Alpine Fir Penjing

grouper52

Masterpiece
Messages
2,377
Reaction score
3,640
Location
Port Orchard, WA
USDA Zone
8
I don't know why certain trees seem to pick certain days to shout out "Photograph me!!" but it was these guys' turn today, so how could I say no.

Just posting it for enjoyment, mine and others'. Anyone who thinks I can't count, or don't know the "odd number" rule, can save their breath - I'm not much of one for such rules anyway, but compositionally I think the large vertical rock behind the left-hand tree acts as a "substitute" 5th tree, so it'll just have to either please you or not the way it is. The tallest tree is about 3' tall, and the composition has been in the pot about a year and a half now, if I'm not mistaken.

Enjoy.
 

Attachments

  • afp2.jpg
    afp2.jpg
    96.5 KB · Views: 242

Vance Wood

Lord Mugo
Messages
13,948
Reaction score
16,639
Location
Michigan
USDA Zone
5-6
I love Firs, and I like this grouping. To me the rules don't matter if the art works. This one does work.
 

Smoke

Ignore-Amus
Messages
11,579
Reaction score
19,964
Location
Fresno, CA
USDA Zone
9
I enjoy it.....

Alot, Al
 

Vance Wood

Lord Mugo
Messages
13,948
Reaction score
16,639
Location
Michigan
USDA Zone
5-6
I have a question and not a comment. First of all this is not meant to put you on the spot or anything like that. I have had a bug in my ear for a couple of years concerning the differences between Penjin and Bonsai. I notice you call this a Penjing, I do not argue that point, you can call it a ham sandwich if you like, my problem or question is why do you call it a Penjing? I have hoped for a long time that someone could come up with a clear and concise description of what a Penjing really is. We have a long list of rules of form etc, that govern what we know as Bonsai but very little, if anything, that govern or even define what a Penjing is. So we as a group are faced with having to ferret out for ourselves what the difference is. I would very much like to know your thinking on this matter if it is one of some insight you have stumbled upon or a clear definition you have become aware of.

Geez! I just read over my question and it sounds argumentative and I assure that was not my intent, I think this is a subject that we need to discuss and try to understand and I don't know of a better way to ask what I have asked. So in advance please forgive me if I have come off as offensive or worse, that was not my intent. I love your grouping and your ability to make a pleasing group, unorthodox as it is, shows you have skills worthy of respect.
 

bonsai barry

Omono
Messages
1,374
Reaction score
47
Location
Cental Coast of California
USDA Zone
9
Thanks for the posting. As one who spends a lot of time in the forest, this display made me feel the damp needles beneath my feet... even in my office. Thanks.
 

grouper52

Masterpiece
Messages
2,377
Reaction score
3,640
Location
Port Orchard, WA
USDA Zone
8
Hey, you all - I don't MIND if someone comments or criticizes or praises - please feel free. It just wasn't my intent in posting. Sheesh! :)

Vance, it's a great question. I'll tell you my thoughts on this, for what they are worth. Chinese style Penjing and the group plantings of a more Japanese style share a lot in common, but are different. When I have read various books about the Chinese approach, and when my friend Robert Cho has tried to teach me a bit about it, several differences stand out.

First, where the Japanese-influenced approach discusses compositions in terms of numeric rules and such, I find the Chinese placing more emphasis on things like harmony and balance between disparate elements like "hard and soft", "young and old", "static and dynamic", "male and female", "horizontal and verticle", etc. This flows out of the frequently mentioned idea that the most essential prerequisit training for the whole field of single or group plantings or rock landscape art is a deeply cultivated exposure not only to visual art, but also to related disciplines such as caligraphy and poetry.

Second, Chinese Penjing places enormous emphasis on rocks, which are often or even usually considered more important than the trees themselves. The rocks are stable and "eternal", whereas the trees are fleeting and recent even if old trees - hence the rocks are more primary, more important. In this composition, for instance I used Ying rocks, and often mention the rock type when I post because to the Chinese at least it is very important, different rocks giving a different feel to the composition and having different symbolic meanings.

Third, Chinese Penjing compositions are always careful to connect to human beings in some way. Their landscapes always have an obvious or subtle human element. Mud men and such are the most obvious, but it can even be as subtle as a suggestion of a "mother and daughter" or some such in a two trunk composition, or trees subtley bending towards each other from a small island off a larger land mass, representing the connection and yearning between the people of Taiwan and China. In this composition of mine, it is a Penjing IMO not only because of the first two characteristics above, but also because there is a subtle, easily overlooked but hopefully "felt", path running between the two sides of the composition. No people/mud men are present, no pavilions, etc, but the path implies people, and would not be seen in Japanese group plantings typically, I think. The scene is very American in some ways, capturing, I think, a high alpine scene from our western mountains, but it is not totally wild because of the path. That is why I call this a Penjing.

Hope that clears it up somewhat.
 

Rick Moquin

Omono
Messages
1,245
Reaction score
15
Location
Dartmouth, NS Canada
USDA Zone
6a
Well said Will. I just hope this does not turn out into a long debate on semantics though. Penjing as Will mentioned is a feeling that is transmitted from the soul of the artist vice the mind. Robert S often refers to this in his teachings, so does Walter in a way but not with as much passion (IMO) or as Will pointed out poetry.

My definition: Penjing = Harmonious dynamic fluidity between man and nature.

Will,

FWIW it is coming along quite nicely from its humble beginings.
 

BonsaiWes

Mame
Messages
128
Reaction score
1
USDA Zone
7
I like ther alpine scene alot, thanks for sharing. Here is a brief look at my take on Chinese Penjing.


Penjing and Bonsai are the same thing, the 2 words are the same only from 2 different languages. The Chinese have their way of growing artisticly planted trees, it reflects their culture, land and religions they have in China. Japan used what was being done in China and added their own branding to it and call it Bonsai. Tree in a tray=bonsai. Tree in a tray=Penjing,. The 2 words are the same, Japans language is rooted from Chinese. Many Bonsai are made in China by Chinese and Japanese peoples, they look just like the bonsai in Japan. Many Penjings are made in China just the same but they LOOK Chinese and not Japanese.

So what is the difference?, the story is what is different. It takes a dive into Chinese symbolisim, history, culture, folklore and religions to really get a feel for what a Penjing story is saying. An Oxen for example is a popular item used in Penjing scenes, any one know why things like oxen, pines and dragons are so common in Chinese art? They use those little Pagodas in their Penjing work, most of us don't relise if you look at Chinese wilderness and mountains you will find Pagodas out there, they where an important part of Chinese life. At the top of Hushan you will find long and dangerous staircases made into the mountain, some even have signs carved into rock reading things like "turn back or die". At the very top is a large now abandon Taoist village with fishing areas, farm land,prisons,huts, housing, religious statues and temples. Why is this important?, also just off to the side of all this is a very important pavillion called the chess pavilion, it is near a very important tree, this tree is copied very often in Penjing, there is a couple famous stories about all this.

There at least at one time was a story behind alot of the great Penjing pieces. Some of those little mudmen look just like the Taoist from my Chinese history books. Maybe those Penjing guys really are telling stories about fishing the 3 gorges, or Taoist on their way up the hills to pray at the pagoda.

There is more to Penjing than meets the eye but at the end of the day it is just trees in pots just like Bonsai. What makes a Penjing a Penjing is the story, it is a Chinese story.
 
Last edited:
Messages
1,773
Reaction score
14
Location
Ottawa, KS
USDA Zone
6
Will,
I like your scene a lot. It has a quietness or serenity about it. Thank you for sharing this one!
 
Messages
2,776
Reaction score
21
Location
Michigan, USA
USDA Zone
5
Hey, you all - I don't MIND if someone comments or criticizes or praises - please feel free. It just wasn't my intent in posting. Sheesh! :)

Thanks Will, I was hoping you were not limiting discussion on this interesting piece, it would be a shame not to explore it further.

I am afraid I am in the minority here, there are many things about this scene that works, but there are also many things that do not, in my opinion.

The first thing that bothers my eye is that not a single base of any of the trees is visible. This interrupts the visual flow and suggests young trees instead of mature, as older trees in a group usually (but not always) shade out any undergrowth, except for a few random patches. Maybe just showing the main tree all the way to the soil would tie this piece down and ground the viewer enough to where the other bases could remain hid.

The three trees on the right, especially the main tree, have no taper at all.

The pitchfork jins on the main tree looks unnatural.

The branching and placement on the main tree is rather messy and does not reflect the same environmental conditions as the other three trees do.

The tree on the left is too close in height to the main tree on the right.

The pot is too busy, drawing the eye down and away from the group.


All of the above can be easily corrected though. What I do like is the perspective created, the linear and curvilinear perspectives are well done and makes the distance to the horizon look very deep, it draws the eye in very nicely.

I also like the different textures of ground cover, these also add a good sense of scale to the whole.

It is an imaginative use of an even number of trees, but I can't help thinking that a small tree (young tree) leaning away on the far right side would improve this greatly.

All In all, yes, I enjoy it.

As to the Penjing vs bonsai debate, bonsai is a tree in a pot by definition, Penjing is scenery on a tray. However, I do not consider this as Penjing, instead I would call it Saikei. Although Saikei are often confused with forests lately, they are not the same thing. Most Saikei have other objects that make up an odd number when counted with the forest trees. And they do go by a different set of design principles. So what is the difference? Forests or Saikei are naturalistic, Penjing is almost surreal, magical, or otherworldly...Forests or Saikei speaks of reality where Penjing speaks of fantasy.



Will
 
Messages
271
Reaction score
3
Location
Scandinavia
USDA Zone
3b
I enjoy it!

However there are some "problems" I would like to discuss.

To me, the movement is all over the place as I've tried to illustrate in picture one. I think it would look better if there was a coherent movement in one direction or another to create a greater visual harmony.

In pic.2 there are two branches visually touching eachother (ha-ha I know :)). This is known as a "tangent" if it's found in paintings, and considered a big no-no. In this case it really draws the eye so you might want to consider shortening one of the branches.

I understand what you'e been trying to do with the small rock, but I don't think it really works i.e it doesn't act as a big enough counterweight to the right side of the group. The busy area in the top left portion of the main tree would require something bigger (or more colorful, or different shape etc) on the left side. However, since it would look strange to have a big red star (just making a point) there I would suggest thinning that area instead.

I think the small tree is a good idea, but it should perhaps be place differently. In my opinion, the planting needs the negative space between the two larger trees. I would suggest moving it, and use the small tree to help "correct" the "problem" I mentioned in pic 1.

All in all I kinda like it though!
 

Attachments

  • afp21.jpg
    afp21.jpg
    52.2 KB · Views: 38
  • afp22.jpg
    afp22.jpg
    12 KB · Views: 25

JasonG

Chumono
Messages
786
Reaction score
16
Location
NW Oregon
Interesting comments so far....

One thing everyone is forgetting is these trees are yamadori and Will's group here reflect a SUB Alpine setting quite nicely. When you run across this type of setting in the wild, these trees look just like this, lacking taper and everything. I agree that the branches could be tidy'd up a little but for the most part it is a very natural looking piece of work right down to the native under growth.

Good job Will, this is nice!

Thanks for sharing!

Jason
 

grog

Shohin
Messages
385
Reaction score
22
Location
Iowa
USDA Zone
5
Whether it's a bonsai/saikei/penjing/ham sandwich I couldn't say, but i like it.

As to the numbers not being "right", looks like a group of three and a single tree with distinct separation between them.
 

grouper52

Masterpiece
Messages
2,377
Reaction score
3,640
Location
Port Orchard, WA
USDA Zone
8
Well, I wasn't looking for feedback, but I appreciate what you all offered, and I'm glad the composition gave enjoyment and food for thought to so many.

Jason, I thought your points, from someone who spends a lot of time out collecting in the Western wilds, were especially accurate. For health reasons, I don't get up to the rugged heights much anymore like I used to, but I, too, thought the planting captured that sort of scene fairly well, which is exactly why I thought to compose it when I saw these wild-collected trees at a nursery one day.

I will tinker with it over the next few years, taking a lot of the helpful hints you all offered into account, and hopefully refine it into an even more convincing and evocative scene. Thanks everyone.

grouper52
 

Dwight

Chumono
Messages
599
Reaction score
7
Location
El Paso , TX
Wayne , I don't give a damn what you call it , it's cool. Like Bbarry says , it takes you into the forest which is a good thing. BTW , it doesn't really break the odd number rule as it is a landscape composed of a group of three and a single with stone. New math.
 

Similar threads

Top Bottom