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 Post subject: Learning Bonsai
PostPosted: Mon Jul 17, 2006 7:45 pm 
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On another internet bonsai site, there's a thread about learning bonsai. I wrote the following as my contribution to the discussion.
"Learning the mechanics of bonsai is a matter of rote. Over and over again the processes are practiced until the hands and eyes know the moves.
Learning the art of bonsai may be more like water wearing away a stone, or climbing a mountain where the peak is always shrouded in fog and just out of reach.
Persist, and someday you may see the peak in sunshine. You may pick up the stone and it's a thing of beauty."
Mike


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 17, 2006 11:05 pm 
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This brings up an interesting question which is, can art be taught or learned?
Certainly the techniques, the mechanics can be taught and learned, in fact, they are on a regular basis, but it takes talent to use this knowledge in a manner that produces art.
Talent can not be taught or learned, you either have it or you don't. While I am sure that a very determined person who is well educated with technique can produce fine bonsai, they will never produce the world class artistic bonsai that we all admire.
There are literally millions of people who take painting classes, sculpting classes, and even bonsai classes. All of these people are learning the mechanics, the techniques, and the theory behind the art, but none of them are being taught talent. Only a small percentage of these students actually have talent, these are the ones that will create art.
Think about this, why doesn't every student of a master become as great as the master? Why doesn't every student of painting produce great masterpieces? Why doesn't every student of master bonsaists produce world class bonsai? Is it the teachers fault, is it the subjects fault? No, it is because the talent is not there. Even with bad instruction, talent will shine through.
Technique without talent is craft. Technique and talent produces art.

Will


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Jul 18, 2006 11:27 am 
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I agree with both Will and Mike.
Bonsai is different from other art forms in one essential way. As long as he masters the craft, even a person who lacks artistic talent, can create a very original and unique (call it artistic) bonsai. Not on a consistent basis such as a born artist, but nevertheless, he can do it.
Here is why. Forget about bonsai for a moment, and think about the art of "as found" objects. Such as viewing stones and driftwood. There are a lot of people who don't have the talent to creat great art, but have a good eye to recognize great art (critics belong to this category). These people couldn't paint a great painting, or create great art from any medium. They just don't have the talent. But they can tell when they see it. They are "above" those who can neither create nor see great art, but certainly below the talent level of an artist who can create art from any medium.
Back to the "as found" objects. These objects were already created by nature. We don't need the talent to create them. We just need to recognize them. And we are so lucky to have this luxury: we can take advantage of nature's unlimited resources, using our limited talent. All we need is to be a good critic: just recognize art in what lays in front of us, and use a little craft to bring that out.
Bonsai is a hybrid between "as found" objects and the rest of the fine arts. We use what nature created and alter it according to our vision. If we feel that we are not endowed with enough artistic talent, but feel confident that "we have an eye" for art, we always have the option to use collected material. When doing this, nature will do most of the work for us, we just have to refine it. Some material needs more "refining" than other. Some need a complete revamp. Some seems to be quite "impossible", and it needs a true artist to turn it around. But it is up to us to choose the material that is right for us. Less talent needs "easy" material. More talent can handle anything. It's like golf: with the handicap that is right for us, we all have a shot for being a champion.
The younger and more undeveloped the material, the more talent is required from the bonsaist. And growing bonsai from seed is the closest to creating art from scratch. In this case, we will need true artistic talent (and lots of time) to create a masterpiece.
So, here is the conclusion that no one said before:
Bonsai is the only art form, that allows a critic who masters the craft, to create a masterpiece. None of the other fine arts would let this happen.
Isn't this wonderful? Nature lets us take the credit for being a great artist, even if this may not be the case.


Last edited by Attila Soos on Tue Jul 18, 2006 3:50 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Jul 18, 2006 12:43 pm 
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Attila,
Bonsai as the art of found objects --- I like this line of thought very much. This does a better job of explaining my philosophy of doing kusasomo than anything I've ever been able to express. When I create a single-species accent planting that works, the fraction of the credit that goes to me is miniscule; Nature has done virtually everything and I've only found the object and placed it in the proper frame and environment for us to be able to appreciate it as art. The role of the artist (or at least the advanced technician) increases as one moves to multi-species plantings. Here the possible combinations increase geometrically and the fraction of these combinations that are artistically successful falls off precipitously. As a result, I rarely succeed in these plantings. Perhaps I'll get better with experience.
When one moves from kusamono to bonsai with collected material, the perspective of bonsai as the art of found objects remains --- but now the role of the artist grows further and further. I've had the pleasure of watching Boon Manakitivipart work with collected trees; I'm astounded by his vision for how to bring out the art object within. Rarely does he choose the straightforward direction that I would have. Instead, he finds new ways to simplify and highlight the dominant lines of the tree, twisting radically where necessary and making silk purses of sow's-ear branches that I would have cut away on a first pass through the tree.
Thus while I agree with the found object philosophy (and while I think it's perfect to describe what I do with kusamono), I find it hard to imagine many collected trees that could come near their potential without the further work of a masterful artist. In the end, your "hybrid" view, between found object and other fine arts hits closest to the mark.
With my best regards,
Carl


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 Post subject: Re:
PostPosted: Tue Jul 18, 2006 8:40 pm 
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Quote:
Certainly the techniques, the mechanics can be taught and learned, in fact, they are on a regular basis, but it takes talent to use this knowledge in a manner that produces art.


I agree Will, A fountain can only rise as high as its source. The source meaning, given talent.
A Friend in bonsai
John


Technique without talent is craft. Technique and talent produces art.

Will[/quote]


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Jul 14, 2007 7:18 am 
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sorry for writing to such an old post but i want to share my opinion as well ....
i think that someone can learn to make great bonsai but you need the talent to take it to the next step....
as for " as found" my opininon is that the person who finds a bonsai in nature is only a collector not an artist... also if someone has bought a bonsai from someone else is a collector and a keeper but not an artist....
but the rises a problem ..... most of bonsai live many years a lot more than their artists or owners ...
in their life time they dont stop to evolve or change so they need care all the time....
so when the collector stops being one and becames an artist......?
all i want to say is that we can all create art but not all can create art from scratch... maybe sometimes we need from someone else to make the first step so we can continue from....


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 Post subject: Re:
PostPosted: Sat Jul 14, 2007 9:16 am 
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Master George Zalokostas wrote:
sorry for writing to such an old post but i want to share my opinion as well ....
i think that someone can learn to make great bonsai but you need the talent to take it to the next step....
as for " as found" my opininon is that the person who finds a bonsai in nature is only a collector not an artist... also if someone has bought a bonsai from someone else is a collector and a keeper but not an artist....
but the rises a problem ..... most of bonsai live many years a lot more than their artists or owners ...
in their life time they dont stop to evolve or change so they need care all the time....
so when the collector stops being one and becames an artist......?
all i want to say is that we can all create art but not all can create art from scratch... maybe sometimes we need from someone else to make the first step so we can continue from....

I would for the most part agree with you, but you have over-looked something here when it comes to found art; the ability to recognize that trait. There has to be a degree of "talent" present to recognize the potential in any piece of found art. I have seen it many times where person after person will pass a piece of material up that will, in the right hands, become something of note. To see a piece of ground cover and imagine in the minds eye that if I place this in such and such a pot with this stone it will be magnificent just the way it is----is a talent. Most people will look at that piece of ground cover as a piece of ground cover.
I do however think that there is a great deal of latent talent in people if they are given the opportunity to wake it up and the encouragement to use it. It is in some respects learning to see with different eyes. The problem in America today is an artistic waste land our children and grand-children are traveling through.
Most of the public schools either no longer offer art classes or they have seriously cut back on these programs to the point most pre-adult Americans have little or no artistic back ground. We are producing a generation of young people that cannot appreciate anything that does not go boom, beep, squeek, or whistle. They have choosen the controller over the paint brush and the video screen over the canvas. Though these things may be artistic in nature the actual creation of the art is done for them. For the most part these young people have not been made aware that they can do.........


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 Post subject: Re:
PostPosted: Sat Jul 14, 2007 10:03 am 
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Vance Wood wrote:
They have choosen the controller over the paint brush and the video screen over the canvas. Though these things may be artistic in nature the actual creation of the art is done for them.

I have to disagree with you here, Vance. Whether it's doodling on a text book, drawing action figures for comic books, tagging, CG or skin art an artistic bent will come to the surface.
Art appreciation is taught, the artist is born.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Jul 14, 2007 10:30 am 
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The artist may be born but sometimes activities and preoccupations of the young are not reinforced; discouraged in some cases by those who either see these activities as going no where or themselves lack an understanding or appreciation of the same. Only the really gifted or talented will survive this type of environment. The rest will have these abilities shelved away until at some time and somewhere they are awakened either because they retire and need something to do, or they are exposed to something like bonsai that rings all the bells and whistles.
The point is there are some artists out there that could be outstanding that never use their gift or some that are not even aware of them. A good case and example is one of my nieces. She could have an incredible career in graphic arts. She is one of these people that can draw anything and give it the kind of flare that makes you realize there is something there more than a pencil and an image.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Jul 14, 2007 11:00 am 
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First of all ... LOL
Quote:
We are producing a generation of young people that cannot appreciate anything that does not go boom, beep, squeek, or whistle.

Talent has everithing to do with moving beyond your capabilities.. yes we all have skills but only few will turn that skill to a talent.....
Recently i did some lessons in motorcycles and found out all about the difference between skill and talent....
It takes skill to learn how to turn fast and good with a bike but when it comes to racing you ll need the talent to understand what your bike need for you to come first....
skill is looking at the corner in front of you but talent is that with your mind you already made the turn.....
I think the same principles apply to bonsai and everything in our lifes...
As soon we discover to what we have talent for, not just skill, then we can be great....
( i can say for sure that i have only skills in motorcycles... i left talent at home... :) )
I deal my self with another type of miniatures and i can say for sure that all of these matters apply there as well...
Btw i dont know if you have read my other post .... i am verry happy to have found you and i hope to learn a lot from all of you....


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Jul 14, 2007 11:16 am 
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I have not read your other post yet, but I plan to. I too, welcome a new friend. I think you will find that some of the most knowledgeable people in bonsai frequent this site, I hope you learn from all of them and we will learn from each other.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Jul 14, 2007 6:39 pm 
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Well Vance, what does each generation say about the following generation and the one after that?
How many times do I remember hearing words to the effect " What the hell are you doing boy? Put yourself to some good use around here." 50yrs ago?


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sun Jul 15, 2007 12:10 am 
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If you go back through the history of the last 50 years you see that this is a trend. Yes the older generation does tend to rag on the newer generation, but the things I see happening today are truly destructive. They said much about my generation but at the same time we were the best educated generation this country has ever produced.
Look at what is happening in modern education today. Unless you happen to be able to afford to put your children in private school, the public schools are producing children that think competition is wrong, cannot locate the major continents on a world globe, some cannot read and on a world scale our young people rank highest on self esteem but lowest in math, history and geography. They are being taught that there is no right or wrong just shades of grey and that America is the major problem in the world today. All of this leads away from anything anyone can call good.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sun Jul 15, 2007 2:39 am 
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Being a democratic society, who should be held ultimately responsible?


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sun Jul 15, 2007 8:18 am 
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Now how can this information be used in relation to bonsai?

Will


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