Feature Gallery

Feature Gallery


A Tribute to John Yoshio Naka

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It doesn't take very long once someone becomes interested in bonsai before they hear of the late John Naka. His books "Bonsai Techniques I and II" are likely the most recommended books in the art, not only to beginners but also to the more advanced artists that somehow missed reading them. They are a welcome addition to every artist's library.

We offer this trilogy as a testimonial to the artistic genius of John Naka. Originally conceived as three separate galleries sorted by drawings, bonsai, and photographs of John, we later decided not to divide or classify the submitted photographs into different galleries, but instead to offer them together, in a single gallery as an in depth exploration into his genius.

Next to John's bonsai, his drawings and sketches speak the loudest of his obvious talent and his great love of trees. John had the gift of not only seeing the future of a tree, but also of being able to dramatically capture his vision on paper. Couple those gifts with his ability to transform these ideas into actual living, artistic bonsai, and you have the stuff legends are made of. It is little wonder that John Naka is remembered with awe and respect and is often referred to as the father of American Bonsai.

AoB usually includes a brief bio of the featured artist at this point, in this case we have decided to forgo the bio, as there is no way we can do justice to this great man by adding anything that would surpass that which already has been done. For those interested in the history and life of John Naka, we strongly recommend starting at "John Yoshio Naka - In Celebration of a Grand Master's Life" (http://www.phoenixbonsai.com/JYN.html).

We mean this to be a dynamic gallery in which those who view it can add any content that they may have by John Naka, be it scans of his drawings, photographs of his bonsai, or photographs of John himself, simply by emailing them, with your name and a brief history of the drawing or drawings, to [email protected]. As always at AoB, the owner of the pictures retains all copyrights and will receive full credit for them. AoB only requests permission to use them in this gallery. We hope you'll take the time and help us expand this gallery.

John Naka, The Man

Toshio Saburomaru, John Naka, and Yuji Yoshimura

John Naka, Toshio Saburomaru, and Yuji Yoshimura
Photograph by Mike Page

Bob Kato and John Naka 1980. Taken at a meeting of the Hillsborough Bonsai Society at the San Mateo Garden Center in San Mateo CA. Hillsborough Bonsai Society is no longer in existence. Bob Kato passed away in 1986 and is missed greatly by the Bonsai Community. Photograph by Mike Page

Bob Kato and John Naka 1980
Taken at a meeting of the Hillsborough Bonsai Society at the San Mateo Garden Center in San Mateo CA.
Hillsborough Bonsai Society is no longer in existence.
Bob Kato passed away in 1986 and is missed greatly by the Bonsai Community.
Photograph by Mike Page

John Naka Photograph taken by Patrick Giacobbe in 1985 at the Morakami Hatsumi Festival in Florida for the portrait shown below.

John Naka
Photograph taken by Patrick Giacobbe in 1985 at the Morakami Hatsumi Festival in Florida for the portrait shown below.

'Portrait of a Master' was done by Patrick Giacobbe. Prints were made in a limited edition. The crest in the background is John Naka's family crest that he gave a framed copy in gold foil to his disciple students. John gave Patrick permission to use his image and the print was copyrighted.

'Portrait of a Master' was done by Patrick Giacobbe. Prints were made in a limited edition. The crest in the background is John Naka's family crest that he gave a framed copy in gold foil to his disciple students. John gave Patrick permission to use his image and the print was copyrighted.

John ( with his 'I can't hear' you shirt on ) with Joe Samuels and Ed Trout at the BSF convention in Ft Lauderdale in 1996. Photograph submitted by Ed Trout

John ( with his "I can't hear you" shirt on ) with Joe Samuels and Ed Trout at the BSF convention in Ft Lauderdale in 1996.
Photograph submitted by Ed Trout

The Illustrations of John Naka

A drawing of Mike Page's California Juniper done at a 1980 workshop. Mike still has the tree and greatly values the drawing. Scan of drawing submitted by Mike Page.

A drawing of Mike Page's California Juniper done at a 1980 workshop. Mike still has the tree and greatly values the drawing. Scan of drawing submitted by Mike Page.

From the collection of Jim Smith, this sketch is of Buttonwood Jim collected in Vero Beach in 1973.

From the collection of Jim Smith, this sketch is of Buttonwood Jim collected in Vero Beach in 1973.

From the collection of Jim Smith, this sketch is of a <i>Ficus salicifolia</i> originally created by Mayna Hutchinson in 1977. In 1993 Jim acquired the tree and restyled it.

From the collection of Jim Smith, this sketch is of a Ficus salicifolia originally created by Mayna Hutchinson in 1977. In 1993 Jim acquired the tree and restyled it.

From the collection of Jim Smith, this sketch is of a <i>Ficus salicifolia</i> that was created by Jim in 1983. The bonsai died last year due to hurricane damage.

From the collection of Jim Smith, this sketch is of a Ficus salicifolia that was created by Jim in 1983. The bonsai died last year due to hurricane damage.

From the collection of Jim Smith, this sketch is of a Portulacaria afra Jim created in 1957, his first Portulacaria. There is a picture of  this bonsai taken in 1983 in Paul Lesniewicz's  book 'Bonsai in Your Home'.  Jim restyled it last year completely different. Jim asked John to make a sketch of this tree as a cascade, he did, but Jim never made the change.

From the collection of Jim Smith, this sketch is of a Portulacaria afra Jim created in 1957, his first Portulacaria. There is a picture of this bonsai taken in 1983 in Paul Lesniewicz's book 'Bonsai in Your Home'. Jim restyled it last year completely different. Jim asked John to make a sketch of this tree as a cascade, he did, but Jim never made the change.

From the collection of Jim Smith, this sketch is of a Lantana Jim created in 1960, a picture of it is in

From the collection of Jim Smith, this sketch is of a Lantana Jim created in 1960, a picture of it is in "Outstanding American Bonsai" by Randy Clark. It was in the National Bonsai Collection and has since died. In 1987 John spent a weekend with Jim's Study Group, Jim asked him to make a sketch of this bonsai in a new style, he did, but Jim never made the change.

From the collection of Jim Smith, this sketch is of an Australian Pine forest that John created for the Morikami Museum in 1977.

From the collection of Jim Smith, this sketch is of an Australian Pine forest that John created for the Morikami Museum in 1977.

From the collection of Jim Smith, this sketch is one of the many drawings of bonsai that John made of the members bonsai at Jim's study group in 1987.

From the collection of Jim Smith, this sketch is one of the many drawings of bonsai that John made of the members bonsai at Jim's study group in 1987.

From the collection of Jim Smith, this sketch is one of the many drawings of bonsai that John made of the members bonsai at Jim's study group in 1987.

From the collection of Jim Smith, this sketch is one of the many drawings of bonsai that John made of the members bonsai at Jim's study group in 1987.

From the collection of Jim Smith, this sketch is one of the many drawings of bonsai that John made of the members bonsai at Jim's study group in 1987.

From the collection of Jim Smith, this sketch is one of the many drawings of bonsai that John made of the members bonsai at Jim's study group in 1987.

From the collection of Jim Smith, this sketch is one of the many drawings of bonsai that John made of the members bonsai at Jim's study group in 1987.

From the collection of Jim Smith, this sketch is one of the many drawings of bonsai that John made of the members bonsai at Jim's study group in 1987.

From the collection of Jim Smith, this sketch is one of the many drawings of bonsai that John made of the members bonsai at Jim's study group in 1987.

From the collection of Jim Smith, this sketch is one of the many drawings of bonsai that John made of the members bonsai at Jim's study group in 1987.

From the collection of Jim Smith, this sketch is one of the many drawings of bonsai that John made of the members bonsai at Jim's study group in 1987.

From the collection of Jim Smith, this sketch is one of the many drawings of bonsai that John made of the members bonsai at Jim's study group in 1987.

From the collection of Jim Smith, this sketch is one of the many drawings of bonsai that John made of the members bonsai at Jim's study group in 1987.

From the collection of Jim Smith, this sketch is one of the many drawings of bonsai that John made of the members bonsai at Jim's study group in 1987.

From the collection of Jim Smith, this sketch is one of the many drawings of bonsai that John made of the members bonsai at Jim's study group in 1987.

From the collection of Jim Smith, this sketch is one of the many drawings of bonsai that John made of the members bonsai at Jim's study group in 1987.

From the collection of Jim Smith, this sketch is one of the many drawings of bonsai that John made of the members bonsai at Jim's study group in 1987.

From the collection of Jim Smith, this sketch is one of the many drawings of bonsai that John made of the members bonsai at Jim's study group in 1987.

From the inside cover of Bonsai Techniques II (limited Edition of 500) that John Naka signed for Mike Page in 1972. Besides this drawing, a haiku was also included

From the inside cover of Bonsai Techniques II (limited Edition of 500) that John Naka signed for Mike Page in 1972. Besides this drawing, a haiku was also included

The Bonsai of John Naka

Japanese Black Pine (Pinus thunbergii) Photograph by Attila Soos

Japanese Black Pine (Pinus thunbergii)
Photograph by Attila Soos

Japanese Cork Bark Black Pine (Pinus thunbergii 'Corticosa') Photograph by Attila Soos

Japanese Cork Bark Black Pine (Pinus thunbergii "Corticosa")
Photograph by Attila Soos

Pomegranate (Punica granatum) Photograph by Attila Soos

Pomegranate (Punica granatum)
Photograph by Attila Soos

Pomegranate (Punica granatum) Photograph by Attila Soos

Pomegranate (Punica granatum)
Photograph by Attila Soos

Goshin

Photographs by Patrick Giacobbe. Taken at the National Arboretum in 1983, Patrick was disappointed to see that Goshin was turned so that the back could receive sunlight at the time of his visit. Many years later he realized that the photographs he took during that visit showed views of Goshin that are not commonly seen. These photographs and the angles that they were shot at allows us to seen the genius of John Naka at work. This forest is truly inspirational in that it shows incredible balance and flow even from these rare views, offering more than a single visually pleasing view.

Goshin - Photograph by Patrick Giacobbe

Goshin
Photograph by Patrick Giacobbe

Eastman Kodak's Applied Photography Magazine. Issue #41, 1969

Goshin
Photograph by Patrick Giacobbe

Goshin - Photograph by Patrick Giacobbe

Goshin
Photograph by Patrick Giacobbe

Other Perspectives

The following photographs and scans were sent to us by Ed Trout who has the originals from the now defunct Eastman Kodak's Applied Photography Magazine. This 6 page layout featuring John Naka appeared in issue #41, 1969.

It would seem that bonsai as an art form was alive and well in 1969. The method of overlaying Naka's bonsai creations onto stylized backgrounds using both imaginary creations and actual photographs, gave a dramatic effect that is rare in today's presentations.

The last page states that one definition of bonsai can be proved photographically by cropping the pot out of the picture and what is left should be the "illusion of full scale reality" and used to judge exellence. I am sure we will all agree that the results of this experiement shows excellence and as such reintroduces us to a method of photographing bonsai that we would do well to try and duplicate today.

Eastman Kodak's Applied Photography Magazine. Issue #41, 1969

Eastman Kodak's Applied Photography Magazine. Issue #41, 1969

Eastman Kodak's Applied Photography Magazine. Issue #41, 1969

Eastman Kodak's Applied Photography Magazine. Issue #41, 1969

Eastman Kodak's Applied Photography Magazine. Issue #41, 1969

Eastman Kodak's Applied Photography Magazine. Issue #41, 1969

Eastman Kodak's Applied Photography Magazine. Issue #41, 1969

Eastman Kodak's Applied Photography Magazine. Issue #41, 1969

Eastman Kodak's Applied Photography Magazine. Issue #41, 1969

Eastman Kodak's Applied Photography Magazine. Issue #41, 1969

Eastman Kodak's Applied Photography Magazine. Issue #41, 1969

Eastman Kodak's Applied Photography Magazine. Issue #41, 1969



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