Not all the controversy, trust me. Still, at this very moment, that pine is getting probably more coverage than any other single bonsai, on that I agree!
One thing we all need to remember, to expand your knowledge and skill with bonsai you really have to check your ego in at the door (along with your firearms, ha). In events like this, you are going to be dealing with real professionals. Sometimes the lesson involves pain, but it's a lesson worth learning nonetheless.
Getting back to Bill Valavanis (the main subject of my post that vanished) I had the privilege of a critique on several of my bonsai in a show he was the guest artist at a few years ago. Here's how it went:
The show was a competition between clubs, yet each individual bonsai was critiqued on it's own merit. I entered a Kingsville boxwood (about forty years old) that was 7 1/2" tall. When Bill got to it, he started off by calling it a "Lazy man's bonsai". There I was, not knowing what to think about that (I'm a lot of things, but lazy ain't one of 'em) so I just said, "Thanks Bill". Then he defined what that meant to the crowd; a bonsai that grows slow and compact requiring less attention that many other types. He continued on with his critique, some flaws were identified and suggestions made. Overall - nice tree. Then he moved on. At another club's display, he was faced with another Kingsville. During that critique he mentioned it was over-grown and not compact enough. As a way to illustrate what he meant, he turned the crowd's attention back to MY Kingsville and commented that it was obviously pinched back and maintained to produce a better defined bonsai. Overall, I had received praise from him, and I was very honored by that. Had I blew a gasket at first, I would have missed it.
Bill knows me, but it isn't like we see each other regularly. I have had the opportunity to learn from him in workshops, demos, and critiques. I highly value those experiences and have no doubt I am a better artist for it. Do I agree with him on everything? Of course not. I don't agree with anybody about everything. Still, He is a widely known bonsai professional and he deserves a lot of praise for his efforts in American bonsai. This show was a bold move and as I recall:
"Audentes fortuna juvat" ( Fortune favors the bold)