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 Post subject: Back to Back - Instant Bonsai - by Dixon and Heath
PostPosted: Sun Feb 19, 2006 2:06 pm 
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This thread is for discussion of the article Back to Back: Instant Bonsai, by John Dixon and Will Heath.
http://artofbonsai.org/feature_articles ... bonsai.php


Last edited by Carl Bergstrom on Sun Feb 19, 2006 7:47 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Sun Feb 19, 2006 7:39 pm 
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I also believe that "instant bonsai" is highly oxymoronical. How about changing the name to "instant potensai"? This would be a more accurate description, and won't offend those of us that think bonsai is never created in the short run.
Mike


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PostPosted: Mon Feb 20, 2006 12:00 am 
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From that point of view I would like to know where the term "potensai" came from. It seems like a linguistic shortcut, to avoid saying "A tree in training to become bonsai".
Call me conservative, but I would rather not be party to propagation of words that are essentially meaningless to the greater population. I still bristle at the trend to turns nouns into verbs, like "tabled", as in "He tabled the document." How? Did he screw legs onto it, and carve a few nice inlay panels in the surface of it?


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 Post subject: Re:
PostPosted: Mon Feb 20, 2006 12:44 am 
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Mike Page wrote:
I also believe that "instant bonsai" is highly oxymoronical. How about changing the name to "instant potensai"? This would be a more accurate description, and won't offend those of us that think bonsai is never created in the short run.
Mike

I don't know Mike, every bonsai gets a first styling sooner or later and as much as I hate to say it, some of the examples in this article look a lot more like bonsai than some things I have seen called such.
What in your mind separates what is shown here from what you would call real bonsai? What is the difference between what you call potensai and stock? And lastly, how long must a plant be in development to be called a bonsai?

Will Heath


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Feb 20, 2006 11:24 am 
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Although the idea of instant bonsai for contests may be a dangerous concept for beginners, it can be a valuable learning tool for those with more experience. The art of instant bonsai requires a fair understanding of the art of bonsai. Many times when styling "instant bonsai" for contests, the contestant must make decisions that deliberately break the rules of bonsai. However to pull it off succesfully, they must understand the rules that are broken and how they are broken. If you take a look at my second place tree, it shows many examples of this:
1. The jin down at the base diverges to the back of the tree. It can not be observed from the photograph, however. The tree was photographed at several angles to see which one best utilized the shape of the jin in highliting the line of the trunk. In three dimensions, the jin is clearly out of place and must be removed. For an online photograph contest, it was in the perfect place.
2. The sillhouette is too large for the size of the trunk and the style of the tree. This is primarily due to leggy growth with foliage only at the end tips. To hide this fault, the foliage was reduced to almost nothing. This was a risk to the health of the tree, but for an instant contest it is a risk one has to take. With proper care, the tree is still alive and only lost one minor branch near the apex that can easily be replaced. In the future I plan to encourage back-budding to develop a more compact sillhouette.
3. The base of the tree is ugly. This is hidden through the application of moss, the anle of the tree in the photograph, and the jin.
So, as can be seen, instant bonsai requires innovative thinking, knowledge of the rules, and understanding of when and how to break them. Therefore, I do believe that instant bonsai is a valuable resource for more experienced bonsaiists.


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 Post subject: Re:
PostPosted: Mon Feb 20, 2006 1:32 pm 
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Will Heath wrote:
Mike Page wrote:
I also believe that "instant bonsai" is highly oxymoronical. How about changing the name to "instant potensai"? This would be a more accurate description, and won't offend those of us that think bonsai is never created in the short run.
Mike

I don't know Mike, every bonsai gets a first styling sooner or later and as much as I hate to say it, some of the examples in this article look a lot more like bonsai than some things I have seen called such.
What in your mind separates what is shown here from what you would call real bonsai? What is the difference between what you call potensai and stock? And lastly, how long must a plant be in development to be called a bonsai?

Will Heath

Hi Will
I really wasn't referring to the images you used as examples, The work you have shown is very good, and if continued for a few years, may well result in fine bonsai.
It's the term, "instant bonsai" that has negative connotation for me. When I first started bonsai, I saw lots of demonstrations by "masters" who would take nursery stock, do a chop and wire job, and repot it all in the space of 2 or more hours. This was passed off as bonsai, or more accurately as "instant bonsai" to us novices.
Many of us learned that this was a false and counterproductive concept, and it's one of the reasons that I don't have the patience to sit through demonstrations anymore.
Whenever I'm asked to do a demo, I make it clear that "instant bonsai' is out of the question. I'll demo certain aspects of bonsai that I feel I have enough skill and knowledge to carry off effectively. And, I refuse to repot in a demo setting, unless it's a saikei, or similar planting using small and inexpensive material.
You and John have done a very good job with your debate. Keep up the good work.
Regards
Mike


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Feb 20, 2006 1:51 pm 
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Mike,
Yes, I agree, re-potting and major styling do not mix well and may well led to Instant Firewood.
I am not sure if the prevalent problem with demonstrations lays with the person doing the demonstration or the club or group that demands instant gratification. I do think that teachers could prevent this by refusing, like you have, to do such demonstrations but then there would always be hacks who would step in to do it for the fee or for the fame and that leaves the experienced practitioners in a quandary, take the job and earn the money or turn it down and let someone else do it instead?
Yet, if the major names start refusing to promote such silliness, then the clubs and groups would be left with the choice of having experienced, honest, and educational demonstrations or having inexperienced, harmful, and detrimental demonstrations, sooner or later things would have to change.
One thing I made clear when I ran a few contests was that the bonsai only was judged and not the pot, and stressing that re-potting was not necessary, mandatory, or even required in order to help assure survival of the attempt. A policy that went ignored by some anyhow.
Thanks for your thoughts, they certainly do hit the mark here.

Will


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 Post subject: Re:
PostPosted: Mon Feb 20, 2006 3:31 pm 
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Quote:
Charles Bevan wrote:
Although the idea of instant bonsai for contests may be a dangerous concept for beginners, it can be a valuable learning tool for those with more experience. The art of instant bonsai requires a fair understanding of the art of bonsai. Many times when styling "instant bonsai" for contests, the contestant must make decisions that deliberately break the rules of bonsai. However to pull it off succesfully, they must understand the rules that are broken and how they are broken. If you take a look at my second place tree, it shows many examples of this:

So, as can be seen, instant bonsai requires innovative thinking, knowledge of the rules, and understanding of when and how to break them. Therefore, I do believe that instant bonsai is a valuable resource for more experienced bonsaiists.

Charles,
Are you saying it's important to know what DOESN'T work to excel at anything? If so, I concur.
But, " instant bonsai is a valuable resource for more experienced bonsaiists?"
How so? What attribute you just mentioned is solely learned by making instant bonsai? Seems to me they are all integral with any serious effort made with bonsai material, be it new, old, established, or growing stock.
While I do see how some may learn a viable technique or skill, like a certain branch can't be bent that way or it will eventually die, how many times must one learn that lesson? If it takes TIME and several positionings before it is in the optimum placement, how can we "learn" form doing it all at once, repeatedly at that? Maybe the silhouette of an instant bonsai is very pleasing at first, but if half the branches die in six months, I fail to see a useful technique that was learned there, beginner or expert. Yes, I would see that it could conclusively prove a person has an artistic "eye" for what a piece of material can hold, but here I akin instant bonsai to ice sculpting in the Mojave desert. You may make a great piece, but it will be gone very soon.
Ironically, my part of this article is a great way to explain my mindset about these types of subjects. When I first provided a draft of this article, I noticed several mistakes (spelling and grammatical) and several unintentional exclusions. I changed those, and made it an article I was satisifed told my side of the debate in MY style of writing. Since then, it has been edited and several changes are different, more acceptable, words and phrases that say the same thing. At the same time, more spelling errors are now present that I did not make.
My point is, we rarely accept a first draft of anything. We (almost always)can find ways to improve upon it. Sometimes, our best intentions actually take away from the value rather than add to it. It's a matter of tweaking. Finding something just a little more than we originally saw when we first started. Sometimes we fail, other times we succeed. But only rarely do we create perfection in the first attempt.
In conclusion, I feel we must always use techniques with our bonsai that we will be glad we made MANY YEARS from the time we do them. They add to the bonsai's future, not just the present. Then, and only then, are we really paying homage to those who first started this art. I feel very strongly about that. I still believe that instant bonsai has nothing in common with that pursuit.
Best regards,
John


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Feb 20, 2006 10:43 pm 
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There has to be a start somewhere, John.
Look at the truly great bonsai artists' work. What they turn out on the day often looks better than most people manage to produce in a lifetime of fumbling.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Feb 21, 2006 6:33 am 
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A question which may sound silly to you as it is asked by somebody who is not as experienced in Bonsai-Do as most of the fellows here:
What exactly is the difference between a first styling and an instant-bonsai concerning what the tree looks like after the styling? Does instant bonsai in that respect just mean paying less attention to the future health of the plant in order it looks good?
Best regards,
Raphael


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 Post subject: Re:
PostPosted: Tue Feb 21, 2006 8:39 am 
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Hector Johnson wrote:
There has to be a start somewhere, John.
Look at the truly great bonsai artists' work. What they turn out on the day often looks better than most people manage to produce in a lifetime of fumbling.

Agreed Hector.
But in bonsai, that is called an initial styling.
John


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 Post subject: Re:
PostPosted: Tue Feb 21, 2006 8:45 am 
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Raphael Rybarczik wrote:
A question which may sound silly to you as it is asked by somebody who is not as experienced in Bonsai-Do as most of the fellows here:
What exactly is the difference between a first styling and an instant-bonsai concerning what the tree looks like after the styling? Does instant bonsai in that respect just mean paying less attention to the future health of the plant in order it looks good?
Best regards,
Raphael

Raphael,
It's a excellent question and as far as I'm concerned, you also provided the answer.
I feel the biggest difference between "initial styling" and "instant bonsai" is that initial styling stresses techniques which will lead to a better overall design with time and the health of the bonsai supercedes all other considerations. With instant bonsai, the technique is to make the best presentation with the material that is IMMEDIATELY available and that the health of the bonsai is secondary in importance.
Anyone who doubts that just needs to inquire about the mortality rate of these bonsai. Not all die immediately, I realize that, but the rate of loss is very high.
John


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Feb 21, 2006 6:28 pm 
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The rate of loss on any effort in bonsai is high for all beginners, this rate decreases in direct proportion to experience gained. Everyone kills a few trees, more when they first start in the art, less as the time goes on, but I do not believe it every stops, it just becomes less frequent.
Not trying something because the plant may die is the surest way to fail at bonsai. Instant bonsai, as described in my article, can be very educational in almost every area of bonsai.
Education, sometimes it hurts, but there is no debating it's value.

Will Heath


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Feb 21, 2006 10:19 pm 
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The so called instant bonsai in a demonstration has its place as long as the material selected will lend itself to this kind of result. The instant bonsai in a group workshop does not because this usually leads to multiple disasters.
The demonstration can be a source of inspiration for the beginner, novice and intermediate growers and a source of instruction for the more advanced in learning how to see what is not at first obvious. I have seen a few pictures of a couple of pretty good bonsai people who have done initial styling on a tree where the result they stopped at was pretty bad because they decided this was far enough for now.
The real problem lies with the clubs and organizations that expect this kind of thing and demand it of their guest artists. Like it or not I don't think you are ever going to see this change. No one wants to see somone style a pooper.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Feb 22, 2006 4:41 am 
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In that case, Vance, it should be the objective of people with a clue to expect the visiting artist to style a raw stock plant to the extent it will safely take, and leave it at that... with a clear explanation as to why that is necessary.
The second stage of the demonstration should be the application of more advanced styling to a tree that has previously been partially styled.
That would surely drive home the point that bonsai is about patience and care and restraint. That's the whole point of this discussion, I would think.


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