meanwhile, just keeping the tree alive should garner me some credit! Don't worry Bill; it's still your tree.
Cheers, Linda


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PostPosted: Fri Jun 08, 2007 1:36 pm 
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Hi Linda,
Welcome to the forum.
We have all seen people radically change existing bonsai, but to these few, the existing bonsai was nothing more than stock which they used to create their own vision, painting over the canvas, if you will.
We seem to be bouncing around this subject a lot here, many people keep coming back to the same point you made above, what if a bonsai is changed? Once the bonsai is restyled beyond what it once was, once the previous artists vision has been erased or wrote over with the new artists vision, the tree belongs solely to the new artist.
Walter's entry in another contest has been brought up here as an example by others. In my opinion, Walter has no intention of preserving this tree, it is mere stock to him, a blank canvas that he will use to create his own vision.
This is a far cry from maintaining the vision that someone else put into the tree, when we preserve the styling by someone else, they should get the credit for the work.
Linda, please take a few moments to read our user name guidelines at http://www.artofbonsai.org/forum/viewtopic.php?t=59 and I look forward to reading your thoughts again soon. Good luck with Bill's tree!

Will


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Jun 11, 2007 1:45 am 
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Location: Victoria BC Canada
Whose tree is it when created by collaboration?
What if I discovered or collected great stock, grew it on for a year or three, studied it and styled it in mind or on paper. A guest artist comes to town so I bring this tree into a workshop. After our visiting artist studies the tree he or she comes up with the same basic style I was considering. After some discussion the artist turns to the next participant and continues around the room till they may make it back to me. This tree will take years to be show worthy.
Do I have to give credit to this artist? He is the headliner, the big name. If I or any other in the same situation had no talent this tree would never be worth mentioning.
What if a Walter walked through your collection and critiqued a few bonsai suggesting some major changes. You followed his suggestions, are they now his creations?
This is an honest question; I am not trying to be a smart a_ _ . What are your thoughts?
Chuck


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