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.
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.