Do established bonsai guidelines stifle creativity?

Anthony

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Ho ho Sifu,

Lingnan since 1980, we had Wu Yee Sun's Book.
As well as 1982 Hu Yunhua's - Penjing
Plus, the time and exposure to very large
and expensive Bonsai at Innocenti's. as well as
many Chinese folk across London and Italy.

So tons of practice and learning to work - with -
the trees.

We can both see down the road and it gets worse
if we have worked on the type before.
This is why K can draw a plant into creation.

He simply married the studies of before attempting
an oil painting to doing Bonsai.
Makes life simple.

Plus using Lingnan, is easy.
This growing, training plant thing is not rocket
science.

Remember, I only came here to ask about small
needles on J.b.pine.
And we were accidentally hitting 1 to 1/2 needles
just not able to do it at will.

Soil, Design have been worked out since the early
80's.
Experimentation, it is what keeps us going.
Good Day
Anthony
 
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When an artist adds a little addition to the scene of the painting outside the border it is called a “Remarque”. It is usually done on prints and adds greatly to their value. That would not be so if people didn’t think it looked cool.

So, I have this larch that I put in a small display we did for a local Seniors Expo. Just for the fun of it I added a rock which fit nicely over the back corner of the pot much like a Remarque on a painting. I was told that it “broke the rules” and, basically, that I should know better. I actually liked it.

Now, that isn’t particularly creative, I wasn’t trying to break new ground but I did break the rules. I will probably keep it, for a while at least. The question is, should I refrain from showing it that way?

View attachment 198218 View attachment 198219
There are two rules that I follow religiously when working on my trees.

First: "Is this something that I could imagine happening at full scale in nature?"
Second: "Is this visually appealing to me?"

All other rules, including (and especially) the traditional ones, fall below that. My trees, my art, my call. The traditional rules certainly inform what I do, and when in doubt, they provide something solid to fall back on. But at the end of the day, it's my project and my trees have nobody to please but me.

So given that, could a larch grow in the wild next to a big rock? Sure. And despite arguments that could be made about the ideal placement, or whether or not it should be there, when you look at the base of that tree, I can easily imagine this being something that could occur in nature, as I've seen this type of thing countless times.

So rule #1 is satisfied. And obviously rule #2 is satisfied if you like it.

I think you're good. Your tree, your art, your call. =)
 

coh

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There are two rules that I follow religiously when working on my trees.

First: "Is this something that I could imagine happening at full scale in nature?"
Second: "Is this visually appealing to me?"

All other rules, including (and especially) the traditional ones, fall below that. My trees, my art, my call. The traditional rules certainly inform what I do, and when in doubt, they provide something solid to fall back on. But at the end of the day, it's my project and my trees have nobody to please but me.

...

Your tree, your art, your call. =)
That sums it up pretty well! I like it...your tree, your art, your call.

The problems arise when you want to put that tree into a "bonsai" show where "bonsai" (typically) means trees that follow a certain set of rules, more or less. Or you show it on a forum and instead of getting likes you get the bean counters who look for every rule that was violated.

My tree, my art, my call...definitely going to remember that.
 
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There are two rules that I follow religiously when working on my trees.

First: "Is this something that I could imagine happening at full scale in nature?"
Second: "Is this visually appealing to me?"

All other rules, including (and especially) the traditional ones, fall below that. My trees, my art, my call. The traditional rules certainly inform what I do, and when in doubt, they provide something solid to fall back on. But at the end of the day, it's my project and my trees have nobody to please but me.

So given that, could a larch grow in the wild next to a big rock? Sure. And despite arguments that could be made about the ideal placement, or whether or not it should be there, when you look at the base of that tree, I can easily imagine this being something that could occur in nature, as I've seen this type of thing countless times.

So rule #1 is satisfied. And obviously rule #2 is satisfied if you like it.

I think you're good. Your tree, your art, your call. =)
You make a good point. Once while working on a shimpaku juniper it started looking like many trees I have seen high on remote mountain ridges (ravaged by wind and snow). I continued working on that until I could sit back and say "I have seen this tree many times" and looking at it brought back the memories of those times (oddly enough which included a rock sitting on one side of the tree reminiscent of the rugged conditions). Did if follow or break the "rules"? I don't know or care. When I looked at it I was happy, so I succeeded in achieving my objective.
I will note however that: A) having knowledge of proven techniques made getting good results easier (and death of the tree less likely), and B) my goal was a tree for me to enjoy, had I been planning on something I would enter into judging or try to sell, I would have done many things differently...e.g. followed the established "rules" for the intended audience.
 
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That sums it up pretty well! I like it...your tree, your art, your call.

The problems arise when you want to put that tree into a "bonsai" show where "bonsai" (typically) means trees that follow a certain set of rules, more or less. Or you show it on a forum and instead of getting likes you get the bean counters who look for every rule that was violated.

My tree, my art, my call...definitely going to remember that.
Like any kind of competition, if one's goal is to win, one must understand the criteria that go into winning, and then either follow the obvious path that comes with that, or choose to be an iconoclast knowing that it may not appeal to the judges.

If one's goal is simply to show one's trees or just to participate, then there are far less constraints. If one's goal is to be an iconoclast who shifts what it means for something to be bonsai, then perhaps there are also fewer constraints, but probably a more difficult path and maybe not as high a likelihood of winning a prize.

And there's nothing wrong with doing what it takes to win. There is both value and skill in producing the type of trees that win contests. And that doesn't mean you can't also produce other types of trees that don't. Or that you can't parlay a win into a platform that you could use to show the more iconoclastic trees ...

Now all that said, I think there are quite a few people who pull the "my tree, my art, my call" card who haven't taken the time to learn the rules and know what rules they are breaking, or why those rules are rules in the first place. So there is some value from a learning perspective in zooming out and objectively evaluating how good one's trees really are, not from the "I'm not as good as X?" or "Am I as good or better than Y?" perspective, but more from a "Is there something here that I can objectively improve on?" point of view.

One of my relatives has, in the past, been involved in Toastmaster's World Championship speech competitions. The professional advice there, from some former world champions, is that if you want to win, you want to be so good that the only real question is who comes in second. That may sound obvious, but there's a work ethos involved in pulling that off. It means you need to refine your speech better than anyone else, have great content, a flawless script, and flawless delivery. In practice, what it often means, is that you need to put in more work than anyone else. Does that guarantee a win? No, of course not. But nobody wins that contest and wonders how they got there, if you catch my drift.

Similarly, if you're going to participate and win contests with iconoclastic trees, this advice would probably apply. If you're going to do something non-standard, you need to execute on that idea flawlessly and put in every possible effort to prepare your tree. It needs to be that much better than the standard trees. That way, at least if you don't win, people probably will not be able to help but take notice. And maybe that's the ultimate point of art in any case.

I know this particular topic can be controversial and people get heated about it, but that's how I see it. It kind of is what it is. =)
 

Adair M

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Like any kind of competition, if one's goal is to win, one must understand the criteria that go into winning, and then either follow the obvious path that comes with that, or choose to be an iconoclast knowing that it may not appeal to the judges.

If one's goal is simply to show one's trees or just to participate, then there are far less constraints. If one's goal is to be an iconoclast who shifts what it means for something to be bonsai, then perhaps there are also fewer constraints, but probably a more difficult path and maybe not as high a likelihood of winning a prize.

And there's nothing wrong with doing what it takes to win. There is both value and skill in producing the type of trees that win contests. And that doesn't mean you can't also produce other types of trees that don't. Or that you can't parlay a win into a platform that you could use to show the more iconoclastic trees ...

Now all that said, I think there are quite a few people who pull the "my tree, my art, my call" card who haven't taken the time to learn the rules and know what rules they are breaking, or why those rules are rules in the first place. So there is some value from a learning perspective in zooming out and objectively evaluating how good one's trees really are, not from the "I'm not as good as X?" or "Am I as good or better than Y?" perspective, but more from a "Is there something here that I can objectively improve on?" point of view.

One of my relatives has, in the past, been involved in Toastmaster's World Championship speech competitions. The professional advice there, from some former world champions, is that if you want to win, you want to be so good that the only real question is who comes in second. That may sound obvious, but there's a work ethos involved in pulling that off. It means you need to refine your speech better than anyone else, have great content, a flawless script, and flawless delivery. In practice, what it often means, is that you need to put in more work than anyone else. Does that guarantee a win? No, of course not. But nobody wins that contest and wonders how they got there, if you catch my drift.

Similarly, if you're going to participate and win contests with iconoclastic trees, this advice would probably apply. If you're going to do something non-standard, you need to execute on that idea flawlessly and put in every possible effort to prepare your tree. It needs to be that much better than the standard trees. That way, at least if you don't win, people probably will not be able to help but take notice. And maybe that's the ultimate point of art in any case.

I know this particular topic can be controversial and people get heated about it, but that's how I see it. It kind of is what it is. =)
There’s a video, a kind of documentary, on Shinji Suzuki. It shows his preparation of a tree for the Kokofu-ten Show. The documentary traces his path for a year. How he chose the particular tree. How many advised him against using that particular tree if he wanted to win. It shows him hiking up the mountains to study what is believed to be the oldest living tree in Japan. For him, it was a Spiritual experience. And it shows how he did at Kokofu.

Good video for anyone truly interestied in showing. And for those who want to have a closer connection with their trees.
 

Adair M

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There’s a video, a kind of documentary, on Shinji Suzuki. It shows his preparation of a tree for the Kokofu-ten Show. The documentary traces his path for a year. How he chose the particular tree. How many advised him against using that particular tree if he wanted to win. It shows him hiking up the mountains to study what is believed to be the oldest living tree in Japan. For him, it was a Spiritual experience. And it shows how he did at Kokofu.

Good video for anyone truly interestied in showing. And for those who want to have a closer connection with their trees.
Here is a link to the video:

 
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Now that is an interesting question. I once asked PhD psychologist with a world wide reputation what makes something art. He said psychologists, artists of all kinds, even philosophers, have debated that for years and there was no useful, widely accepted definition of art. What Adair gave me were reasons why it didn't work for him. And why so nasty to people who like pool playing dogs? How does that hurt you? When I was a teenager I had a velvet Elvis in my room. I lived through it.
psychologists are not art experts. His opinion is less valid than that of my colleagues, for example, in that regard. If you ask him about psychology, sure. But about art, then he is being just a dilettantte, same as if he were talking about quantum physics
 
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psychologists are not art experts. His opinion is less valid than that of my colleagues, for example, in that regard. If you ask him about psychology, sure. But about art, then he is being just a dilettantte, same as if he were talking about quantum physics
Not so. The study of the human mind's reaction to art has long been an area of psychological study. In fact artists can do art but they are the dilettantes when it comes to the psychology of it.
 
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the study of
Not so. The study of the human mind's reaction to art has long been an area of psychological study. In fact artists can do art but they are the dilettantes when it comes to the psychology of it.
the study of the mind's reaction to art is not the same than the study of art. To attempt to deduce rules of art from it is logically impossible
 
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the study of

the study of the mind's reaction to art is not the same than the study of art. To attempt to deduce rules of art from it is logically impossible
the study of

the study of the mind's reaction to art is not the same than the study of art. To attempt to deduce rules of art from it is logically impossible
He would be amused that you think so.
 
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Learning to wire is learning a diagram, then learning how to apply that diagram to the branch structure you are working on. After a while, with sufficient practice, you don’t have to “think” about it, it comes “naturally”. Your eye sees the pattern, your hand have the muscle memory to apply the wire correctly and efficiently. The same way, every time.
I came across this video today, which I think shows quite well what you explain here. Just the juggling this kid does is a challenge to many. And for most, solving a rubics cube is like magic. Yet, but repetition, this becomes possible: