Collecting Trees from Nature for Bonsai

Smoke

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In a recent thread Will Heath stated:

"Naturalistic has very little to do with what exists in nature, more so having the appearance of being untouched by man. In bonsai we force perspective, create near or far views, play with proportions, and otherwise stretch reality to create an illusion of a mature tree instead of a little young tree in a pot. The reason just collecting a tree and placing it in a pot does not work for bonsai is that there is no illusion (expect possibly in very rare cases) of a mature, full grown tree. This is why Al's skinny trunk theory is flawed, we use ratios that give the illusion of a full sized tree because using actual ratios of trees in nature will not present the image needed for a bonsai to be successful."

While I find this statement rather odd ( I said stupid, but I'm trying to be nicer:)) I would love to hear from those that have been in bonsai for many years, go to the better exhibits around the country or world for that matter, for your take on this statement.

While I highlighted the part that is almost unbelievable, it is the last sentance that answers it's own question I find most troubling, almost proving what I said is correct.:eek:

I feel this one deserves it's own thread....What say you!
 
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I feel this one deserves it's own thread....What say you!
I say you do more than call it stupid and prove the worth of your words by debating my words you have quoted with your own, before someone else does it for you.



;)




Will
 

Smoke

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Read it again Will, I don't need to defend it you defended it for me.

Keep on reading it till you get it. It is there...I promise


edit: in fact I will go so far as removing "almost" from my last line

"While I highlighted the part that is almost unbelievable, it is the last sentance that answers it's own question I find most troubling, proving what I said is correct".

You have to have some patience Will, it's not everyday I get something this juicy handed to me..I have to savor this. My contribution will come. I wish for those that have some experience with collecting some very good trees to have a stab at this.

BTW you keep avoiding the picture issue like jock itch...what gives?
 
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Lol, maybe someone else will explain it to you Al, I don't have time to tonight. :rolleyes:




Will
 

Smoke

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I say you do more than call it stupid and prove the worth of your words by debating my words you have quoted with your own, before someone else does it for you.



;)




Will

uhhh... "what say you" was not directed to you. I have your views in quotes. Frankly, I am hoping someone will do exactly that and bury this quote for good.
 

Tachigi

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Al, could you give us your quote in reference to your "skinny trunk theory" and save us the digging through posts. Unless this is a thread for just You and Will. In which case I'll pull up the recliner, pop a beer and enjoy the entertainment ;)
 
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Here ya go Tom,


John Naka said: "Don't make your tree look like a bonsai, make your bonsai look like a tree".

I said that statement was asinine. My opinion...I will explain.

It would read better if it said;

"Don't make your tree look like a bonsai, make your bonsai look like an artistic representation of a tree".

Too wordy I think, but I can live with it. In my opinion bonsai don't look like trees at all. Sure they represent trees and some do a better job at looking like a tree found in nature than others. This does no negate the fact that even trees as bonsai that don't look like natural trees can be beautiful. I just look at them with a different set of ideals.

Odd that somehow most of the more natural looking trees I find have rather thin trunks. More bunjin in appearance. This is how trees are in nature. Most trees in nature do not have sumo trunks with massive taper, something we find appealing in bonsai.

Will Heath said:
...if you truly believe that bonsai should be artistic representations of trees, as you claim, then what exists in nature actually has no relevance to bonsai design. In fact, what is natural would also play no role what-so-ever and be simply optional.

You used some trees from nature as examples and said, "Odd that somehow most of the more natural looking trees I find have rather thin trunks. More bunjin in appearance. This is how trees are in nature." Are you aware Al that the Bunjing or Literati style of bonsai is the only style that was not taken from trees in nature? I find it somewhat enlightening that the one style of many that you chose to use as an example of how trees grow in nature is the only style that wasn't based on nature at all.
 
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grouper52

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What's your "Skinny Trunk Theory", Al?

Is there any chance Will Heath has hacked your emails lately, disclosing your efforts to hide key data opposing your theory, and your efforts to manipulate the peer review process within the field? Or is the science settled in this key area of AGW (Anthropogenic Guy Wiring) theory?
 
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"...if you truly believe that bonsai should be artistic representations of trees, as you claim, then what exists in nature actually has no relevance to bonsai design. In fact, what is natural would also play no role what-so-ever and be simply optional."

this statement makes no sense. why can't bonsai reference nature and be artistic? realism in art can still be full of expression and artistic decisions. stop thinking that its all or nothing, cut and dry.

there are real trees that don't look beautiful and there are beautiful trees that don't look real. everything else falls somewhere in the middle.
 
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"...if you truly believe that bonsai should be artistic representations of trees, as you claim, then what exists in nature actually has no relevance to bonsai design. In fact, what is natural would also play no role what-so-ever and be simply optional."

this statement makes no sense. why can't bonsai reference nature and be artistic? realism in art can still be full of expression and artistic decisions. stop thinking that its all or nothing, cut and dry.

there are real trees that don't look beautiful and there are beautiful trees that don't look real. everything else falls somewhere in the middle.

You miss the point, if bonsai are to be truly artistic, then one can not be tied to strickly natural imitations of trees in nature. Certainly nature can be a guide and there is art to be found in naturalistic interpretations of trees, but such is not the only template for artistic bonsai.

Imagine the state of fine art today if artists were told that a painted tree can only be judged by how accurately it mimics a tree in nature, or if paintings of a person, or a sky, or a landscape could only be exact duplicates of nature. Where would the impressionists, the cubists, the futurists, and abstract artists be, where are they in bonsai?

I said "...if you truly believe that bonsai should be artistic representations of trees, as you claim, then what exists in nature actually has no relevance to bonsai design. In fact, what is natural would also play no role what-so-ever and be simply optional." to counter Al's seemingly contradictory statements that bonsai should be artistic representations of trees when he then focused on what is natural, a bonsai need not copy nature to be artistic.

Case in point, consider the ancient origins of bonsai in China, where bonsai were not valued for how closely they resembled a tree in nature, but instead how well the resembled dragons, tigers, serpents, and the like.


Will
 
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Smoke

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Al, could you give us your quote in reference to your "skinny trunk theory" and save us the digging through posts. Unless this is a thread for just You and Will. In which case I'll pull up the recliner, pop a beer and enjoy the entertainment ;)

Entertaining it will be, I just love it when Will is on the ropes.

Your gonna love picture gate...
 

Red Truck

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You miss the point

Case in point, consider the ancient origins of bonsai in China, where bonsai were not valued for how closely they resembled a tree in nature, but instead how well the resembled dragons, tigers, serpents, and the like.

Will

Will, you could not be further from the truth. Parroting information that gets swayed and slanted along the internet can get to the point the end product is far from the truth. I have fallen in the same rut so now I take the time needed to fully research information before I use the top Google listings as the last word.

Penjing (bonsai) is just what it says, miniature trees and landscape. Apart from its beauty in the most part it must look entirely Natural. You got it backwards. For those that want to get a better understanding, here is a better discription.

www.venuscomm.com/

Truck
 

rockm

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"Penjing (bonsai) is just what it says, miniature trees and landscape. Apart from its beauty in the most part it must look entirely Natural. You got it backwards. For those that want to get a better understanding, here is a better discription."

This is one of those "how many angels can dance on the head of a pin" arguments. Bonsai is natural and unnatural, artistic and naturalistic, it is not simple rote imitation of nature, nor is it all "art." It is a mix of all these things.

Embracing any of the extremes here cramps what bonsai is, I think. In the end, it's about trees that prompt some kind of reaction from the viewer...
 
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Attila Soos

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Art doesn't have to copy nature.

But bonsai doesn't have the total freedom of the abstract painting. Bonsai has serious restrictions.

Here are some examples of restrictions:

When creating a forest or a group of trees, the trees on the outside lean AWAY from the center of the group. If the spacing between the trees is wide enough, then the outside trees do not lean away, they are rather vertical. But the trees on the outside would NEVER lean towards the center of the group. According to the theory that art is completely free from nature, one could design a tight group of trees where all the trees would lean towards the center. Such a bonsai would look ridiculous.

Other example:
When creating a landscape with land and a lake or river, trees at the edge of the land will lean over the water. How would a landscape look if all the trees on the river bank would lean towards the land? Well, that would mean that there is a very windy landscape, and in that case, all the other trees would follow the direction of the wind as well. So we do follow the laws of nature, which in this case is the effect of the elements.

Other:
In abstract art we can ignore the laws of gravity.
How would a bonsai look, if the laws of gravity were ignored?

Other:
In nature, older branches look thicker than the younger ones. They are usually on the lower parts of the trunk.
In the spirit of freedom, we could design a bonsai where all the thick branches are on the top of the tree, and the older branches are on the bottom. One would call that a really bad bonsai.

So, with bonsai, the laws of nature cannot be ignored. In modern art, we can do anything we wish. They are two entirely different animals.

Once we agree that in bonsai, the laws of nature cannot be ignored, and certain laws HAVE to be respected (such as the laws of gravity, the plant's need for water and light, the effect of the elements - snow, wind, etc), the next step is to decide what natural phenomena CAN be ignored. I do agree that we don't have to follow EVERY SINGLE natural phenomena, but only the most important ones. But who is to decide which are the important natural phenomena to follow, and the unimportant ones to be broken? What if we think of one to be unimportant, but the viewer decides that it is in fact very important? Do we really want to cater only to the ignorant viewers (those who know little about the natural world), and we want the smart and informed viewers to stay away?

Obviously not. So the smart thing to do is to learn about the natural world and incorporate our knowledge into our bonsai design. Being ignorant and claiming that bonsai, just like abstract art, has nothing to do with nature, won't fly with the public.

Bonsai doesn't have to copy nature, but it has to suggest nature, using artistic means. These artistic means have to do with scale and perspective. So, the scale and perspective are distorted, in order to trick the eye. The degree of distortion is up to us. Usually, smaller trees require more distortion than larger ones, having very little visual mass. A very large bonsai (imperial size) can almost be presented with natural proportions. But when suggesting nature, this nature has the exact same natural laws that we are used to in real life. Throught this distorted lens of ours, nature is still nature as we know it.
 
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Entertaining it will be, I just love it when Will is on the ropes.

Your gonna love picture gate...
Al, you're sounding more and more like Kytus (King Kong) every day.....I guess my response to this unintelligible drivel is.....red fries cry grass on the bent sorrow.

Will, you could not be further from the truth. Parroting information that gets swayed and slanted along the internet can get to the point the end product is far from the truth. I have fallen in the same rut so now I take the time needed to fully research information before I use the top Google listings as the last word.

Penjing (bonsai) is just what it says, miniature trees and landscape. Apart from its beauty in the most part it must look entirely Natural. You got it backwards. For those that want to get a better understanding, here is a better discription.

www.venuscomm.com/

Truck
Maybe you should use google more, neither bonsai or penjing translates as "miniature trees and landscapes." You also obviously have no clue what penjing is or the many styles that it involves, such as single tree penjing, or of the history of Chinese bonsai, which did in fact highly value trees that resembled animals, both real and mythical, as did some early Japanese bonsai.

I have nothing backward, I did not say that a bonsai should never look natural, what I said was simply that imitating nature is not a prerequisite for art, yes, even bonsai art.

"Penjing (bonsai) is just what it says, miniature trees and landscape. Apart from its beauty in the most part it must look entirely Natural. You got it backwards. For those that want to get a better understanding, here is a better discription."

This is one of those "how many angels can dance on the head of a pin" arguments. Bonsai is natural and unnatural, artistic and naturalistic, it is not simple rote imitation of nature, nor is it all "art." It is a mix of all these things.

Embracing any of the extremes here cramps what bonsai is, I think. In the end, it's about trees that prompt some kind of reaction from the viewer...
This is a very intelligent post! I might add that bonsai artists often embrace the all natural or nothing approach, to the point where bonsai are critiqued on if they could or could not be found in nature as portrayed, this is severely limiting and stagnates the art form.

thats true art need not copy reality to be art, however nature and art are not mutually exclusive.
Very true.

Art doesn't have to copy nature.
Exactly.

But bonsai doesn't have the total freedom of the abstract painting. Bonsai has serious restrictions.
The only restrictions bonsai artists should have is that the tree remains alive and healthy.

Here are some examples of restrictions:
Oh oh. ;)

When creating a forest or a group of trees, the trees on the outside lean AWAY from the center of the group. If the spacing between the trees is wide enough, then the outside trees do not lean away, they are rather vertical. But the trees on the outside would NEVER lean towards the center of the group. According to the theory that art is completely free from nature, one could design a tight group of trees where all the trees would lean towards the center. Such a bonsai would look ridiculous.
Would it? have you ever seen this done? Maybe it would, maybe not, depending on many other factors. I agree this would be difficult and it is a rather extreme (and well thought out) example of distorting nature, not breaking away from it, there is a difference. What if you took one large tree and centered it and then planted all the other trees smaller and younger) around it bowing in toward the monarch? This could work and still meet your imaginary scenario.

Other:
In abstract art we can ignore the laws of gravity.
How would a bonsai look, if the laws of gravity were ignored?
Although, as agreed, we are bound by the nature of the medium we use, these boundaries can be played with, toyed with, stretched, and yet still obeyed. How about a tree with cascading branches that cascade downward to meet the table, lifting the pot into the air, the whole thing being supported by the cascading branches?

Other:
In nature, older branches look thicker than the younger ones. They are usually on the lower parts of the trunk.
In the spirit of freedom, we could design a bonsai where all the thick branches are on the top of the tree, and the older branches are on the bottom. One would call that a really bad bonsai.
Why? Why not jin and wire the upper branches to look like exposed roots and develop the branches to be thicker and longer at the top than at the bottom, an upside down triangle, if you will. Will it work? Who knows, but where are the attempts, the creativity, the artists? IS Nick Lenz the only one stretching the possibilities today?

So, with bonsai, the laws of nature cannot be ignored. In modern art, we can do anything we wish. They are two entirely different animals.
Not really.

The only laws of nature we must observe are those dealing with keeping the medium living, in modern art there are limitations as well with the medium used and modern artists also stretch those.



Will
 
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Attila Soos

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Well, I have no problem if you break all the natural laws, if you do bonsai for your own pleasure. After all, people don't have to like them, if you enjoy what you are doing.

But if you want others to enjoy your work, and you want to enter a judged event.... well, in that case you just need to show us all these trees that defy nature, and see what happens.:)

(BTW, the bonsai of Nick Lenz are very naturalistic. Occasionally he combines bonsai and sculpture, but not at the expense of naturalness).

If we vew bonsai as free from nature, than topiary is the highest form of bonsai, since it uses plants only as a medium, in order to create subjects that have nothing to do with trees. It is abstract to the extreme (I am not saying that there is anything wrong if you like topiary, it is a matter of personal taste). I've seen some great topiary in France, but I wouldn't call it bonsai. Would you? You should, as long as they are healty, and they are in large pots.
 
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