It is currently Sat Dec 20, 2014 8:12 am

All times are UTC - 5 hours [ DST ]




Forum locked This topic is locked, you cannot edit posts or make further replies.  [ 19 posts ]  Go to page 1, 2  Next
Author Message
 Post subject: Book Review: 'The Art of Bonsai Design' - Colin Lewis
PostPosted: Tue Sep 18, 2007 11:48 pm 
Offline

Joined: Sat Jan 29, 2005 2:11 am
Posts: 6469
Location: Michigan USA
The Art of Bonsai Design
by Colin Lewis
Image
Sterling Publishing Company., Inc. New York: 160pp., $19.95
ISBN 0-4027-0070-9
First Paperback Edition 2001
Reviewed by Will Heath*

When I first became involved in bonsai a few years ago I started an unquenchable quest for knowledge and picked up any book I could find on the art of bonsai, regardless of the quality of content. Some of these first books have never been opened since; they collect dust on the library shelf, waiting for perhaps my young daughter to reach the age where she will embark on the same quest and maybe find some useful tidbit of information that I could not. Maybe she will just gain the enthusiasm, the drive, and the sense of wonder I did and like me, want to read every single word ever written on the subject, good or bad.

Other books, such as Colin Lewis's "The Art of Bonsai Design" are now clearly showing the signs of wear, of constant page turning, and long hours of use for education, reference, and inspiration.

While the book weighs in at just 160 pages, including the index, Colin has managed to make it seem much bigger than it is. Filled with color photographs, informative side bars containing educational information on topics pertaining to the main discussion, and his own unique blend of good old common sense coupled with vast experience, this book succeeds in delivering solid, no nonsense bonsai.

In his forward to the book Colin shares his belief that bonsai is an art form and he expresses hope that we may find something within the pages to 'take greater strides towards freeing bonsai from the chains of tradition and the stigma of "ornamental gardening" and establish it in its rightful place as an art form-with all the creative potential and dignity of any other.'

The introduction "Bonsai as a Western Art" Are we denying our own cultural heritage in our pursuit of Japanese style?" should be mandatory reading for every Westerner interested in the art of bonsai. Colin aptly compares the foundation of Western and Japanese bonsai and the cultural differences that influence us as artists. In one of his most enlightening observations he uses cartoon trees, such as those from Disney, to drive home his points on simplification and character. Colin has published this forward to his book as an article which can be read on his web page linked to below. We at AoB found the article so important, that we have republished it also here on our forum.

Image

The book is divided up into sections covering Elms, Junipers, Pines, and Larch. Each section not only gives progression examples of the species, but also cultivation, styling, care, propagation, and other pieces of information useful to those working with such material. Each section is filled with problems he has encountered and the unique and sometimes surprising solutions he created to overcome them. It is this correcting of mistakes, the overcoming of material shortcomings, or unforeseen problems that lets the reader experience Colin's great talent first hand.

In the Juniper section the reader will find detailed information on the species, progression examples on rafts, cascades, tanuki, and other styles. He provides deadwood carving techniques, cultivation, propagation, and covers many other subjects pertaining to the species. Colin also provides close-up photographs and descriptions of many of the Junipers we use in the west for identification purposes.

The section on pines covers only Scots Pine (Pinus sylvestris) unfortunately, but it covers the species very well. Subjects such as collecting, needle reduction, candle pinching, feeding, and even regional styles, amongst other subjects will no doubt fascinate the reader and prove to be a valuable reference source.

The section described above are representative of the other sections, all extremely detailed and informative and all containing unexpected, but welcomed knowledge, such as information on sphagnum moss, making concrete slabs, three dimensional bonsai, a new viewing angle suggestion for cascades, and more.

Image

Lastly, after the sections, Colin has added a series of essays in the appendices, which alone would be valuable educational references. When coupled with the contents of the book these essays polish the already intensive knowledge given and gives yet another reason every bonsaist should have this book in their collection.

Included in the appendices are the essays, 'The Naked Truth - The Deciduous Challenge? "An Infatuation with Elms" "Is a tree Ever Old" " Age and the Aging Process" and what is most likely the most complete reference on mycorrhizae in relation to bonsai I have ever read, "Mycorrhizae " Microscopic Miracle Workers.'

My regrets about the book are limited, I would have liked to see more species covered, but I have to admit that what was covered, was covered very well and it may well be best that information was not left out to make room for other species. Hopefully Colin is planning on a sequel to the first where he can share his knowledge of other species as well as more of his knowledge on the art of bonsai itself.

I was saddened to see, in bold capital letters predominately displayed on the back upper left corner of the book, the word "GARDENING." Such a book, although dealing with some cultivation, should, like all bonsai books in my opinion, be displayed in the Art section of bookstores. Colin makes mention of this in the forward to the book with the words "bonsai is undoubtedly an art form; but this book, and all others on the subject, is displayed in the gardening section of your bookstore." Maybe someday, as more and more people, including members of the bonsai community, recognize bonsai as an art form and demand that it be treated as such, books on the subject will be displayed next to books on painting, sculpture, and other forms of art.

I am also disappointed that I have the unsigned paperback edition, something I will certainly correct in the near future.

In closing, this book is worth far more than the selling price, it should be in every enthusiast's library and I personally recommend it to everyone I talk to about bonsai. Books such as these are valuable for those of us currently practicing the art and maybe even more so for those that will, like my daughter.

For more information on Colin Lewis please see the following:
Colin's website
( http://www.bonsaiforum.com )
An on-line interview with Colin Lewis
( viewtopic.php?t=719 )


* About Will Heath


Last edited by Will Heath on Sat Mar 15, 2008 8:18 pm, edited 2 times in total.

Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sun Sep 23, 2007 8:33 am 
Offline

Joined: Fri Sep 16, 2005 10:09 am
Posts: 47
Location: Nova Scotia 5a/b
I was fortunate enough to acquire a used HC of this book. Outside of the jacket that shows signs of use, the book is in very good to excellent condition. Acquiring this book at the suggested retail price since no longer in print is fortunate indeed.

Quote:
I was saddened to see, in bold capital letters predominately displayed on the back upper left corner of the book, the word ?GARDENING.? Such a book, although dealing with some cultivation, should, like all bonsai books in my opinion, be displayed in the Art section of bookstores.


Although I agree in principle with the very good review of Colin's work, I cannot phatom endorsing this comment. IMO these days far too much emphasis is placed on bonsai as art. Whilst the trees are expressions of the enthusiasts visions, to place bonsai slolely as art is rubbish. I further believe that if folks would take this suggestion verbatim, that the sales of bonsai books would plummet.

Regardless of what we see or say about this hobby, bonsai is above all gardening and good horticultural practices. Bonsai is container gardening for the lack of a better word. So where better to find a book on the subject then in the gardening section of book stores. It is further amusing to see that in the majority of book stores here in Canada, that not only do we find them in the gardening section, but filed under "indoor gardening" which as we know, very little of our chosen craft occurs indoors.

In closing someone who picks up this hobby is more apt to find reference material on bonsai in the gardening section rather than the art section of any book store.


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sun Sep 23, 2007 10:39 pm 
Offline

Joined: Sat Jan 29, 2005 2:11 am
Posts: 6469
Location: Michigan USA
Bonsai is an art form and as such should be treated like any other.

A book on how to paint with water colors, a book on drawing people, a book on sculpting with clay, all found today in the art section of a book store... a book such as this one or even Robert Stevens latest book, "Vision of My Soul" all would be found in the gardening section.

This may make sense to you, it certainly does not to me. Sure bonsai is part container gardening and using your logic, I guess you could say that painting on canvas is just painting, not much different than painting a house???Should books on painting on canvas be displayed under home improvement in the book stores?

Bonsai leaves behind gardening or container gardening to those growing tomatoes and patio trees, bonsai is so much more, with talent, it is art.
It is the attitude that it is just a hobby, that it is just gardening, that it is just container gardening that holds it back and prevents acceptance of bonsai as a art form.

Will


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Sep 24, 2007 9:40 am 
Offline

Joined: Fri Sep 16, 2005 10:09 am
Posts: 47
Location: Nova Scotia 5a/b
Your rebuttal and analysis IMO is comparing apples and water melons.

Correct me if I'm wrong but I don't believe Robert's book saw the book shelves, whilst Colin's did. When comparing these two maginficent works, undoubtidly one surpasses the other. Although Colin's book deals to a certain degree in the "art of bonsai" it is miles appart when comparing to Robert's creation that deals specifically with artistic impressions.

If Robert's book was indeed placed in the arts section, how many enthusiast would have known to look there? Unless the individual does a computer search, and the store just happened to tag it as a "bonsai reference" it wouldn't be found. On the other hand, it is my opinion that a greater number of enthusiast would find it in the gardening section.
I'm not arguing that bonsai is not art, just where references should be kept. My observation had more to do with the total disgust you displayed because of the classification the book had on its back cover. Outside of the bonsai community, who would know where to place the book in the store? Sterling Publishing thought it wise to do so. A business decision perhaps, but who are we to argue a wise decision IMO. I believe more sales occured in this fashion than your prescribed classification.

Although, some chose to classify bonsai as art, not all bonsai possess that mantle, some do and some don't. To the public at large, bonsai is a form of Asian gardening. We can spend hours debating this, but the public at large shows greater numbers than our small community. It is further my opinion that the more we educate, the further ahead the community will be. But, I am being a realsit here, neither of us will see bonsai accepted as art in our life span. Should we just lay over and die? No! But should we loose sleep over it? I'm not. I don't feel the need to.

I believe you mentioned you are in sales. From a business perspective, where would you display this book for maximum exposure and sales?


Last edited by Richard Moquin on Mon Sep 24, 2007 2:26 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re:
PostPosted: Mon Sep 24, 2007 10:22 am 
Offline

Joined: Sat Jan 29, 2005 2:11 am
Posts: 6469
Location: Michigan USA
Richard Moquin wrote:
I believe more sales occured in this fashion than your prescribed classification.


Impossible to tell actually, since the other classification has not been tried.

Richard Moquin wrote:
But, I am being a realsit here, neither of us will see bonsai accepted as art in our life span.


Richard, bonsai is a reconized art form in many other countires and given all the respect derserving as such. The realist sees that America is far behind in accepting this and the hobbyist/craft attitude here is the main reason for it.

Richard Moquin wrote:
I believe you mentioned you are in sales. From a business perspective, where would you display this book for maximum exposure and sales?


I am in sales, sales management actually for some years now, thank you for asking my opinion, although you may not agree with it.

Let's say bonsai is a product and I wanted to maximize profit from it. As a product quality bonsai take a very long time to produce and requires talented artists to do so. Of course I could mass produce mallsai and sell them at box stores and the like, but that short term solution will eventually fail as the consumer becomes more educated. Not wanting to constantly wage a spin war to keep the consumer undereducated, I need another solution....

Art.

Accept bonsai for what it is, indeed what has made it so successful in other countries. Raise it to the level of art and the supply of bonsai now goes down because quality artistic bonsai are not and can not be mass produced. Educated the consumer and they will pay more for quality, art has always demanded a higher price. Supply vs demand, create the demand for artistic bonsai by educating the consumer.

And everything now asscoited with the art can demand a higher price, including books, appearences, lessons, material, etc

All that aside, my opinion stated above expressing my dislike for books on the art of bonsai being placed in the gardening section of books stores mirrored Colin's own words in this remarkable book, as quoted above. I agree with him.

My father used to have a saying that went something like, if you don't want your horse acting like a cow, stop treating it like one.

Will


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Sep 24, 2007 12:04 pm 
Offline

Joined: Fri Sep 16, 2005 10:09 am
Posts: 47
Location: Nova Scotia 5a/b
Quote:
I am in sales, sales management actually for some years now, thank you for asking my opinion, although you may not agree with it.
Let's say bonsai is a product and I wanted to maximize profit from it. As a product quality bonsai take a very long time to produce and requires talented artists to do so. Of course I could mass produce mallsai and sell them at box stores and the like, but that short term solution will eventually fail as the consumer becomes more educated. Not wanting to constantly wage a spin war to keep the consumer undereducated, I need another solution....


Please don't change the context of the discussion. We are talking about book sales vice bonsais. Which will generate more sales: the gardening section or the art section?

Someone who doesn't know anything about bonsai and wishes to educate himself/herself on the subject, where is he/she more apt to look for reference material? The art section or the gardening section?

or

Who is more apt to purchase a bonsai book: someone parusing the art section and stumbling upon a bonsai book or someone who is in gardening in one form or another?

I don't believe Robert's book hit the shelves (limited edition) IMO the folks who bought his book, bought it for the artistic side of the reference over anything else. It was an educated public that purchased his work, not the uninformed one.

Quote:
Art.
Accept bonsai for what it is, indeed what has made it so successful in other countries. Raise it to the level of art and the supply of bonsai now goes down because quality artistic bonsai are not and can not be mass produced. Educated the consumer and they will pay more for quality, art has always demanded a higher price. Supply vs demand, create the demand for artistic bonsai by educating the consumer.

And everything now asscoited with the art can demand a higher price, including books, appearences, lessons, material, etc


... and in your wisdom is that healthy? I mean basic supplies?
As you know attach the word bonsai to everyday sundries and you are paying an arm and a leg for them. Is it right? Take for example screens, where do you buy yours? A bonsai outlet or the craft store? I buy mine at the craft store for a fraction of the cost.

What is the intent here, to covet bonsai into an elite group of practicioners or maximum exposure which means, making sundries available to the common folk, who in turn may produce world class trees in years to come. I believe the greater the mass, the more chances of good bonsai down the road. Please don't get me wrong, I'm not talking about mallsai but world class trees. The bigger the pool, the greater the odds.

or

Are you insinuating that only the rich and famous have the talent to produce world class bonsai? We do know that acquiring world class stock is expensive. But would you be practicing bonsai if because it is "bonsai" that your next purchase of wire mesh is $150 dollars a sheet at the craft store, with no other alternative than to purchase it there as there is no other suitable material to be found that will do the job. Or pay $500 for mesh from a bonsai outlet. I think not!

I smoke premium cigars and if there is one thing I learnt along the way is an excellent cigar is not comensurate with price. Probably the most overated cigar on the market is the Opus X from Fuente. This particular cigar is only available in a controlled market as you describe above. I was told by many an Aficianado that is wasn't worth the price tag, and they were right, to my dismay. Bonsai on the other hand is a different story, but one needs to be extremely careful in manipulating the market.

Promoting bonsai as art is not a bad thing, but I stand by my position that in order to reach the most, it is porbably not the best avenue in promoting its future.


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Sep 24, 2007 12:12 pm 
Offline
Editor

Joined: Sat Jan 29, 2005 2:13 am
Posts: 1190
Location: Los Angeles, California
Art and gardening don't have to be exclusive.

Bonsai certainly belongs to BOTH. The art part cannot exist without the gardening aspect.

Japanese gardening is just as much art as bonsai, but it is still displayed under the Gardening section. If I told the store manager that he should take out Japanese gardening books from the Gardening section, and move them to the art section, he would think that I am crazy. I would try in vain to convince him that japanese gardening is really an art form and not gardening. He would argue: "If American gardening belongs to gardening, why would Japanese gardening be different? Are the Japanese better than us? I don't think so!"

How about English gardening. English gardening should belong to the Gardening section, since the English gardens are natural, growing wild. But wait, this is not quite true: they create the "impression" of growing wild, but in fact, it is all done with a definite purpose in mind. So, let's move English gardening to the Art section as well.
French gardening, on the othe hand, it's all topiary. That's just craft. Leave them in the Gardening section.

OK, enough of this madness...
Since bonsai justly belongs to BOTH, which department should it be displayed under?

I leave that to the store manager, I really don't care.

If it was my store, I would create a separate location, neither gardening, nor art. It would be at a very well lit section of the store, and I would call it THE BONSAI CORNER. It would have a few indoor bonsai trees decorating the store (a huge and stunning ficus, an exquisite bougainvillea in bloom, a kumquat tree, laden with fruits) and a lot of bonsai books and tools. The gorgeous live bonsai trees would raise a lot if interest amongst the bookworms, and this would trigger a lot of bonsai book sales. This section would also have some tables and chairs, where people can sit, have a coffey, and contemplate on the beauty of bonsai. It would make both the gardeners and artists happy.

How about that, for uniting and reconciling art and gardening?


Last edited by Attila Soos on Mon Sep 24, 2007 12:35 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Sep 24, 2007 12:31 pm 
Offline

Joined: Fri Sep 16, 2005 10:09 am
Posts: 47
Location: Nova Scotia 5a/b
ROTFL
Have you been sniffing my humidor LOL.
In the case of Colin's book although store management may decide otherwise, the "publisher" decreed where best to display this book. If Colin was in disagreement with the way the publisher delt with this issue then... he always had the option of seeking another publisher.
I am sure both thoroughly enjoy the royalties of such a "business decision"


Last edited by Richard Moquin on Mon Sep 24, 2007 12:39 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Sep 24, 2007 12:37 pm 
Offline
Editor

Joined: Sat Jan 29, 2005 2:13 am
Posts: 1190
Location: Los Angeles, California
LMAF..
Rick, check out my post, I edited it. :)


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Sep 24, 2007 1:22 pm 
Offline

Joined: Sat Jan 29, 2005 2:11 am
Posts: 6469
Location: Michigan USA
I believe the problem is the inability to separate what goes into creating art and the art itself.

Using the same logic as described above we can say that all books featuring collections of some of the best masterpieces from talented painters should be displayed in the home improvement section of the book stores. After all it is painting, just like painting a house, well just as much so as gardening is bonsai, which is the comparison used above.

While Rick and Attila is classifying bonsai by the techniques used to create, I classify bonsai by the end result. I no more believe that a book featuring bonsai should be in the gardening section than I believe that a collection of pre-Columbian sculptures should be in the geology section.

I will however admit that books on how to create bonsai should be in another section, perhaps the how to section of books stores, along with how to paint with water colors, etc. But as far as book featuring bonsai as an art.....they should be in the art section. I will also admit that such books are rare.

Robert has released his second edition, by the way, paper back and for mass distribution.

Bonsai is an art and should be treated as such, can anyone name me another art form's results that are not displayed in the art section, no matter what techniques are used to create them? Just one?
And as far as cigars go, I smoke Ashton.

Will


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re:
PostPosted: Mon Sep 24, 2007 1:59 pm 
Offline
Editor

Joined: Sat Jan 29, 2005 2:13 am
Posts: 1190
Location: Los Angeles, California
Will Heath wrote:
While Rick and Attila is classifying bonsai by the techniques used to create, I classify bonsai by the end result....
I will however admit that books on how to create bonsai should be in another section, perhaps the how to section of books stores, along with how to paint with water colors, etc.


There you go!

The books on how to create paintings, and how to draw, are not in the strictly art section either.

And we have to admit, that traditionally, most of the bonsai books in the past have dealt almost exclusively with the "how to" and the "species guide to bonsai" aspects. The art is only vaguely mentioned.

So, these books don't belong to the fine arts section.

And, isn't it logical that if 99% of bonsai books don't have art as the main focus, then the 1% that do, are lumped together with the rest of the bonsai books, for practical purposes. If I am a buyer and looking for bonsai books, I don't want to look for those books in 3 different sections of the bookstore: gardening, artst and crafts, and art. I want all the books on this subject to be in the same section. Especially, because there are so few, compared to other subjects, anyway.

PS: Nobody answered my question about gardening:
Isn't gardening, if looking at the end result, also an art form, just like the other arts?


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Sep 24, 2007 2:05 pm 
Offline

Joined: Fri Sep 16, 2005 10:09 am
Posts: 47
Location: Nova Scotia 5a/b
And as far as cirgars go, I smoke Ashton.
... and I Monty's #5


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Sep 24, 2007 2:19 pm 
Offline

Joined: Mon Aug 08, 2005 8:04 pm
Posts: 244
Location: South San Francisco, CA
Not all bonsai is "art" but all bonsai is in the category of "horticultural arts".
I think we should worry less about what section of the bookstore bonsai books are found, and more about the quality of the books.
Mike


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re:
PostPosted: Mon Sep 24, 2007 2:24 pm 
Offline

Joined: Sat Jan 29, 2005 2:11 am
Posts: 6469
Location: Michigan USA
Mike Page wrote:
Not all bonsai is "art" but all bonsai is in the category of "horticultural arts".
I think we should worry less about what section of the bookstore bonsai books are found, and more about the quality of the books.
Mike

Great observation Mike, thanks.

Will


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re:
PostPosted: Mon Sep 24, 2007 2:37 pm 
Offline
Editor

Joined: Sat Jan 29, 2005 2:13 am
Posts: 1190
Location: Los Angeles, California
Mike Page wrote:
the category of "horticultural arts".

Never heard this expression before, but I like it.
Mike, stop coining new categories for the bonsai world. First, "sumo bonsai" and now "agricultural...I mean, horticultural arts". :)
(I guess, I will call my grape bonsai "viticultural art" and exhibit it in the vine section..I mean, wine section of the store)


Top
 Profile  
 
Display posts from previous:  Sort by  
Forum locked This topic is locked, you cannot edit posts or make further replies.  [ 19 posts ]  Go to page 1, 2  Next

All times are UTC - 5 hours [ DST ]


Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest


You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot post attachments in this forum

Search for:
Copyright 2006-2008 The Art of Bonsai Project.
All rights reserved.
Original MSSimplicity Theme created by Matt Sims © 2004
Powered by phpBB © 2000, 2002, 2005, 2007 phpBB Group