Can a tree be too symmetrical to the point of boring

greerhw

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I was looking through some of my bonsai magazines and I had an epiphany. Some very nice trees are just boring to me. A broom style or a perfect formal upright shows no imagination to me. One reason I like Itowgawa junipers, they are abstract to anything in nature and you are free to do what ever you want to one, it dances in front of the eye. Shari and jin tell you a story. California junipers, Rocky Mountain junipers stir the imagination and convey a message that no other trees can. "D" trees can show someones skill with ramification , but all that does for me is show me the owner knows what he is doing, no imagination, just copy nature. Some will agree, some won't, but I will just hang it all out there for some good dialog (I hope) on bonsai styles.

keep it green,
Harry
 

Attila Soos

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I was looking through some of my bonsai magazines and I had an epiphany. Some very nice trees are just boring to me. A broom style or a perfect formal upright shows no imagination to me.

A perfect formal upright conifer (I don't believe in a formal upright deciduous) is like a fine wine. One needs to appreciate the nuances and fine points. I think it takes a long time to develope a good taste for it. I see it somewhat akin to bunjin, although it has an entirely different look and it is seemingly opposite to it (formal upright is the most constrained, bunjin is free form). But the appreciation of it to me is very similar.

This is not to say that there are no boring formal upright trees. But the boring ones are the bad ones.

(Check out Charles Cerronio's book on Bonsai Styles. It gives you an idea of how a good formal upright looks like).

As to the broom style, there are only two seasons, when they are at their best: winter silhouette, and fall color. A good broom style can look spectacular in fall color, or when bare. I still remember in my mind's eye Debrah Koreshoff's broom zelkova from her book. It's one of the lasting images in my mind, since I started bonsai.
 

Ang3lfir3

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Large amounts of symmetry do somewhat go against the asthetics of bonsai design. If we were to focus on eastern design concepts (lets not get too stuck on that) then you see that asymmetry is prefered to symmetrical design.

A perfect broom style can be boring but when coupled with a more naturalistic stlye and wonderful trunk a broom can be very interesting. Please don't think that all D trees are brooms as there are so many wonderful D trees out there that bear no resemblance to a broom.

Formal Uprights can be very boring when done poorly but as Attila said they can have a grace and wonderment about them that can be appreciated. They don't often depict ancient or even old trees but when they do they can be marvelous.

Junipers often show us the best vision of struggling to survive and often have the most amazing of shapes. They are wonderful but can often even be boring. I've seen enough mushroom capped twisted junipers for a lifetime.

Styles can become boring once they are repeated too much. The most interesting trees I see are the ones that make me stop and say "I haven't seen that before!" How inspiring to see a tree that makes you want to see every detail because you are looking at something you did not expect. The perfect pine is often boring. Why, because if I just saw the first branch i can often tell you what the rest of the tree looks like... there is no surprise. The best designs are those that surprise us and give us moments of enlightenment and inspiration.

So... a boring tree.. is a design I have seen so many times before.. it might be different material but it lacks surprise.
 

greerhw

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Here is one of my larger Itowgawa's that I feel gives the eye a treat....

keep it green,
Harry
 

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mcpesq817

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Here is one of my larger Itowgawa's that I feel gives the eye a treat....

keep it green,
Harry
Wow, that's fantastic! Definitely a treat! Thanks for sharing.
 

TheSteve

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Not too bad Harry.... for a beginner.










Just kidding Killer tree and yes they can be too symmetrical.
 

Paul H.

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Very nice tree. And yes some tree are boring , no matter how well they are done .
 

snobird

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In my view formal upright and broom styles are very difficult to do perfectly. A thick branch on a formal upright can bend the trunk at that point so that it is not straight anymore as an example of one thing that can go wrong. With brooms I'm always reminded of a little book published by the Brooklyn Botanical Garden. In it is a story of a monk, I think, that only did zelkova broom trees from seed. The article stated that his trees commanded higher prices because of the degree of difficulty. But, true on the other hand, it is very boring if a lot of these trees are placed next to each other.
 

Tachigi

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OK Harry you baited me in ...Nice treat indeed!!!

As to your original question of symmetry I would answer yes, then ask why you would want to make a tree symmetrical? Very few things in nature are symmetrical, certainly not trees untouched by man. A good article on symmetry and visual balance was posted at the vault discussing just this.

Symmetry I think can be confused with rhythm and harmony in a tree. Your Itowgawa for example is certainly not symmetrical. It does have rhythm which adds to the over all harmony of the tree making it interesting and peaks curiosity at every turn and twist. These rhythms are familiar in the composition each one of those being uniquely different. The visual balance of your tree is really good, making it comfortable to view and ties up the whole overall package.

I suppose from a technical stand point symmetry, as its applied to a specific branch, has its place in providing equal spacing in a designated area there by giving a fuller look to that branch....but that I believe is where symmetry ends when it comes to bonsai.

An asymmetrical shape with good harmony, rhythm, visual balance is what truly makes a good bonsai in the design process and what imitates nature the closest.
 

Vance Wood

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Very nice tree. And yes some tree are boring , no matter how well they are done .
If a tree is boring it cannot be well done. A well done tree must communicate with the viewer.
 

Rick Moquin

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That is a difficult question to answer as was previously stated. If a tree is well done it captures the viewer like a boa constrictor. Take Kimura's work for example I prefer some of his more clasical lines than most of his abstracts.

The following two pics are moving. I like Walter's Ezo spruce very much. The 2nd a well known Japanese white pine I believe (expensive) which I'm not to fussy about but admire in reverie the skill it took towards accomplishing the symmetry and energy balance of this particular tree. Those little pompoms where not easy to achieve.
 

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Tachigi

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Rick ole buddy...when you look at that white pine do you see symmetry or visual balance on many differnt levels?
 

greerhw

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That is a difficult question to answer as was previously stated. If a tree is well done it captures the viewer like a boa constrictor. Take Kimura's work for example I prefer some of his more clasical lines than most of his abstracts.

The following two pics are moving. I like Walter's Ezo spruce very much. The 2nd a well known Japanese white pine I believe (expensive) which I'm not to fussy about but admire in reverie the skill it took towards accomplishing the symmetry and energy balance of this particular tree. Those little pompoms where not easy to achieve.
I'm sure Walters tree took a lot of pains taking work and a few years to create, but when a tree looks to me like it needs lights, tensil, bright globes hanging and a star on top, I lose all interest. The JWP has a nice trunk.

keep it green,
Harry
 

greerhw

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OK Harry you baited me in ...Nice treat indeed!!!

As to your original question of symmetry I would answer yes, then ask why you would want to make a tree symmetrical? Very few things in nature are symmetrical, certainly not trees untouched by man. A good article on symmetry and visual balance was posted at the vault discussing just this.

Symmetry I think can be confused with rhythm and harmony in a tree. Your Itowgawa for example is certainly not symmetrical. It does have rhythm which adds to the over all harmony of the tree making it interesting and peaks curiosity at every turn and twist. These rhythms are familiar in the composition each one of those being uniquely different. The visual balance of your tree is really good, making it comfortable to view and ties up the whole overall package.

I suppose from a technical stand point symmetry, as its applied to a specific branch, has its place in providing equal spacing in a designated area there by giving a fuller look to that branch....but that I believe is where symmetry ends when it comes to bonsai.

An asymmetrical shape with good harmony, rhythm, visual balance is what truly makes a good bonsai in the design process and what imitates nature the closest.
Ok, take the hook and worm out of your mouth, you know you can't pass up a thread that allows you an opportunity to discuss bonsai, but I suprised that I didn't read any remarks about D trees.....:D

keep it green,
Harry
 

grouper52

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I'm a little late to this discussion, but let me weigh in anyway, FWIW.

But before I do, Harry that is a marvelous, marvelous tree! Yeow! I'm not often jealous, but . . . .

What I find boring is a tree that is predictable. Lots of things, even if very skillfully done, can end up looking very predictable to me on bonsai. I think that, by it's very nature, perfect symmetry is very predictable, and hence probably likely to be boring to me. Near-symmetry, however, by its very imperfection, can be very exciting, providing the mind a subtle contrast with the expected, the predictable.

I would say more, but my mind is befuddled - that tree just keeps pulling my attention away!
 
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Aside from the outstanding tree-porn provided by Harry....

I feel like the proud mother who has watched her child grow up to be a true man... I think I need a tissue. :eek:

My lil Harry... he's all growed up... I couldn't be more proud. :D *kiss*

To ask those questions... to have had that epiphany... it's a wonderful thing. Truly. Not everyone gets there. It's like Grouper says.... predictable.... is... well... yawn.

I've admired the work that goes into good, even great, uprights... but a one time glance is more than enough. Unlike your beautiful shimp... that I could look at it for hours and not be nearly filled with looking at it. Just put a nice cold something beside my chair and leave me well enough alone when I come sit in your back yard some day... I won't feel neglected in the least. ;)

That ezo of Walter's shows the obvious signs of great care and skill... if we knocked out the symmerty with some breaks, and deadwood, and I would find it infinitely more interesting. But it's not my tree, and I have no doubt Walter is perfectly happy with it... and that's fine too.

Warmest regards,

Victrinia
 

Rick Moquin

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Rick ole buddy...when you look at that white pine do you see symmetry or visual balance on many differnt levels?
I was strictly speaking of capturing the viewer Tom. The white pine is anything but symmetrical, but I do not like this particular tree. However, as explained I can look at it with admiration going from pompom to pompom.

There is a certain degree of symmetry in Walters tree, yet I do not find it boring.

Harry that is indeed a great tree with interesting flow and tension, anything but boring, but personal taste, I wouldn't have an entire bench of them.

To some, bonsai is a lot of dead wood, or the "art" side I wish to call it. That is also why I mentioned Kimura. Kimura is renowned for his overly carved chainsaw renditions, lot's of dynamism there, but we know very little of his quiet side or more classical side if you will. In comparison he has some classical designs that are anything but boring.

What I was trying to convey is that with symmetrical creations they need to be extremely well done or as Will put it unpredictable.
 

Rick Moquin

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As an addendum I believe it was BNut that posted a broom (something) that was overly ramified and asked opinions. One can stop and admire the skill it took to execute what was there, but IMO that tree was overdone and indeed looked artificial. Although it had great ramification.
 

Vance Wood

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As an addendum I believe it was BNut that posted a broom (something) that was overly ramified and asked opinions. One can stop and admire the skill it took to execute what was there, but IMO that tree was overdone and indeed looked artificial. Although it had great ramification.
This is the point of the entire discussion, the appearance of artificiality. Even if something appears to be symmetrical in nature it really is not. Look at the human face. On first glance what is considered to be the normal human face is symmetrical. On close examination you will find that this is not so. Usually one ear is a little lower than the other, one eye is not quite the same shape as the other. The eye brows can be unequal and so on. The perfectly symmetrical face appears unnatural. The same is true with trees, even the Formal Upright where symmetry is the goal, does not work if one side is exactly like the other. That's why the concept of bar branches is considered a no-no. The bottom line is that perfect symmetry does not exist in nature. If it is acheived the tree will look boring and uninteresting. Without a degree of asymmetry there is no movement to tantilize the eye and pique the imagination. Without a degree of asymmetry there is no evidence of life or life experience.
 
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