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 Post subject: Talent - The Holy Grail of Bonsai
PostPosted: Tue Aug 19, 2008 8:27 am 
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Talent - The Holy Grail of Bonsai
by Will Heath

Image
Larch over garden statue
Bonsai and Photograph by Nick Lenz



Talent
noun
Definition:
1. natural ability: an unusual natural ability to do something well, especially in artistic areas that can be developed by training
2. somebody with exceptional ability: a person or people with an exceptional ability
- Encarta World English Dictionary


Ah talent, the natural ability to do something well. The one thing that separates artists from craftsmen, it is the common denominator of all great bonsai. With it, one can create artistic, beautiful, and inspiring bonsai, without it, one creates simply potted trees.

Talent is the defining factor that separates a passable bonsai from a truly inspiring piece of art. Talent is the ingredient that makes some bonsai masterpieces. The lack of talent is why some bonsai are just mediocre at best, nothing more than pale imitations of what bonsai truly is meant to be.

Call it talent, gift, aptitude, flair, bent, knack, or genius, the core meaning as stated by the Encarta World English Dictionary, is the natural ability to do something well.

By all definitions, talent is inherent, it cannot be learned, taught, bought, sold, or acquired in any manner what so ever. Studying with the greatest masters will not create what is not there, reading all the best texts will not cultivate what can not be grown, a person either has it already or they never will.

I fully realize that the above statements are hard to swallow, but that fact does not negate the cold hard truth, which is that actual talent is rare, it is not heavily distributed among aspiring artists, a very small percentage of practicing bonsaists have talent, and this pool of talent only grows when a person demonstrates inherent talent. There is no way to demonstrate inherent talent other than by creating bonsai that reveals the talent of the artist. Some fledging artists may not yet have created a masterpiece by common definition, but talent can be observed in the use of material and the direction choices taken, this is raw talent, unrefined, uncultured, but observable, never the less.

Simply keeping a plant alive, pruning, trimming, pinching, and wiring it does not constitute talent, these are learnable skills and techniques that can be mastered by anyone willing to devote the time and effort into study and practice. What does constitute talent is the ability to take a plant and turn it into more than the sum of its parts. When we see an artistically created bonsai that was designed by a talented person, we see far more than just a plant in a pot, we see an illusion of an ancient tree that has survived all nature could throw at it, and which brings memories, stories, or emotions to our mind. We see a soul, a presence, a freeze frame of nature that moves us.

Textbooks attempt to show us how great art is made, or more to the point, why great art is great. However, they do not show us how to create great art, because this cannot be taught. A person can spend a lifetime studying aesthetic principles, techniques, the rules, the guidelines, art theory, and the work of the masters and still never be able to create great art.

Sandra Kay, in her article "Identifying and Nurturing Talent in the Visual Arts" http://www.dukegiftedletter.com/article ... ature.html stated that "…high technical proficiency is not sufficient for artistic development. Artistic ability also requires motivation, perceptual acuity, imagination, and aesthetic intelligence."

Technique and knowledge is not enough. The world is full of art students who can dissect a work down to the basic components and tell us why it works or does not, yet can not create such themselves.

What is needed to create great art cannot be taught, learned, bought, or sold. There are no articles teaching us how to obtain it or how to learn it. What is needed to create great art, to bypass the shackles of the rules and the application of such, is talent.

Take writing for example, anyone who is reading this can read and write, we all have the skills needed to write a best selling novel. We were taught writing, English, grammar, punctuation, and such for over 12 years in various schools. We use the techniques every day, there are thousands of books out there that tell us how to sharpen these skills, so there is little doubt that we all have access to knowledge, rules, techniques and that we have all been taught the basics...so why do only a very small percentage of us write best sellers?

There are millions of painters out there, some acquiring a formal degree in art, some studying the work of the great masters, some can duplicate every brush stroke ever made by such greats as Monet and Rembrandt. There are countless books on the subject, thousands of teachers, millions of gallons of paint sold every year and yet only a small percentage will ever create great art.

So obviously, knowledge, skill, technique, and passion are not enough. All the "How-To" books and articles in the world are not enough.

So, what is needed to create great art? Skill? Technique? Years studying? Better mediums? Better teachers?

No, just talent.


Image
Premna serratifolia
Bonsai and Photograph by Robert Steven



Talent is easily recognizable by the unbiased mind. The mind that is free of pre-conceived attitudes, emotions, biases, or opinions, yet it is elusive because of these very things. People will quickly claim talent in those that they like or respect and just as quickly claim a lack of talent in those that they dislike or who they feel are undeserving of such a gift. Many people are convinced that they have talent; in fact, they often base their whole bonsai experience on this thought and judge other creations using their own as a benchmark. Human nature being what it is, most people have a much higher opinion, and hence a benchmark, than their work actually deserves and which is often so far out of proportion that it is generally rendered useless.

The question arises, since every person tends to think that they are talented or attributes talented ability based on biased beliefs, how do we judge who is talented or not? This is not a problem unique to bonsai, schools are often faced with determining if children are gifted and the standard IQ tests have a problem determining levels of giftedness, as they can only determine if a person has an high IQ, not if they are talented. Contrary to popular belief, talent and high IQ, as measured by the typical tests, are not related and one often exists without the other, in fact, this is usually the case.

The Wikipedia gives us some characteristics of giftedness:

"Generally, gifted individuals learn more quickly, deeply, and broadly than their peers. Gifted children may learn to read early and operate at the same level as normal children who are significantly older. The gifted tend to demonstrate high reasoning ability, creativity, curiosity, a large vocabulary, and an excellent memory. They often can master concepts with few repetitions. They may also be physically and emotionally sensitive, perfectionistic, and may frequently question authority. Some have trouble relating to or communicating with their peers because of disparities in vocabulary size (especially in the early years), personality, and interests. As children, they may prefer the company of older children or adults."

In order to shift this to the subject of bonsai and more specifically, bonsai art, let's rewrite the above characteristics to better describe the same in relation to talent as it pertains to the art of bonsai.

Talented or gifted bonsai artists learn more quickly, deeply, and broadly than their peers. Talented artists may create good bonsai earlier and operate at the same level as those who have been practicing the art for years. The talented tend to demonstrate high reasoning ability, creativity, curiosity, an innate understanding of techniques, and be more willing to experiment outside of the traditional norm. They often can master concepts with few repetitions. They may also be physically and emotionally sensitive, perfectionistic, and may frequently question authority. Some have trouble relating to or communicating with their peers because of disparities in beliefs, personality, and vision. As beginners, they may prefer the company of older artists, especially those more experienced.


A talented person, although knowing the rules, is not bound by them. A talented person knows the techniques, but is not bound by them. These things were training wheels, meant to start of the artist on a strong foundation, to give the artist good roots. These training wheels will only slow a person down, inhibit creativity if left on, they must be discarded eventually.

Many people cannot go forward without the training wheels; they will stumble and fall repeatedly. So they keep them on, adhere to the rules strictly and strongly defend the use of such to all. They eventually become teachers but they can only teach as far as they themselves have come, so they pass on the training wheels to their own students, but cannot show them how to go forward without them.

Yet some students will have talent and move beyond the base set of memorized rules and techniques, the student has nothing to hold them up but their talent. Talent can go forward without the training wheels of rules and techniques into the realm of creativity where it is the visual end that is sought, not the road used to get there.

"The success of a piece is measured by the image presented, not the path taken to get there."


Image
Jeruk Kingkit (Triphasia trifolia)
Bonsai and Photograph by Budi Sulistyo



There are many false beliefs concerning talent and none more damaging than those we allow ourselves to believe. By examining some of the myths, excuses and justifications that are often used when discussing talent, we can put to rest some of the misconceptions prevalent on this subject.

  • Everybody has some degree of talent.
    While this may well be true, it is a generalized statement that avoids the fact that the actual subject is talent in relation to creating bonsai, not talent in quilt making, Frisbee throwing, or hopscotch. People tend to confuse learnable skills like watering, cultivation, pruning, and wiring with un-learnable talent that is manifested in artistic bonsai design. As in all other forms of art, talent is rare and because of this, it is greatly celebrated when discovered.
  • Proper study will create talent.
    Many people state that by studying under a great master they will acquire talent, as if by some magical means the master's talent can be imparted onto the student. Nothing could be further from the truth.

    All that can be taught is skills and techniques, talent cannot be taught. Certainly, those studying under such greats will acquire great skills, knowledge of techniques, and be in the position to practice such often under a guiding eye, but if the student does not have talent when they come, they will not have talent when they leave. All a master can pass on is learnable skills, the greatest master in the world can not teach what cannot be taught, to assume otherwise can only lead to disappointment due to unrealistic expectations.

    However, those with actual talent will shine in this environment, this is where raw talent can be refined, tempered, and polished, if it is not oppressed, stifled, or caged.
  • It just takes time, study, and practice for talent to show.
    While there are a few examples of great artists whose talent showed late in life, this is extremely rare. A person would have better odds of winning the lottery, getting hit by lightning, and catching a foul ball at the World Series all in the same day then they would suddenly, after many years of practice, discovering that they had talent.

    One rare occurrence of latent talent has occurred with people suffering from a rare form of dementia. An article on the Science Daily web site (http://www.sciencedaily.com /releases/1998/10/981021080231.htm ) stated that "Researchers led by a University of California San Francisco neurologist have determined that a relatively rare form of dementia brings out startling artistic talents in some people, and that these abilities evolve and flourish even as patients lose the ability to remember such basic words as "art."" However, even this talent didn't magically appear from nowhere as the article goes on to say, "Most patients with the frontotemporal variant associated with artistry do not develop artistic abilities, Miller noted. "We suspect that in the patients who become artists, the talent is stimulated by the pathology in people born with an inherent tendency or aptitude for art.""

    Latent talent is a rare occurrence indeed and this is obvious in many art forms as well as other areas of life. Talent scouts seek out those individuals that show raw talent, there are people all over the world who are paid to find those people with talent for writing, acting, creating, and/or showcasing their work in many ways. From the high school football player to the painter with a few paintings at an art fair, the common denominator is the manifestation of talent in a raw form. Schools for the gifted have certain things they look for to determine talent, scholarship committees have other standards to sort the wheat from the chaff, ABS has standards to select people for the Joshua Roth New Talent competition, and once located, this talent can be refined, forged, and polished, but it must be there first, it must show.
  • Those that care for or buy great bonsai have talent.
    This Artist vs Caretaker debate is something I plan on covering in another article but I will touch on some major points here.

    First, let me say that caretakers, curators, and collectors should be praised at every opportunity; these are the people who make it possible for artists to live and create more inspiring and soul moving bonsai for all to enjoy. Without these great patrons of the art, bonsai would certainly be far less than it is. I strongly encourage every practicing bonsaist to have at least one great bonsai in their personal collection to display, to inspire, and to remember the artist that created it.

    However, many people, either because they do not have the talent to create great bonsai or because they believe buying a already styled bonsai is a shortcut of some sort, purchase bonsai that have already been styled by an artist and then use it as a claim for personal talent. Some even rush out to show them under their own name.

    The claim is often made that it takes talent to maintain these "check-book" bonsai and that caring for them requires a completely different set of skills. It takes no talent to trim, water, re-pot, defoliate, or otherwise maintain a bonsai, it takes learned skills and techniques. The talent involved was with the person who created the bonsai, who brought it from a blank canvas to a work of art, with the artist who had the vision and carried it onto the bonsai. I have personally heard a few talented artist lament about how the creations they sold or gave away quickly became rank, overgrown, or suffered from poor attempts to either change the form or maintain it. The skills were there to keep it alive, but not to maintain the artistic merits.

    The talent is not with the person who simply cares for it and maintains the shape that was created before they bought it. The people who use such bonsai to claim or validate the claim of personal talent are mistaken and they do a great disservice to the actual talented artist. Of course, a talented artist may purchase a bonsai that was created by another, but it is rare that a truly talented person would take credit for the talent of another.

    Talent is shown in the actual work of the person, not in the work of others. Yet, there are a few rare exceptions of talented artists who also collect great bonsai and these are the collections worth viewing and preserving.



Image
Premna serratifolia
Bonsai and Photograph by Robert Steven



Talent is the Holy Grail of Bonsai. It is sought after by many, found by few, raised to the level of myth and legend, and those that seek it for themselves, can not find it, those that process it can not give it away or sell it. Most all claim it, few have it, and great battles (debates) are often seen raging on its very nature.

Those who have talent create the art that inspires us all, they are the ones who put forth the image of what bonsai is and what it has always been meant to be. These rare few individuals should be praised and respected, they are the ones that set the standards, raise the bars, and feed the imagination of all.

There is no reason not to practice bonsai if one is not talented, bonsai has many aspects and teaches all who partake in the art, many things. One does not have to be talented, great, or famously creative in order to be part of this wonderful art form. In many other art forms, there are people who enjoy participating at their own level and bonsai is no different. All practice, learn, and sharpen their skills and techniques every day. Many become teachers, guides, and inspiration for others and in doing so; they may well be cultivating the great talents of tomorrow.

By supporting the art, introducing new people to it, buying the work of the greats, and going to exhibits, shows, clubs, and events, one can support the talented, the art, and the future of bonsai around the world.

It does not take talent to enjoy the simple pleasures of bonsai, only something deep within us all, maybe a love of nature, maybe the thrill of creation, or maybe just the empty mind that is often gained while absorbed in a tree. Whatever it is, it does not require talent, nor the claiming of such, it only requires a plant, a pot, and some time.

Anyone can experience the same feelings, the same satisfaction, and the same "oneness" with bonsai as the talented greats do. In this we all are equal, we all are the same, we are all bonsaists, and in the end, that is enough.



References:

Encarta (http://encarta.msn.com)
Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Main_Page)
Benz, Willie. Bonsai Kusamono Suiseki - A Practicasl Guide for Organizing Displays with Plants and Stones. Stone Lantern Publishing
"Identifying and Nurturing Talent in the Visual Arts" - Sandra Kay (http://www.dukegiftedletter.com/article ... ature.html)
University Of California, San Francisco (1998, October 21). Rare Cases Of Dementia Stimulate Artistic Juices, Offering Unexpected Window Into The Artistic Process. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 29, 2008, from (http://www.sciencedaily.com /releases/1998/10/981021080231.htm)


Photography Credits:

Nick Lenz
Budi Sulistyo
Robert Steven


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 Post subject: Re: Talent - The Holy Grail of Bonsai
PostPosted: Mon Sep 08, 2008 12:07 am 
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I noticed that a discussion on this article has been going on over at BT* lately, and not surprisingly, the subject matter there is leaning toward the old worn "everyone has some measure of talent" justifications. Is it really so hard to simply admit that some people just are not and never will be talented in bonsai? Maybe it is just too painful?

Also no big surprise, Chris Johnston (sporting a twenty year old picture) in a usual bout of jealously inspired venom spitting, had a few senseless words about this piece. Although I find most of the discussion there off the topic as presented in the article, Chris's missed on so many points, that I'll just address his here.

He starts out by saying "Interesting that you felt the need to post and discuss this article here, when no one has felt that urge at Art of Bonsai, where it was published. Perhaps you should have brought it up there." Then, in his usual contradictory manner, he goes on the discuss his views on the article right there at BT, after chastising the original poster for doing the same.

The original poster there at BT (lagunamadre) opened the discussion politely, while making it clear that he was interested in what the members of BT thought with the words, "The other day I read an article at http://www.artofbonsai.org, by Will Heath, titled " Talent - The Holy Grail of Bonsai", and it was so thought provoking, I decided to start a post here on BT, to see what others think. All I ask is that before responding, you read the whole article." Since his post was not argumentative or rude, we can only assume that Chris's panties were in a knot only because of the mention of my name and/or an article by myself. Again, typical.

Chris then continues with the following:

"Proceeding from definitions, Mr. Heath makes the assertion that "By all definitions, talent is inherent, it cannot be learned, taught, bought, sold, or acquired in any manner what so ever."

Studying the document carefully, the case could be made that this is his thesis statement. This theme is repeated throughout:

"With it, one can create artistic, beautiful, and inspiring bonsai, without it, one creates simply potted trees."

"However, they do not show us how to create great art, because this cannot be taught. A person can spend a lifetime studying aesthetic principles, techniques, the rules, the guidelines, art theory, and the work of the masters and still never be able to create great art."


"What is needed to create great art cannot be taught, learned, bought, or sold. There are no articles teaching us how to obtain it or how to learn it. What is needed to create great art, to bypass the shackles of the rules and the application of such, is talent."

And so forth. And so on. Ad infinitum. Ad nauseum."


Yes, Chris, this was the thesis statement, I first put forth the accepted definition of Talent and then I returned to it throughout my article, hence always supporting my statements with fact. This is common practice when writing an article, that is, creating a solid foundation to build upon.

Chris stated that "Not everyone agrees with the definitions of talent put forth by Mr. Heath" but the fact is that I gave my sources for the definitions I used and yes, every respected dictionary and encyclopedia of our time states the same.

Chris also said that, "It's interesting that he never dealt with any opposing viewpoints except as straw men." It is obvious that he never read my article in entirety and as far as straw men go, he will remember his own arguments on this subject here http://bonsainut.com/forums/showthread. ... nt+article

In a following post, Chris states that, "I much prefer the characteristics of humility, caring, camaraderie, hard work, ethics, etc. to any amount of raw talent." Here he misses the point once again, no one ever claimed that talent was all one needed, or that one could create art with only raw talent. I won't even touch his comments on humility, caring, camaraderie, and ethics, those who know him can judge these words.

Lastly, Chris ends his posts with "You didn't strike a nerve so much as dredge up old mess. His article is posted at AoB for the purpose of discussion. You should comment on it there." No Chris, the poster did not drudge up an old mess, you did, he simply asked for comments, politely, and kindly. It was you who jumped in head first, and again told a member there to go post elsewhere with his comments, while you posted right where you said he shouldn't.

Shallow indeed.



Will



*See http://forum.bonsaitalk.com/f14/bonsai- ... 30470.html


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 Post subject: Re: Talent - The Holy Grail of Bonsai
PostPosted: Tue Sep 09, 2008 7:36 am 
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Al Keppler has been discussing this article at http://forum.bonsaitalk.com/f14/faux-ap ... 30500.html and basically making the false assumption that talent is learned by an apprenticeship with the masters in Japan.

Technique and skill is learned, but without talent they will never alone make great bonsai. There is no doubt of the value of quality education, but let's face it, technique can only take an artists so far.

I am happy this piece is inspiring so much discussion in the community, thank you. Maybe the sampling is off, but it seems like those most strongly against the (long accepted) concept of talent, are those who do not yet show it. ?


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 Post subject: Re: Talent - The Holy Grail of Bonsai
PostPosted: Wed Sep 10, 2008 4:05 pm 
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So this is the elevated tone which is vaunted so highly here at Art of Bonsai? Interesting. And my picture, believe it or not, is only 5 years old. I was asked to continue using it because it shows my glowing personality so well.


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 Post subject: Re: Talent - The Holy Grail of Bonsai
PostPosted: Wed Sep 10, 2008 5:47 pm 
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Chris Johnston wrote:
So this is the elevated tone which is vaunted so highly here at Art of Bonsai?


Yes, but isn't it nice that my words are posted in a venue where you can respond?

My thoughts on talent are well spelled out in the article, as well as supporting arguments, I would welcome intelligent debate on the subject matter as presented, if you are capable. Be assured that polite, on topic, intelligent debate will be returned in kind

However, you can hardly complain when your words and attitude, as quoted above, are also answered in kind. Especially when they are posted in a venue in which I am unable to respond.

You have the right of kind, intelligent response here, reguardless of our past differences, the choice to use it lays with you.


Will Heath


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 Post subject: Re: Talent - The Holy Grail of Bonsai
PostPosted: Wed Sep 17, 2008 2:09 pm 
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Hans Van Meer, has added his thoughts on talent which, considering the source, may well be some of the best spoken in the discussion mentioned above. His words sum up the premise of my article perfectly.


"Almost everybody can lurn and do Bonsai and can even become pretty good at it. Some of those will even become really good, trough hard work on their own or by studying with a (good) teacher. But only a few of those will create Bonsai Art on a really high level! And those few are the ones that, no matter by what way they got to that point, are gifted with talent to create beautiful Bonsai Art. By claiming that everybody is able to reach this level, you dismiss the difficulty of Bonsai as a Artform!"



http://forum.bonsaitalk.com/251480-post52.html


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 Post subject: Re: Talent - The Holy Grail of Bonsai
PostPosted: Fri Sep 19, 2008 11:21 pm 
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I agree with most of what Hans said, but without the skills to turn your talented vision into reality then it is useless.

You have to know how to sucessfully bend a 5" thick branch on a pine without splitting it, you have to know how to use leverage points, you have to know how to wire and where to wire too, you have to know how do root work, you have to know how to do deadwood work, carving, power tools, etc, you have to know how to horticulturally make the tre thrive, etc, etc, etc, I am sure I am forgetting 100,000 things to make a very high quality bonsai that doesn't require talent.
Talent is a part of creating killer bonsai, it is not the holy grail and without the skills to get to the end the talent is useless.

Just my thoughts on it :)

Jason


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 Post subject: Re: Talent - The Holy Grail of Bonsai
PostPosted: Sat Sep 20, 2008 7:32 am 
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Jason Gamby wrote:
I agree with most of what Hans said, but without the skills to turn your talented vision into reality then it is useless...
Talent is a part of creating killer bonsai, it is not the holy grail and without the skills to get to the end the talent is useless.


There has been a tend recently by some to discredit talent and place more importance on learn-able skills and techniques, stating, as Jason has above, that talent is useless without the proper education. However, the many self taught, highly talented artists of the world, such as Hans and Walter, slaps this theory down quick and hard. How could they have so much talent, create undeniably masterpiece bonsai, and not have had formal training?

Of course, as I stated in the article above, skills and techniques are important, this was never denied. However, skills and techniques can be learned by anyone with the desire to do so. Skills can only take a person so far, without the talent to use the skills in a creative, artistic manner, all the techniques in the world will not make up for it. Those with talent will create great bonsai using what tools they can acquire, and as is shown in many art forms, the talented often need less tools to do greater things.

From the article:

"Talent is the Holy Grail of Bonsai. It is sought after by many, found by few, raised to the level of myth and legend, and those that seek it for themselves, can not find it, those that process it can not give it away or sell it. Most all claim it, few have it, and great battles (debates) are often seen raging on its very nature.

Those who have talent create the art that inspires us all, they are the ones who put forth the image of what bonsai is and what it has always been meant to be. These rare few individuals should be praised and respected, they are the ones that set the standards, raise the bars, and feed the imagination of all. "


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 Post subject: Re: Talent - The Holy Grail of Bonsai
PostPosted: Sat Sep 20, 2008 7:27 pm 
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[quote="Will Heath"]
There has been a tend recently by some to discredit talent and place more importance on learn-able skills and techniques, stating, as Jason has above, that talent is useless without the proper education. [/quote]

No, talent is useless without the proper skills to make the vision a reality. That is not an education, it is skills that make the talent shine.

[quote="Will Heath"]
However, the many self taught, highly talented artists of the world, such as Hans and Walter, slaps this theory down quick and hard. How could they have so much talent, create undeniably masterpiece bonsai, and not have had formal training?Of course, as I stated in the article above, skills and techniques are important, this was never denied. [/quote]

Hans in a artist before he ever knew what Bonsai was, so he already had it in him artistically. But, he has studied and learned techniques from many European bonsai artists. So, its not like one day he woke up and knew how to bend heavy branches or wire, etc.... he learned some on his own but has also worked with many notable artists for days at a time. There is a lot to learn there. Walter on the other hand, well he is just one of the very, very few that did something not many have.


[quote="Will Heath"]
However, skills and techniques can be learned by anyone with the desire to do so. Skills can only take a person so far, without the talent to use the skills in a creative, artistic manner, all the techniques in the world will not make up for it.[/quote]

And this is a 2 way street~ Without the skills to bend that 6" thick branch the talent is useless since the branch won't move. Just because someone has talent doesn't mean they can learn to move a 6" branch. Not everyone is mechanically inclined or has that engineering mindset to use the proper anchor points, or use the right tools to get the job done.


[quote="Will Heath"]
Those with talent will create great bonsai using what tools they can acquire, and as is shown in many art forms, the talented often need less tools to do greater things.[/quote]

The talented ones still need the same tools, hand tools, power tools, branch benders etc. then those with no talent. Talent doesn't make up for tools to get the job done. You can't compare bonsai to any other art form. It is nowhere near the same. Bonsai is a living breathing thing that the artist has to dominate to make his vision a reality. And it could take 25 yrs for that vision to come out in a living tree. Putting paint on a cavas takes talent and skill but is in its own world compared to bonsai.


[quote="Will Heath"] From the article:

[i]"Talent is the Holy Grail of Bonsai. It is sought after by many, found by few, raised to the level of myth and legend, and those that seek it for themselves, can not find it, those that process it can not give it away or sell it. Most all claim it, few have it, and great battles (debates) are often seen raging on its very nature.

Those who have talent create the art that inspires us all, they are the ones who put forth the image of what bonsai is and what it has always been meant to be. These rare few individuals should be praised and respected, they are the ones that set the standards, raise the bars, and feed the imagination of all. "[/i][/quote]

I agree to an extent with ya Will, but I don't think that without talent you won't create a masterpeice bonsai. The biggest factor is the material you start with, not the talent. There are too many variables in bonsai to declare one thing as bieng the "holy grail", and the biggest variable it the material you start with.

BTW, when you coming out for a visit. I promise it will change your view on bonsai. Just ask Brent.

I tried to go back and make the quoted sections I broke out look better but no luck,haha
Jason


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 Post subject: Re: Talent - The Holy Grail of Bonsai
PostPosted: Sun Sep 21, 2008 1:31 am 
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Jason Gamby wrote:
No, talent is useless without the proper skills to make the vision a reality. That is not an education, it is skills that make the talent shine.

Sorry Jason, this is where you are mistaken. A person with talent can accomplish far more artistically with little skills than a person with vast knowledge and no talent can. The reverse is actually true, without talent, all the knowledge and skills in the world can not create an artistically successful bonsai, in fact all those skills are useless without talent.

Sure, good bonsai can be created without talent, using only knowledge and skills, but not great bonsai.

Let's consider Dominic Buccella ( http://artofbonsai.org/galleries/buccella.php ), a person I discovered during a contest that had zero formal training and had submitted bonsai never shown to anyone before. Created without formal instruction, peer review, Internet forums, or other outside influences besides print media, I think his trees are a great example of Raw Talent.

Certainly formal instruction would teach him the techniques needed to bring these trees to the next level, but without such, few can argue the inherent talent shown in these creations.

His work, and other such works, certainly blows a rather large hole in the technique is more important than talent school of thought, as well as the "talent is useless without skill" mind set.


Jason Gamby wrote:
Hans in a artist before he ever knew what Bonsai was, so he already had it in him artistically. But, he has studied and learned techniques from many European bonsai artists. So, its not like one day he woke up and knew how to bend heavy branches or wire, etc.... he learned some on his own but has also worked with many notable artists for days at a time. There is a lot to learn there. Walter on the other hand, well he is just one of the very, very few that did something not many have.

The common denominator you are overlooking is that both of these artists are highly talented.

Let's look at it this way, I can safely say that most bonsaists with 5 or more years of experience know practically every technique that Walter, Hans, and other highly talented artists know. If not, they are quite willing to teach them.....so why is it that all these bonsaist, knowing the same techniques, are not creating the same caliber of work?

Talent.

You can know the same techniques, use the same tools, work on the same species, pocess the same skills, yet it takes talent to bring it all together.

If it was as simple as the Retardataire would have us believe, anyone could create a masterpiece bonsai after reading a how-to book on technique and practicing such.




Jason Gamby wrote:
And this is a 2 way street~ Without the skills to bend that 6" thick branch the talent is useless since the branch won't move. Just because someone has talent doesn't mean they can learn to move a 6" branch. Not everyone is mechanically inclined or has that engineering mindset to use the proper anchor points, or use the right tools to get the job done.

Anyone can be taught to move a six inch trunk, but it takes talent to know where to move it....and that can not be taught.


Jason Gamby wrote:
I agree to an extent with ya Will, but I don't think that without talent you won't create a masterpiece bonsai. The biggest factor is the material you start with, not the talent. There are too many variables in bonsai to declare one thing as bieng the "holy grail", and the biggest variable it the material you start with.

This is another falsehood. Certainly great material can make great bonsai, but this outcome is by no means guaranteed. Let's imagine, for example, that you had three identical, mind bending, drool inspiring, collected Mugo pines that were 3 feet tall, trunks as thick as your thigh, branching that offered thousands of possibilities, back-budding that would make a ficus jealous, and trunk movement that would put a pole dancer to shame......Now let's give one to a beginner who has vast experience in killing seedlings and Mallsai, give another to a person who has been in bonsai for 10 years, has had formal training, yet has not yet creating anything that could remotely be called a masterpiece, and let's give the third tree to a world-class master who has created more world renowned masterpieces than most will ever see in their lifetimes, such as Kimura, or Pall......

One tree would go to a person with obvious talent, one would go to a person with obvious skills, and one would go to a person with neither.

By your logic, great material is all it takes, so each person would create a masterpiece, right? No, what would happen here is that of the three identical pieces of stock, only one would become a masterpiece, the one worked on by the talented individual.

If, as you claim, the biggest factor is the material, then the beginner would create a bonsai on the same level as the talented master. The "learned" man would create a bonsai on the same level as the master also. Wow, that would mean that the master is worthless, he has no talent, no skills, just great material....

This makes no sense at all and can not be supported in the real world. The fact is that a talent person can do far more with crap stock than a non-talented person could do with the best stock in the world.


Jason Gamby wrote:
BTW, when you coming out for a visit. I promise it will change your view on bonsai. Just ask Brent.

Jason, I have seen stock and trees that would blow peoples minds, I have been to some of the best collections. In my own state I have Jack Pines two feet tall with one foot trunks marked in my GPS for future collection when I can assure survival. I look forward to a visit there and possibly even being amazed, but my view on bonsai is pretty solid as it is.

Either way, the first one is one me.



Will


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 Post subject: Re: Talent - The Holy Grail of Bonsai
PostPosted: Sun Sep 21, 2008 9:13 am 
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Jason Gamby wrote:
I agree with most of what Hans said, but without the skills to turn your talented vision into reality then it is useless.

You have to know how to sucessfully bend a 5" thick branch on a pine without splitting it, you have to know how to use leverage points, you have to know how to wire and where to wire too, you have to know how do root work, you have to know how to do deadwood work, carving, power tools, etc, you have to know how to horticulturally make the tre thrive, etc, etc, etc, I am sure I am forgetting 100,000 things to make a very high quality bonsai that doesn't require talent.
Talent is a part of creating killer bonsai, it is not the holy grail and without the skills to get to the end the talent is useless.

Just my thoughts on it :)

Jason


This is kind of the cart before the horse argument. If you have spent any time looking into the life and career of Kimura you might have noticed first that he is a talented and gifted artist. He learned all the skills that were learn-able and then, when he decided he wanted to do something that was not in "The Books" he invented the skills and techniques to accomplish that which others thought impossible. Great talent will always find a way even if it means re-inventing the wheel.


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 Post subject: Re: Talent - The Holy Grail of Bonsai
PostPosted: Sun Sep 21, 2008 8:28 pm 
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Will said "Let's look at it this way, I can safely say that most bonsaists with 5 or more years of experience know practically every technique that Walter, Hans, and other highly talented artists know. If not, they are quite willing to teach them.....so why is it that all these bonsaist, knowing the same techniques, are not creating the same caliber of work?"

I can assure you that Walter has techniques and tricks in his bag that he hasn't shown anyone in America. Same with Hans. When you are a master you have some secret techniuqes that you only use behind closed doors. Trust me, they don't let everything out of the bag. They need something to keep them seperated from the rest.

I can also assure you that someone with 5 years expericnce will NOT have the same bag of trick that Walter has. I can't believe you think this Will.

The analogy of the 3 trees and people.....hmm....The biggest difference is experince and knowledge, not talent. At this point we don't know if the begineer has talent and the novice he might jsut be getting to the point of knowing if he has a talent for bonsai or not. The master well he has talent.
But it is the knowledge and experience that is going to be the most visible diffenrence. The begineer won't know where to start, the novice will know where but won't have the bag of skills the master has. Another area the novice and begineer are lacking is their EYE. An eye for seeing the tree and knowing which direction to take it. This isn't talent but rather a learned skill that comes from working on 100's or thousands of trees all the time. You develop an eye for bonsai by bieng around quality trees all the time and working on trees.

So in this case the master is way ahead because he has the know how and skills to get started and turn it into a bonsai. The novice is doing a good job and gets pretty far but the master needs to do some tweaking and refining to make it a killer tree. The begineer if he was smart would have sat back and watched what the master was doing.

There is no winnable answer to this topic, only opinion.....To make killer bonsai you need talent, I agree and you need techniques, skills and great material.
Material is very important in the end result. You think Kimura or Pall will make world class material out of mediocre material???? No, they both start with material that most humans can't afford or have acess to. Material is as important as skills, know how and talent. Just ask any of the masters, they will tell you this. I have asked them so I know.

Jason


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 Post subject: Re: Talent - The Holy Grail of Bonsai
PostPosted: Sun Sep 21, 2008 8:33 pm 
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Vance Wood wrote:
This is kind of the cart before the horse argument. If you have spent any time looking into the life and career of Kimura you might have noticed first that he is a talented and gifted artist. He learned all the skills that were learn-able and then, when he decided he wanted to do something that was not in "The Books" he invented the skills and techniques to accomplish that which others thought impossible. Great talent will always find a way even if it means re-inventing the wheel.


I know all about Kimura and know that he is a gifted artist. I also know he has been in a bonsai nursery since he was 10 or 11 yrs old. I also know he thinks like an Engineer which plays a big role in his ability to innovate and develop new techniques.
Driven people find a way even if it means re-inventing the wheel, not talented people. It takes desire, dedication and a drive to accomplish that, talent doesn't really have anything to do with it.

Jason


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 Post subject: Re: Talent - The Holy Grail of Bonsai
PostPosted: Mon Sep 22, 2008 11:19 pm 
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Jason Gamby wrote:
.....Material is very important in the end result. You think Kimura or Pall will make world class material out of mediocre material???? No, they both start with material that most humans can't afford or have acess to.


Jason Gamby wrote:
.....Material is as important as skills, know how and talent. Just ask any of the masters, they will tell you this. I have asked them so I know.


This is another common misconception. While there is no doubt that excellent bonsai can and have been created from excellent material, the material alone does not guarantee success. One example would be to put such a great piece of material in front of someone without talent, you might get a decent, passable bonsai, but that is all. And yes, great talent can make great bonsai with less than perfect material, take the many examples of such being done with trees others thought were junk. Also consider all the great bonsai in the world which were started from seed, or even from nursery stock.

If great material was all there was to it, then the great masters are nothing more than good shoppers.....anyone could be a master who found great material, and saying such is the same as saying that anyone can be a world renowned musician if they have a great piano.

Jason Gamby wrote:
.....To make killer bonsai you need talent, I agree and you need techniques, skills and great material.

I'm glad you said this.

The difference I think you are missing is that a person without skills and techniques can, with effort, acquire them over time. However, a person without talent can not learn it, buy it, steal it, learn it, or acquire it in anyway.

And this my friend is the difference.


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 Post subject: Re: Talent - The Holy Grail of Bonsai
PostPosted: Tue Sep 23, 2008 3:58 pm 
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The following is an email received from a reader on the subject in this thread:



Dear Will,

I don’t have the talent to properly work on forums or to log in to forums etc.

I regularly read articles on the artofbonsai website. I read your article on talent and its influence on creating artistic bonsai. I agree with you that the creative quality of a masterpiece bonsai is directly proportional to talent if enthusiasm is part of the artist’s qualifications.

I have been styling bonsai for more than 30 years.

1) One of your critics says that quality of material is more important. I don’t agree. I styled a seedling 33 years ago and it is today a very nice tree. Did I develop talent over a 30 year period or did I have some talent then?

2) Why are there new talent competitions held in just about every country if talent was not the main contributing factor for the creation of bonsai?

I have observed at these competitions that somebody with 2 years experience with styling bonsai create better bonsai than others with 6 years of experience.

I run marathons and train with people with more talent than I, we do the same training, eat, drink and sleep the same, but the bloke with talent always beat me.

3) Michael Angelo created the David statue when he was 29 years old. I don’t think he could have done much better twenty years later when he new more about marble, chisels and hammers.

4) One also doesn’t develop an eye to create beautiful bonsai. You have it or not. I have had an eye for beautiful women since age 16, I don’t think my eye has developed and I became better at it. I still have that same eye (talent).

5) I was in Australia with Walther Pall a few years ago. There was a man with only one arm with beautiful bonsai. Were his trees beautiful because he had developed skills over the years or because he had talent to develop the trees?

6) I had to do a demonstration once when I had broken my arm and shoulder. I could not do any carving with the power tools. I got a friend who was skillful at carving to help me. I told him exactly how and where to carve and the tree looks what I wanted it to look like and not what the skilful carver wanted it to look like.

7) When I pay money to see bonsai masters work, I rather want to observe their artistic skill rather than their mechanical skills.

8) I have seen Kimura, Walther, Robert Steven, Marc Noelanders and Marco Ivernezi at work and they are great because they have talent and enthusiasm for what they do.

9) Kimura is an artistic (talented) engineer.

The one thing I desire to have more of to create killer bonsai would be artistic talent.

Regards

Louis Nel




-Reprinted with permission of the author.


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