A Book About Dan Robinson's Techniques?

grouper52

Masterpiece
Messages
2,371
Reaction score
3,585
Location
Port Orchard, WA
USDA Zone
8
Several threads recently have included discussions about Dan Robinson's techniques, with people asking when a more technique-specific book might be coming out. His carving techniques were of special interest to Al, and I think others also share that interest. I thought I'd start a thread to discuss the possibility of such a book, and to point out other ways to learn the carving techniques.

First, I'm not going to write such a book, but Victrinia Ridgeway expressed an interest in doing so when we were early on in the process of writing and photographing Gnarly Branches. There were discussions on having a section of Gnarly Branches focus specifically on techniques, but writing such a section did not interest me personally, and it did not not seem to fit into the overall flow of the book very well, and it also would have made the book prohibitively long. Vic, therefore, wanted to write another book strictly on techniques, which was appropriate given that she is actually a student of Dan's (I am not, formally), and her husband, Eric, is as well. We talked about a second book on technique, and I would still be willing to help with the project with some writing and photography if asked (perhaps especially a section on Dan's collecting techniques), but styling and horticultural techniques I would leave to them. However, most of what it took to produce Gnarly Branches - and I was surprised to learn how much of the book boiled down to this - was organizational skills and the ability to sustain motivation and effort over an extended time. That's the real work, and my heart's not into doing that again for a technical book.

Perhaps those interested in such a book need to draw Vic and Eric into this discussion and motivate them to get it started and bring it to completion. :)

When I realized that Gnarly Branches was the bird-in-the-hand, and that a technical second book was more likely a two-in-the-bush possibility, I made a conscious decision to try to weave a great deal of Dan's techniques into the flow of the narrative and the photos in such a way that a careful reading - studying, actually - would allow the motivated reader to come away with the ability to get started on his own. I believe I succeeded in this to a fairly great extent. Except for the actual hands-on feel, and the hand-eye coordination involved and learned slowly in practice over time, someone interested in carving, for instance, can learn almost everything there is to know about how and why Dan does it merely by reading the chapter, The Primacy of Deadwood, and other parts of the book, and then studying the photographs, some of which even illustrate the actual techniques being performed, and most of which demonstrate what the finished product or the work in progress actually looks like.

For those who want to learn Dan's techniques further, I have two additional suggestions. First, call Elandan and see when Dan will be doing workshops or even demos around the country, or in other countries sometimes. His workshops are expensive, but you will be working with great old material, and much of what Dan will help you with IS the carving, although all his other styling techniques can be learned there as well. A typical workshop, for him, entails bringing 12 great trees and 12 die grinders. Bring some protective gear!

Secondly, call Elandan and see when Dan when be there working on his trees (which he does almost every weekend), and make a pilgrimage to spend a weekend with him. He loves to teach, and is superb at doing so on all levels. He'll gladly teach anyone who really wants to learn, and to explain anything you really want to know, and the chances are fairly good that he will engage you in hands-on training if that's what you really want.

To summarize: 1) Get Vic and Eric involved in their book idea. 2) Really read and study Gnarly Branches. 3) Spend some time in hands-on training with Dan.

I hope that helps.
 

hank mazur

Seedling
Messages
21
Reaction score
0
Location
Glen Ellyn, illinois
USDA Zone
5 A
Sorry Will, you opened the can , now show us what else is in there.:) You should have realised when you started the book about Dan Robinson , that it would not all fit between "one set of covers". I already told Diane and Victrinia that the vacation was over and you all should start working on books #2,3,4.(videos)?, or whatever it takes. Will, remember what was your original reason for doing the book in the first place, nothing has changed, except for more people being interested.:)
 

grouper52

Masterpiece
Messages
2,371
Reaction score
3,585
Location
Port Orchard, WA
USDA Zone
8
Sorry Will, you opened the can , now show us what else is in there.:) You should have realised when you started the book about Dan Robinson , that it would not all fit between "one set of covers". I already told Diane and Victrinia that the vacation was over and you all should start working on books #2,3,4.(videos)?, or whatever it takes. Will, remember what was your original reason for doing the book in the first place, nothing has changed, except for more people being interested.:)

I'm sorry as well, Hank: sorry to disappoint. My original reason for writing the book - explained clearly within the Preface for those who care to read it - was to capture the life and works of a true genius, whose field happens to be bonsai. I wanted to know how one becomes a Dan Robinson, what has to coalesce to create that kind of unique individual, and I wanted to capture him and his story before he was gone, or before he was too old to provide the help I'd need. That's it. Nobody else was stepping forward to do it, so I did.

The book is basically story telling, not instruction. I really had little interest in this technique or that technique except as it tied into the larger story. Dan himself even downplays the emphasis on techniques in the book during one of his extended quotes in the middle section chapter, "Fundamentally and Intuitively an Artist":

“That’s what we have to learn,” he continues. “Not some little technique - although they’re important - but instead, what qualities do we want? And we learn that from nature, with our eyes. We study wild trees, living and dead, their twists and turns, the lichen, the fractured look, the decay - all of it melding together, forming marvelous structures. This study fills our minds with ideas, images we remember when we go back and start designing or carving on a tree. This gives us an endless resource, a mental reservoir to draw from for a constant flow of design ideas."

I believe one unique quailty of the book is its emphasis away from technique. The emphasis is on biography and retrospective, story and character. I had hoped it would be a book that would instil the same awe and inspiration in ordinary people as it did in the bonsai community, and the great number of non-bonsai people who have bought and loved the book has told me that I have succeeded.

You hope to spur me on and pressure me to do what you want me to do. Among your gambits is to ask me to remember what my original intent was in writing the book: but you don't realize that I have fulfilled that intent. The book I wrote is the book I wanted to write, and it stands alone. Others may wish to create other books or videos, and I may help some if asked, but they will not be my creations.
 

hank mazur

Seedling
Messages
21
Reaction score
0
Location
Glen Ellyn, illinois
USDA Zone
5 A
You are correct, i did try to spur you on, but only because you did such a great job tellings us about Dan's journey, that i had hoped that you would do a "Paul Harvey" and tell us "the rest of the story". Enjoy your well earned vacation.:)
 

Similar threads

Top