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PostPosted: Thu Feb 02, 2006 8:23 am 
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No slur was perceived. My point is that I have seen the results of ignoring the basics, both with people I have worked with and in my own life, not necessarily bonsai. I believe that the basics are no less important in bonsai. Here is a reasonable comparison. Have you ever tried to draw a cloud that looked like a cloud? It's not too difficult if you know how it has been done successfully in the past. Here is another; did you ever try to get the color for flesh tones in a painting? That is another not too hard to do if you know how.
Again it boils down to two philosophies; do you provide for future development from a vantage point of having mastered some basic skills, or, in an absolute disdain for the fundamentals, do you require a student to learn every aspect of bonsai while you stand there and watch them fail over and over until they stumble on the right way to do something? That's kind of extreme but here is the contradiction.
No one thinking themselves a teacher would not inform a student about soil, root pruning, branch pruning, wiring, and basic care would they? Are not many of these aspects governed by fundamentals and in some cases rules? Then why do some find it necessary, claiming that it is a good way, to not teach some of the basics and fundamentals of style? This makes no sense to me. In the end art is about pleasing the eye and, as Walter says, touching the soul.


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PostPosted: Thu Feb 02, 2006 11:41 am 
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Guys, here is a dilemma that I've been thinking about for a long time and still haven't made up my mind about. It occurred to me during the time I've read the book Why Art Cannot Be Taught by James Elkins.
Here is one possible reality:
Rules are useful for those who were born with no talent. It helps them to learn the craft (not the art) and achieve an acceptable result.
Talent here means an eye for good design. One theory is that some people were born with this ability and some were not so fortunate. It's a function of your brain, has nothing to do with your willingness to learn.
Good design is based on the nature of human perception. The brain reacts favorably to certain visual stimuli and is repulsed by others. A person with talent for design has an innate ability recognize those visual patterns and re-create them. Others don't. Just like Hector mentioned with music. Some have a musical ear and some don't. If you don't have a sense of rhytm by the age of 3, you will NEVER be able to become a good musician no matter how much you study.
Back to these rules of bonsai, a person with an eye for design can very quickly recognize the forms and patterns occurring in nature that represent a powerful image of a tree. The learning curve is very fast (just like in music, where a talented musician can learn a whole symphony by heart only listening to it once), and he doesn't need to use those bonsai rules anymore. He has heard them, understood them and is done with them forever.
On the othe hand, an person with no such ability has to rely on them over and over again, like a crutch, since he lacks the natural ability to recognize a good design.
So, don't blame those who are strong proponents of the rules. That's all they have in order to practice something that they dearly love. Just like one shouldn't blame the blind for holding a stick. They were not as fortunate as others who were born with the ability to see.
Well, this is one theory that makes sense to me.


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PostPosted: Fri Feb 10, 2006 8:08 pm 
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Attila says: "Well, this is one theory that makes sense to me."
I agree completely. I know so many bonsaiists that have years of "experience", but when faced with a tree, don't seem to have any idea where to start and how to proceed. These folks keep the teachers busy.
Mike


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PostPosted: Sat Feb 11, 2006 8:13 pm 
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A very interesting theory, Attila, and surely there is some degree of truth to it at the very least.
Attila Soos wrote:
So, don't blame those who are strong proponents of the rules. That's all they have in order to practice something that they dearly love. Just like one shouldn't blame the blind for holding a stick. They were not as fortunate as others who were born with the ability to see.

I rarely blame those who are strong proponents of the rules; they're somewhere on the spectrum between quite useful and relatively harmless. (I'd tend to say "fairly useful, but others who respect might argue that they are more on the "relatively harmless" end of the scale.) It's those who don't have the eye for design and who should be still following the rules, but instead claim to have moved beyond any need for them -- these are the ones I find the most worrisome.
Best regards,
Carl


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PostPosted: Sat Feb 11, 2006 8:28 pm 
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Vance says: "No one thinking themselves a teacher would not inform a student about soil, root pruning, branch pruning, wiring, and basic care would they? Are not many of these aspects governed by fundamentals and in some cases rules?"
In light of Vance's statement, the teaching of bonsai must be divided into two parts. Part 1 is the mechanics of bonsai, and part 2 is the art of bonsai. The mechanics are easy. The art may take a lifetime.
Mike


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PostPosted: Sat Feb 11, 2006 8:32 pm 
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Not only worrisome... they're the ones whose unsolicited opinions are downright annoying. They try to tell you to do something that has nothing to do with bonsai, as you understand it. That there is a tolerance of these people is the chief reason we have so much trouble with the public's understanding of bonsai, today.
Some of these fruitcakes have actually written books, for pity's sake! Some of them are relatively harmless, others are like Russian Thistle (tumbleweeds), laying waste to large swathes of otherwise fertile, interested minds.


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PostPosted: Sat Feb 11, 2006 9:09 pm 
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Hector, please don't think I am being contentious because that is not my intent. I know another place where a simple question is a call to arms and that is not my intent. In short could you be a bit more specific about those individuals you speak of and perhaps even the books. I understand if you cannot give names but I am not sure I know what or who you mean and I hope I am not one of them. Not that I would take offense but I would like to discuss differences if any.


Last edited by Vance Wood on Sat Feb 11, 2006 9:14 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Sat Feb 11, 2006 9:13 pm 
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Mike Page wrote:
Vance says: "No one thinking themselves a teacher would not inform a student about soil, root pruning, branch pruning, wiring, and basic care would they? Are not many of these aspects governed by fundamentals and in some cases rules?"
In light of Vance's statement, the teaching of bonsai must be divided into two parts. Part 1 is the mechanics of bonsai, and part 2 is the art of bonsai. The mechanics are easy. The art may take a lifetime.
Mike

I understand the concepts of Art taking a lifetime, I am evidence of that. If you do teach and of course Art is a fundamental part of bonsai, where do you start on this subject? What kind of approach can be taken that will give the bonsai student some sort of basic understanding of how bonsai is supposed to look without locking them into some sort of system where by everything they do, see and discuss centers around the narrow focus?


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PostPosted: Sat Feb 11, 2006 9:37 pm 
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Hector Johnson wrote:
That there is a tolerance of these people is the chief reason we have so much trouble with the public's understanding of bonsai, today.

It is also a great hindrance to both those who are trying to teach and those who are trying to learn.
The argument that anyone has the same right to speak as anyone else is flawed. Even with freedom of speech you do not have the right to slander, libel, or otherwise harm and with any other form of expression, if you post wrong or damaging information or lie, you are quickly called on it and exposed. (As James Frey just proved once again.)

Will


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PostPosted: Sun Feb 12, 2006 1:11 am 
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Robert Steven, in his book 'Vision of My Soul' states, "Unfortunately, most bonsai enthusiasts simply swallow these rules without digesting the lessons. Consequently, many mistake a list of helpful conventions for an ironclad checklist of absolute rights and wrongs. This sort of mistake greatly decreases any chance they may have of creating artistry."


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PostPosted: Sun Feb 12, 2006 5:05 am 
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I'm not prepared to name the particular author, sorry Vance.
I simply find it annoying that this person has assumed a position of supposed mastery, and takes great umbrage when any questions about capability are asked. The assertion is that they have created a unique direction in bonsai, which I find laughable given their apparent reliance upon other, more prominent artists for support and direction.


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PostPosted: Sun Feb 12, 2006 10:14 am 
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Hector: I did not mean to put you on the spot, and believe me I really didn't want names unless one was mine. I have a pretty good idea of whom you speak.


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PostPosted: Sun Feb 12, 2006 4:28 pm 
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Certainly not you, Vance.
However, it reminds me a funny, if somewhat pathetic, incident during my years at boarding school.
There was a kid in my dormitory, whose interest in martial arts led him to the belief that he was somehow equipped to become a teacher himself.
He gathered a small coterie of hopefuls together and they practised the moves he suggested, under a tree out the back, for a couple of weeks. At this point he decided they were "ready" (probably having reached the extent of his knowledge and capabilities), so he held a little graduation ceremony, to declare his students' accomplishments.
His students and a handful of somewhat bemused onlookers turned out for the event. This was all going smoothly until he began talking to his absent "Sensei" (who lived about 1400 miles away) in a wooden voice, and rolling and closing his eyes repeatedly.
He may well have been communicating with the guy, but it all seemed a tad contrived. His reputation was shot to tatters and he was a laughing stock for the remaining two years he lived there as a student.
You can fool some of the people, some of the time...


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PostPosted: Sun Feb 12, 2006 8:39 pm 
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Funny thing, I see this kind of thing all the time, and most of this group has seen it as well, especially if you visit other bonsai sites. The beginner thinking, themself a master. I don't have a problem with the studied beginner who has taken the time to research what he knows and admits they are a beginner.
It is the beginner that thinks he knows every thing already and is now in that kind of twilight zone where they don't know, and they don't know, they don't know. Then when someone comes along and tries to correct some misinformation they take it personal and make a big issue out of it. It is at this point I kind of have to blame myself. I subscribe to the philosophy that says: "Never argue with a fool or an idiot, they will only drag you down to their level and then beat you through experience". I have to admit sometimes I go looking for Sancho Panza, I get on my horse, take my trusty lance and chase after the nearest wind mill.


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PostPosted: Mon Feb 13, 2006 4:32 pm 
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Vance in his article referred to "American style bonsai". There were several followup comments on this.
I found a 1991 interview of Qingquan Zhao on the 'net in which he addresses the subject. Since Master Zhao is the subject of an AoB profile, I think his comments are doubly appropriate.
---------------------------
A Chinese Penjing Artist Visits America
At the end of a three-month visit to the United States, Chinese penjing master Qingquan Zhao describes his impressions of American bonsai, his artistic development, and the situation of penjing in today's China.
The interview was conducted by Karin Albert of Lotus International in Athens, Georgia in 1991.
Q: Mr. Zhao, you now have spent three months in America. You were a headliner at the Bonsai Societies of Florida Convention in Naples, and you've done programs with quite a few clubs along the Eastern seaboard. You've also met with some of America's most outstanding bonsai artists and viewed their collections. What impressions of American bonsai will you take home to China with you?
A: First of all, I have noticed that bonsai is developing very rapidly in this country. America has a fairly short history of bonsai. From what I have seen, I can tell that some remarkable accomplishments have been attained in a relatively short period of time. So one can only conclude that in America, bonsai is developing at a very fast pace. Moreover, given the large and quickly growing number of hobbyists, the size of the country and its wealth of natural resources, both trees and rocks, the future of bonsai in America is bound to be promising. Most of the bonsai I have seen in America clearly show a strong Japanese influence. This is, of course, only natural, given the fact that in the U.S., this art has been introduced and taught by Japanese. I have noticed, however, that an American style of bonsai is beginning to emerge.
-----------------------------
The question still lingers. What IS American style bonsai?
Mike


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