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PostPosted: Mon Jan 30, 2006 9:14 pm 
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Location: Brisbane, Australia
Thanks, Vance. I think I was more interested in simply acquiring an unusual cascade specimen, than I was in bringing out the best in the tree. The error of my ways was obvious to me, but I was being pigheaded for the sake of personal vanity.
Humility can be an expensive gift to acquire.


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PostPosted: Mon Jan 30, 2006 10:20 pm 
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Perhaps, but you moved on. There is an old expression: If it ain't broke don't fix it, but there is another equally valid old expression: You can't fix it if you don't know its broke. I have found with bonsai in my experience, that when I think I have it going in the right direction it is just barely started and no where near where I think it is. In short you have to have the courage to look at yourself, and that's not always easy to do. But once you do you can begin to grow again.


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PostPosted: Tue Jan 31, 2006 10:11 am 
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Location: Huntersville, NC USA
I have always been a proponent for Americans (mostly U.S.A., but I include those south and north of us as well) to practice reproducing bonsai examples of trees we see in OUR environment. I don't know if "American-style" is an appropriate term, but I am 100% convinced there is a credible point-of-view that Americans can bring to the table.
Time and time again we hear how the West cannot truly and fully appreciate the Japanese view of bonsai unless we see it from their perspective. Ironically, when we try to take an approach at bonsai with our own perspective as the guide, we meet with resistance, sometimes with downright hostility towards our approach.
This makes no sense. No one is trying to say that an "American-style" is the superior method to follow. We are only using basic principles in a way the Chinese and Japanese did. The same applies for other nationalities. To mimic what we see in nature, our own unique versions, is completely proper. There is a whole lot of room in bonsai for different ideas. I myself can appreciate more than one.
Every time I hear the subject come up, I immediately think about bald cypress and live oaks. Vaughn Banting and others use bald cypress material to mimic mature BC, some many hundreds of years old. The "flat-top" style, form, technique, etc., is a prime example of an American artist using indigenous material in an artistic reproduction of a full-sized MATURE tree viewed on American soil. I myself love to see examples of bonsai styled in a way that complements old live oaks. In both situations, there is nothing wrong with the philosophy. It is quite proper and satisfies the desire to make bonsai in a way that appeals to us on a personal level. At the same time, I realize there are others who do not share the same perspective, and are completely against the attempt. To that I can only say, to each their own, but when any one person/group/culture adamantly opposes anything other than their very narrow idea of what is correct, it comes time to tell them that regardless of what they think, you will continue on with what you are doing. It is at those times that the individual person has to make a decision on whether to conform to the safety of established opinion, or to take the risk of possible failure. It is those kind of situations that bring the "cream to the top ". This applies to Americans, Europeans, Asians, Africans, Australians, and any other region of the world.
I will say it to the day I die, just because someone is convinced their way is right, doesn't necessarily mean they are right. Use your common sense, accumulated knowledge, and a little humility, in your decision of how to proceed. If you fail, fail knowing that you tried to do something you believed in. If you succeed, be content with that.
Americans practicing bonsai styling in a way that they perceive as natural and correct, based on their own experience of their region, is something I strongly support. I take issue with those who contest that philosophy.
John


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PostPosted: Tue Jan 31, 2006 8:23 pm 
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John Dixon wrote:
I will say it to the day I die, just because someone is convinced their way is right, doesn't necessarily mean they are right. Use your common sense, accumulated knowledge, and a little humility, in your decision of how to proceed. If you fail, fail knowing that you tried to do something you believed in. If you succeed, be content with that.
Americans practicing bonsai styling in a way that they perceive as natural and correct, based on their own experience of their region, is something I strongly support. I take issue with those who contest that philosophy.
John

I agree with you John. I think it was Leo Dourocher who said it best: "It ain't braggin' if you can do it". I proposed earlier that there is only one rule in bonsai which must be followed. The bonsai must be Beautiful. Therefore you can do bonsai any way you want as long as you fulfill the prime rule which is after all the earliest foundation of the Art. All this other stuff has come since and is for the most part an analysis of how that beauty was achieved in the past.


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PostPosted: Tue Jan 31, 2006 8:55 pm 
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Vance Wood wrote:
I proposed earlier that there is only one rule in bonsai which must be followed. The bonsai must be Beautiful.

Amen.
-Paul


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PostPosted: Tue Jan 31, 2006 9:22 pm 
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Location: central Kansas USA
I live in central Kansas, near the center of the USA. This area is prairie. There are few trees that predate the invasion of whites.
The trees I grew up around and admire have their lowest branches just above the height that a horse eat or bull could rub against.
When the trees are 3 times that height, the trees are more or less shaped like most books say. The first branch is 1/3 the height of the tree.
But the trees keep growing. An old venerable tree will be up 60 feet, or about 20 m. That first branch is still where I can reach it with my hand.
When I try to shape a bonsai like these trees, I am always told the first branch is too low.
The people who say this can quote many authors. I can only quote the trees.


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PostPosted: Tue Jan 31, 2006 9:46 pm 
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If the tree you develop in this style is beautiful those who criticize it because of some sort of default set of rules are wrong. However if the tree looks ugly then maybe you should look at it by the old rules to see if you can correct a problem, not necessarily bonsai by the numbers, but the quest for beauty.
Without seeing the tree it is hard to say if I think there is something wrong with the tree. Then there is the question; who cares what I think? However if you have to explane the tree you might have a problem It may be nothing more than allowing maturity to set in, but maybe not.
As to quoting authors. It's easy to fall back on that caveat, it takes the responsibility away from the person offering the criticism. If I can style, or create a bonsai that looks like a tree and it is beautiful I don't give a rat's flatulent emission what some author, dead or alive, has to say about it. MOST authors are doing one of two things.
They are designing trees from their own cultural background or parroting the aforementioned author designing trees from their own background. The one from a cultural point of view is at least honest, the parrot is well----just a parrot and by their response analyzing a tree from an acquired point of view and not their own. The parrot is afraid to go beyond the accepted patterns and principals for fear of criticism, or lack of creative thought. But to be honest, most of these people are just trying to help for the most part, even if they are wrong.
However if you asked what they thought of your tree, or if you are thinking of asking people about your tree you have to expect this kind of thing-----unless the tree is really beautiful. If you get a chance look at Walter Palls gallery on this site. The first thing you will notice about his trees is that they are beautiful. What you don't notice is that most of them do not follow the rules. This is something you really don't notice because these trees follow the fundamental rule of bonsai----They are beautiful. You cannot argue with beautiful.


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PostPosted: Wed Feb 01, 2006 8:57 am 
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Walter Pickett wrote:
I live in central Kansas, near the center of the USA. This area is prairie. There are few trees that predate the invasion of whites.
The trees I grew up around and admire have their lowest branches just above the height that a horse eat or bull could rub against.
When the trees are 3 times that height, the trees are more or less shaped like most books say. The first branch is 1/3 the height of the tree.
But the trees keep growing. An old venerable tree will be up 60 feet, or about 20 m. That first branch is still where I can reach it with my hand.
When I try to shape a bonsai like these trees, I am always told the first branch is too low.
The people who say this can quote many authors. I can only quote the trees.


Walter,
Great example. This is exactly what I was wanting to explain as an American perspective. Vance makes very good points about how the result is what matters. If you style a bonsai with your recollection of a prairie tree as the subject, you are bringing a story, an American story, out of what the material has to offer. Now, it will not appeal to some, or possibly many. That is always a possibility. The most important part of bonsai styling is that the material "speaks" to the viewer. With a little acceptance, people who have never seen a prairie tree like you described (I haven't ever been to Kansas), can still appreciate the story and the emulation that the material signifies. Those who rigidly denounce such attempts as failure to follow proper styling protocol, are in fact holding on too tight and losing sight of what bonsai can really accomplish.
I have never visited Africa, and likely will never make it to that continent. But I have seen enough photos and film of the scenery to appreciate the stark beauty that many have come to admire. The thorny trees that dot an otherwise flat, grassy plain. A giraffe walking between them. I have an acacia bonsai that without exception makes me think "Africa" every time I look at it.
How can that be wrong? Isn't it wonderful that a bonsai can let our minds wander thousands of miles away with just a mere gaze from our eyes? I truly pity the people who will never appreciate this aspect of bonsai.
Walter, I like your mindset with how to style your bonsai. Bonsai is about pleasure, so making yourself happy is extremely important to a successful future. Ignore the nay-sayers, and press on. At the same time, keep humility about your efforts. Everyone who tries makes mistakes. Those who don't try make the biggest mistake of all.
Warmest regards,
John


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PostPosted: Wed Feb 01, 2006 9:25 am 
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Kind of a side bar on the issue of local inspiration. In Michigan where I live, at one time the State was covered with a rather vast White Pine forest. Over the centuries a lot of this original forest has been logged off for the building of ships and cities. Virgin forest now only exist in small pockets.
But because of this, it is not impossible to see some deciduous trees, that at one time grew in competition with the White Pines, which have remained after the pines were cut. Because of the competition the deciduous trees grew up tall in efforts to reach the light. At some point in their lives the forest was removed from around them as well as the competition for light.
The resulting growth for the deciduous tree/trees was from that point on to develop naturally. The end result is an undisputed deciduous tree development much like the Japanese Broom Style atop a very tall trunk. This is a model, if you tried to put into a bonsai pot, would draw a great deal of criticism as being out of the parameters of the so called rules. Trunk and height of tree in the Broom Style would be quoted and some would reject the tree. Almost the exact opposite of what the prairie style was questioning.
Here is another style That is American in form and exists almost no where else that I am aware of. If you have visited the mountains and forest of the Western United States and probably Canada, you will notice some very huge trees two-hundred to four-hundred feet tall. These giants are unique to North America, the Red Wood, The Douglas Fir and the Western White Pine. If these trees are grown where they do not compete they will grow extremely tall and have great expanses of bare trunk before you encounter the first branch. This form is almost unseen as a bonsai and it should be.
So yes we come back to the illusive American style, what about utilizing American forms? Follow the great rule if you go down this path: The tree must be beautiful. If it is the design will work and it will survive its critics.


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PostPosted: Wed Feb 01, 2006 4:29 pm 
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I guess the same argument could be made for many species, Vance.
I'm not sure that is valid in all cases, however we already style trees differently in forest or group plantings, to take into account the differences in growth patterns that trees force upon their neighbours.


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PostPosted: Wed Feb 01, 2006 4:54 pm 
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I don't disagree, I think you are right. My point is not to lock yourself into one way of thinking. Entertain possibilities and see what happens. If you can imagine something that you think will be beautiful then do it.


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PostPosted: Wed Feb 01, 2006 9:15 pm 
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Quote:
If you can imagine something that you think will be beautiful then do it.

I like the simplicity of the philosophy, as stated. However, I think that may well be the reason so many beginners make such a mess of things. They start trying to create their own, unique style before they learn what the art is about.
A revolution with one adherent is doomed to failure. Best to learn the ropes and revolutionise from the inside, where you can gain a following.


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PostPosted: Wed Feb 01, 2006 9:45 pm 
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Hector: You're right, if you have followed what I have said in this post and others in other places you will discover that I am a firm believer in learning the basics. My other love is music. It is possible for a musician to accomplish great things and not even be able to read music. But most of these people in the end take the time to master the basics.
Most of us are not Paul Mc Cartney however and need to learn how stuff is put together. Music theory and mechanics are really fundamental to learning and mastering music. I have also stated that bonsai is the same way.
You learn from the rules but you design from the heart. Where one leaves the other in the dust depends on how well you learn the basics or how gifted you are in the heart. If you don't start with the basics of style you may never learn to listen to the music in your head.


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PostPosted: Wed Feb 01, 2006 9:55 pm 
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Location: central Kansas USA
There are also styles, or forms, of trees that must be everywhere, but are never seen in bonsai. Meaning I haven't seen them.
Beautiful trees I have always admired are the trees along riverbanks. As seedlings, they grew near the edge of a riverbank, but as they grew, the soil washed away from their roots. Now as mature trees, their trunks are up to a meter from the bank, hanging there in the air.
Sometimes, the origional taproot will be an extension of the trunk, gowing down to soil down below. But that is optional. Many lack that.
There will always be a root that goes straight into the bank. And 1 or more roots going each direction parellel with the bank for some distance, 1 m to 5m, then into the soil.
For 3 or 4 years, I've been planning such a bonsai.
Seen from the side opostite the riverbank(the back of the bonsai), it looks like a simple broom. You see no nebari at all. It is out of sight below the bank.
Seen from the river side (front of the bonsai), there will be this wide nebari growing on an almost vertical bank, with a broom style tree above it.
I have had to look into ways to firm soil so it won't fall forward. And I've had to get conforable with my ability to do a broom style and work on nebari. And I've had to design a pot that would work.
I guess I've stalled long enough, I'll start this spring.
But why hasn't this been done? This sort of tree must occur anywhere there is soil erosion, which is anywhere on Earth.


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PostPosted: Wed Feb 01, 2006 10:14 pm 
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I could understand it as part of a Penjing composition, Walter.
Vance, I think there are people who never learn the basics of bonsai... which is pretty much where I am with music. I even got booted out of the school choir, for being a fraud. (I can't sing, I can't really hear tone that well, and I don't see the point in learning to read music, if none of the rest of it makes any sense.)
I swear I've met others with the same lack of appreciation, though applied to balance, artistic ability and attitude to bonsai. I meant those, rather than any slur on what you've written. Sorry.


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