A magnificent specimen tree for discussion

october

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Usually, we post our trees and then compliments and criticisms are given, hopeful constructive and informative..lol..Anyway, I thought I would try something different. I came across this pic last week. Every once in a while, we will see a tree and just be in awe of its beauty. This was one of those times.

I am posting this tree so others can share it's beauty, but also to hear other's thoughts about it. I was so captivated by it's initial beauty, that I did not notice the bar branching at first.. It is so masterfully done that the shari and the pads draw the eye exactly to where it needs to go. Normally, it is a major flaw, however, this alleged "flaw" is right in front of you and it is still not a distraction. Also, this is a fuller literati than most literati, but it looks perfect in composition.

In my opinion, this is one of the better examples of skill in todays bonsai. It is natural and the tree itself is a masterful composition. This is a Graham Potter tree..

I would like to hear others opinions on this tree...

Rob
 

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Dwight

Chumono
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Very nice tree , very , verry nice ! I'm not sure you coulkd lagitimately call that bar branching anymore as it has been handled with such style.
 

RyanFrye

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It may be that the "bar" branch on the left is actually an extension of the first branch on the left used to create depth in the design. It doesn't appear to emanate from the side of the trunk directly across from the branch on the left. If this is the case I don't think it would be a bar branch technically, just visually. But regardless it is a very beautiful tree.
 
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It feels like Mozart... "too many notes"....

It is literati... so be literati... there's just too much foliage to be magnificent as a literati... there is no quiet wisdom or contemplation in it for me. It's a very busy tree for the eye to travel around on... simplicity with grace is a greater achievement than a cascade of foliage artfully positioned on a very elegant pole.

That said... it's still beautiful... it's like looking at a literati version of Paris Hilton. Long-legged, glitzy, and beautiful... but wholey without intellectual or emotive depth. But for many the lack of depth would mean little, because the beauty is what it is.

But there is NO doubt that this tree speaks to you in every way Rob... your own trees have a lot of the same visual shapes....

I'd give my right arm to own it... but then I would turn around and change it... so I have no doubt you'd have a cow if I ever got my hands on it. lol

Your friend,

Victrinia
 

Brian Van Fleet

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Graham Potter does great work, and I'm really enjoying his You Tube videos...especially for the fact that he takes the time to freely share his work on some big scale stuff. I would study with him in a second and I think he does great work. My first impression was "I love it." Then I started really looking at it...

I love this tree as a bonsai, but this bonsai doesn't remind me of a tree.

The carving, styling, and everything about it is very precise and perfectly manicured; it's a well-done bonsai and better than probably anything I own. But, nothing about this says "natural" to me; even the deadwood is perfectly polished. I would happily put it on my bench because I love the balance and movement, but over time, I'd probably reduce the foliage, let the bark scale up, and let the deadwood age a little. The carving is very contrived, but I think it will age well. Except the last strike of shari on the upper trunk...I think it could create some reverse taper as it heals.

Now, what is the story of this tree? Grown in such a harsh environment that half of the tree has been ripped away clear to the soil, leaving a skeletal remain of the former trunk...then everything was ok again for the next 50 years?

As a student of Dan Robinson, Vic, I can see this as the antithesis of your bonsai upbringing!!!

That said...I very much respect the artist and his work.
 

Tachigi

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Interesting comments.....I like the tree and think after it has seasoned a bit it will be that much better. My feeling ( and I could be wrong) is this tree was photographed soon after completion..as Brian said a bit to polished which makes the carving a bit contrived. What I am surprised about is that no one commented on the straight deadwood that is an eye block interuptus when following the twisting trunk. Definitely not a literati...informal upright is probably the correct "category".

As I said, like the tree think it will be very nice after a few years of wear...wouldn't mind it at all if it was on my bench...nice job Graham
 

greerhw

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No flys on this one.

keep it green,
Harry
 

Attila Soos

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I agree with Tom, this photo was probably done within a short time after the styling was completed. This is why it looks contrived.

I like the deadwood because it is clumsy. That's right, clumsyness is the only thing I like about it.
It adds some welcome imperfection to this, othewise too perfect tree. Carving it to exactly the right size, right shape, I would say: come on, it is not enough that the pads, trunk, branches are perfect, but even a piece of dead wood has to be cut and measured to perfection?

A little aging will greatly improve this tree. I remember a similar scenario with John Naka, at the last critique that I saw him doing. There was a tree brought to him, with pads and foliage too perfect and groomed. He said: "...you take a messy tree and style it to perfection. But than you have to mess it up again, to finish it."
I agree with John. The first mess is a chaotic, ugly mess. The final mess is a refined, artistic mess, just like the poverty of the Chinese literati. It is not the poverty of the dirty slums, but a deliberate, dignified poverty, like a chosen path.

Graham needs to follow Naka's advice here.
 
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cquinn

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It's a photograph..............imagine how good it looks in person!
 

rockm

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No flys on this one."

Means it don't stink...

I don't know what to make of this one. It is very well done, but it's a bit at odds with itself. It's lush foliage is at odds with the long lean and artificially weathered trunk (I always have trouble with brushed red live veins against jin. To me, it's a bit artificial--looking.

Also, the branches, jin and trunk forms a rather stiff looking cross--deadwood jin crossing the more upright, apex/lower branch combination. It's a bit distracting.

A few more years on the bark and a good thinning would clarify this one--at least for me.
 
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Oh ok... :D

Well it clearly doesn't stink... so I'm glad he's on board with us in that regard. :D

V
 

october

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Wow...This is exactly what I wanted to happen in this thread... Insightful, different and informative assessments of the tree...It is about what you see, everyone seems to be seeing different things, yet, all points are very valid.

All comments are excellent..and ironically enough, although they differ, I cannot say that I really disagree with any of them.

I'll try to address most of the comments..

Dwight.. Yes, the work has almost eliminated the bar branch look.

Ryan....Good eye.. Upon a closer look, it could be an extention of the other branch or probably a back branch.

Miss Vic...I liked your Paris Hilton comment...I think you have many valid points.... I am actually surprised though... Concerning the "if it's a literati, be a literati" comment.. I know that you sometimes are opposed, for lack of a better term, to Japanese tradition, that is what surprised me. Since this tree is not really in a traditional Japanese style, I thought you might have thought differently. It is a very busy tree and there is a lot to take in visually.

Brian, I would enjoy seeing a live demonstration from Graham potter and If given the chance to study with him, I would.. He seems to have a different approach to bonsai. Not fully Japanese tradition, but a style that is seasoned with it.

Tom, I agree, It is difficult to decide if it is a literati or an informal upright.. It almost seems to have like 50/50 on each one. I think some age would also benefit the tree.

cquinn... Yes, I would imagine that the picture probably doesn't do it justice..

rockm.. Yes, it looks a bit artificial concerning the reddish vein situation

Attila... I remember that same John Naka comment and I agree...It is a fine line though.. You must know when it is neat and when to mess it up..lol

Rob
 

october

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and Harry... I didn't understand the fly comment at frist either..lol
 
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In my mind the trunk is too slender and tall to be anything but a literati... so if one is going to go there... well I said it all before. :D

I don't so much hold to certain "currently-traditional" aesthetics... because believe me... some of the prevelant styles are very new... and not classical. Classical even being realitively new to the later half of the 20th century.

BUT... with literati... I've come to deeply embrace the sense of wabi-sabi that I want to find within it. It doesn't happen often... but when it does... there is little to compare to it.

Kindest regards,

Victrinia
 

johng

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the "story" behind this one...

perhaps a lightning strike long ago...killed the top and damaged the trunk all the way down. Tree slowly recovers over many years...a new apex develops, the trunk becomes hollowed, old branches continue to age, foliage eventually rejuvenates itself...

There are many old pines in my area that tell this same story...only real difference is that their trunks are more straight than this junipers.

...for me this tree provides a natural feel and a believable story!!

I do agree that in this photo the tree's "perfection" seems a bit contrived...perhaps I am wrong but I would imagine a tree presented with this level of refinement would most likely be very well accepted in Japan.

Additionally, it always amazes me how critical we can be when most likely few of us have any trees even close to this quality on our own benches. Perhaps we need to be looking at what is "right" about this tree and not what wrong with it???

thoughtfully,
John
 
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ahhh but how will anyone learn to see it differently if they are not challenged to think of it in a different way. Bonsai is subjective... it is a fine tree... and beautiful... but if that has been acknowledged, which it has, then commenting on what it's missing is valid.

To say over and over that it's lovely would teach no one anything about it's form or how it could be improved if one were inclined to do so.

The only bad thing is that Mr. Potter didn't ask for this critque... so in that sense maybe praise (for it is praise worthy) should be all that's said.

Kindest regards,

Victrinia
 

october

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Hello John,
Yes, we can be incredibly critical..and you are right that few of us will have trees of this caliber on our benches... I know that I do not... I posted this tree with a neutral goal. I wanted to see opinions, good or bad, it didn't matter.

Although I agree and can see legitimacy in every comment in this thread. I still stand well by my initial opinion. That the tree as absolutely magnificent and would be prized by any owner.. This including, the amatueur and the bonsai masters of Japan. At least this is how I see it. I have recently discovered the work of Graham Potter and I am finding his work quite exceptional and refreshing.

Victrinia... You are correct about learning.. I do know that there were a few comments made in this thread about characteric assesments that I did not see.. This thread has become a learning tool.. You are also correct that criticism were not asked for by Graham Potter and maybe, in some circles, only positive things should be said. However, the cat is out of the bag now
 

Tachigi

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The only bad thing is that Mr. Potter didn't ask for this critque... so in that sense maybe praise (for it is praise worthy) should be all that's said.

Kindest regards,

Victrinia
You are also correct that criticism were not asked for by Graham Potter and maybe, in some circles, only positive things should be said. However, the cat is out of the bag now
Having worked with Graham I can say with certainty that he would encourage critique of his tree or any others. He is very secure with himself, his abilities and his trees...so what we have to say matters little...except that we learn and enjoy
 

johng

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ahhh but how will anyone learn to see it differently if they are not challenged to think of it in a different way. Bonsai is subjective... it is a fine tree... and beautiful... but if that has been acknowledged, which it has, then commenting on what it's missing is valid.

To say over and over that it's lovely would teach no one anything about it's form or how it could be improved if one were inclined to do so.

The only bad thing is that Mr. Potter didn't ask for this critque... so in that sense maybe praise (for it is praise worthy) should be all that's said.

Kindest regards,

Victrinia
I think you missed my point... I am not talking about praise(praise doesn't contribute to learning)...I am talking about what is aesthetically pleasing/interesting, or how does the branch structure contribute to the overall balance, or what things has the artist done well to overcome weaknesses in the material, or what works about the tree and pot pairing...etc...etc...

for me, pointing out flaws is not hardly different than meaningless praise and does little to advance learning. Recognizing how flaws in the material were overcome is much more difficult to discuss for the average Bonsaiist but it also offers a much greater potential for learning.

I think threads like this have the potential to be great learning tools but most often they fail miserably at this effort. I personally attribute this to two reasons. First, I think it is difficult at best for craftsmen/hobbyist to critique the work of masters and masterpieces. Secondly, we focus on what we perceive as the flaws and not what was done to make the tree art.

thoughtfully,
John
 
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