Book Review: "Vision of My Soul" by Robert Steven

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I've been spending some time with Robert Steven's first excellent work lately. I'm not a big fan of collecting beautifully bound or first-edition books. Some people live for this, others enjoy it, and that's fine for them. For my money, though, the only value of a book as such is the information and message conveyed therein. That's what stands the test of time.

I've read other reviews of this book from the adorers (Will Heath and Rick Moquin) to those with a less idealistic view (unnamed). These were all reviews of the limited first edition with the special silver-leaf binding, and as such, a portion of their reviews were about the book itself as a work of art. The second edition is softback, and while still a handsome book, much of the distraction of the "coffee-table book" nature of the first edition has been done away with. This suits my temperament perfectly. Let's look at the content without all the distraction.

You can find the whole review at Bonsai Study Group and at my blog, both linked in my signature.
 

Yamadori

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Chris, I read your review and I completely agree. I LOVE this book. It definately takes you to the next realm of understanding the art of bonsai and it gives you permission to envision your tree with your own eyes rather than creating a cookie cutter version of someone elses trees. It is the first bonsai book I read from cover to cover and I am reading it again.
 

Rick Moquin

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Great review Chris.

Although the pizazz of the limited edition was worth the purchase price, I believe it was the content as described that made it priceless:

I finally received my copy of Robert's work as a birthday present. I believe only one word truly describes this work "powerful".

"On its root I firmly commit
In its trunk I keep my soul
Through its leaves, I reflect my vision..."

This masterpiece is a limited edition print signed by the artist. The attention to detail from beginning to end is phenomenal. The layout and thoughtfulness of its creation is second to none: from the handcrafted cover with silver leaf inlay; plethora of sketches and colour plates; to the easily understood artistic impressions conveyed by the author; this book was described in another review as a work of art and I can only echo the sentiments of that particular review. The combination of these two aspects makes this book extremely valuable in my opinion.

Works without soul, are mere objects on, or of any given medium. Understanding the basics towards an end is a great foundation in assisting the individual reach his/her goal. If the individual fails to portray the passion from deep within, and merely designing from the mind instead of the soul, then he/she is just creating "something".

True passion is not a mechanical process but one that evokes response. I guess other folks call this talent, but one can have talent without evoking passion, the true artist has both in my opinion.

I was fortunate enough to have acquired Robert's book and I am looking forward to the publishing of his second. No amount of reviews can accurately describe the contents of his work, nor convey the message held within. Although a book is classified as "literature" this volume is anything but, it is in a sense a work of art. Why? Because the book has the ability to move you. The author has managed to evoke deep seeded passions in the written word that, in my opinion, others fail miserably to achieve, art is felt not seen.

In closing for those who naturally possess artistic impressionistic talents, this work may well be of little value. However, for the multitudes that are struggling with the aforementioned required elements in Bonsai, it is a much-needed reference to one's literary collection.


Edit:
The link provided takes you to a review of his second book
 
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grouper52

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I thought I had given mine away, but had not. It's in almost new condition. Second edition.

Anyone who wants it can send me the price of the postage and it's yours. No joke.
 

grouper52

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I've already had two requests for my copy, so there's probably little need for others to PM me.
 
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I thought I had given mine away, but had not. It's in almost new condition. Second edition.

Anyone who wants it can send me the price of the postage and it's yours. No joke.

Wow. Just wow.
 
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Nah, it's the giving it away that kind of got to me. I've owned a lot of bonsai books and not one of them ever really repelled me until recently. Even then I'd like to get something out of it.
 

Attila Soos

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Nah, it's the giving it away that kind of got to me. I've owned a lot of bonsai books and not one of them ever really repelled me until recently. Even then I'd like to get something out of it.

I know what you meant, I was just pulling your leg.

I love both books from Robert, but as I said before, I don't have high expectations from any bonsai book. But I do have high expectations when it comes to bonsai.
 

Smoke

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What is that I smell......oh yea, validation
 
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http://bonsainut.com/forums/showpost.php?p=43831&postcount=225

Will Heath said:
Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris Johnston
....I'll be doing a review of both books soon......

Not that a wrong caption would be much to review anyhow....


It'll be nice to see an unbiased review of Robert's second book, maybe we'll all be surprised?

Surprised about what? And was anyone? Anyone? Bueller?
 

Smoke

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I was surprised. I was surprised that people still bought into the hype.

Lemmings I tell you....
 

Yamadori

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Lemmings I tell you....

According to Wikipedia, "Lemmings became notoriously famous because of unsubstantiated myths that they commit mass suicide when they migrate"

Unsubtantiated Al, ya hear me, unsubstatiated. So there.
 

Smoke

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According to Wikipedia, "Lemmings became notoriously famous because of unsubstantiated myths that they commit mass suicide when they migrate"

Unsubtantiated Al, ya hear me, unsubstatiated. So there.

I think wikipedia is moderated by Al Gore, inventor of the internet and all around good guy. What Al doesn't know he fact checks in the National Enquirer. There, now everyone is clear how I feel about wikipedia.

I wish to leave no stones unturned, ya hear me, unturned!
 

Smoke

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Chris, I read your review and I completely agree. I LOVE this book. It definately takes you to the next realm of understanding the art of bonsai and it gives you permission to envision your tree with your own eyes rather than creating a cookie cutter version of someone elses trees. It is the first bonsai book I read from cover to cover and I am reading it again.

OK Barbara, now you have me on the ropes. I am going to throw you under the bus so far the bus driver is going to run out of gears before he gets out of the rut.;)

Above you have capitilized LOVE as in you really mean it. You speak of cookie cutter type trees with some disdain, it is not hard to see that. You speak of permission to envision.

Now I know you are very well educated, a public educator in fact. Your pedigree for social interaction is comendable. I totaly respect your body of work and you carry much weight in my eyes as far as your opinion. I have watched you work with bonsai and stones. I know you are a sponge and wish you could work on trees with every breathing moment.

I would like to hear in your words what it was about this book that gave you this feeling and how you can use that in your work with trees. What was it that became more understandable and how will you use that when you work on a tree again.

Of course my opening line was tongue and cheek and this is really from the heart. I find that I have to understand this better. I feel that since I know you I can get an honest dialog about what someone fairly new to the hooby sees in this book that they couldn't have gotten in a lot of places.

Let us not comment on the pictures, I get that. I am more interested in the dialog of the book that made you want to read again.

I will bring two books on Saturday to tease you with and then maybe you can come back here and comment on them.
 

Yamadori

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Well put me on the spot why dont ya.;)

Yes I love the book. It is not like any of the other books I own. Maybe there are better books on the subject that you can show me. I look forward to seeing what you have.

I don't distain the cookie cutter trees. I am bored by them. They don't communicate a message, a story, an identity to me. It is not a soulful connection. I know others love them and that is really wonderful. If they touch another person in that inspirational place then I think that is validation of the value of those trees. Now I respect the time, effort, and skill that went into them. I have yet to achieve something that could be compared so I would never treat them with an attitude of distain. I also believe that it is important to learn the traditional rules, forms, and styles. I just don't want to be dogmatic about them.

I will address the rest of your post later. It will take thoughtful energy and I am dog tired after launching a serious expansion of a school district program, taking on 2 new staff members and 35 more students, all since Tuesday. Bear with me.

I could use all the teasing you can dish out on Saturday.
 

Smoke

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What I am going to bring will indeed have many cookie cutter trees in them. It might be interesting to find out from your point of view what a cookie cutter is. That should prove interesting. I may have some cookie cutters that blow your socks off...if thats possible;)

One tease is from the late fifties and one is from the sixties and one is from two years ago. It will be keen to see your views on the art thru the ages.



See you Sat.
 
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