The Bonsai of Dan Robinson
Bonsai and photographs by Dan Robinson unless otherwise noted.
Special thanks to Victrinia Ensor for all her help on this project and for her photographs.
Dan Robinson looks and acts younger than his years. His drive and joyful obsession for creating bonsai are crucial elements in his artistry.
In 1978 Frank Okimura, the curator for the Brooklyn Botanical Garden, watched Dan create a cascade from a monumental upright Ponderosa Pine. He quietly said "Dan is the Picasso of Bonsai". It is an apt description for an inventive artist who is unafraid to challenge accepted traditions.
Frequently called from his lake-side home in the Pacific Northwest to share his wealth of knowledge and skills with bonsai enthusiast, Dan has traveled the world over helping others develop their own vision. His seminars and workshops on carving and sculptural processes present a unique American perspective; emphasizing natural forms and in effect, rejecting prescribed rules that restrict artistic expression. Dan is credited with the development of a root enhancing technique now used by collectors around the world. He introduced power-tools into bonsai creation arena in 1978. His articulation on "The Aging Process" clarified the design implicit during ascending stages of age in trees. His treatise "Focal Point Bonsai Design", which challenges the perpetuation of the "One-Two-Three-Triangle" design concept has been published in US, Italian, English and French bonsai publications. The subject of many newspaper and magazine articles, Dan Robinson was featured in a Smithsonian article on Bonsai in 1989.
Dan's personal bonsai collection numbers more than 200, and are significant for their quality and age. His work is also represented in numerous public and private collections, including the American Bonsai Collection at the National Arboretum in Washington D.C. The National Forest Service purchased a Robinson collected bonsai, dubbed as a gift to America in 1978. It was presented during the 100th Anniversary of the Forest Service as the National Bonsai Tree.
Dan weaves his love of nature with the ancient art form of bonsai. His impressions from the High Cascades form the basis of his artistic education. The University of Washington School of Forestry provided the technical education. For Dan, bonsai has been a solitary artistic pursuit, developing a distinctive and abstract style. He holds no schools nor claims any direct followers. Yet he is a profoundly influential figure.
For 50 years Dan has been a nearly daily practitioner of the art. Still exploring, he has not found the limits of his creativity or his desire to practice the art. Each day is regarded as an opportunity. Whether a tree holds the promise of tomorrow, or is ready to be turned into a beautiful work of art today, he is eager to rise to the challenge, and share the fruits of his labor with others.