Nature as teacher

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#1
Very often we forget that bonsai is supposed to be a representation of those trees found in nature. In fact the earliest examples of the art were collected trees. Cultivated trees only followed when collected trees became increasingly inaccessible and illegal.

Following is an example of how we can look to nature for inspiration. It is one thing to look at a tree and try to mimic it's style and form but it is often another to examine the elements of a natural tree and attempt to mimic them.

Take note of the curvature and the way the branch has changed direction in such a way as to defy explanation. It is in these features that we can create more natural looking bonsai.

I do not now remember exactly where this photo was taken but it was around 9,000 feet.
 

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#2
Over the years, what has helped me to grasp the japanese mindset, is to become involved in multiple japanese hobbies. The culmination of what they look for and why they see it becomes apparent. For example in Ikebana, one school (there are many) displays it's featured pieces with the idea that the sun is touching one side or the other. A simple concept, we see it in tokonoma display with bonsai. But as your sitting high atop a mountain and studying the trees and their growth pattern, It makes you very aware of where the sun rises and sets and why trees over the decades have reached for it, and hence contributing to their shape.
I'm in the midst of downsizing now and have my camera packed in any number of stored boxes. I would have liked to have shown a picture of a high mountain alpine fir that sat in the sales area of NW bonsai for two years. The others gathered nearby had long gone home. But this particular tree had all of it's limbs facing the front of the tree because behind it was a rock wall. I spent hours wiring every little piece to adjust it to it's new life in the pot. It was good sized or else it would have been a candidate for establishing on a stone slab with a stone cliff behind. Too heavy for me to move in my advancing years.
But my point is that so much affects why a tree grows the way it does. Mother nature can open your eyes as well as learning from those who went before, perfecting the art of really "seeing", and then being able to understand why....
 
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#5
Over the years, what has helped me to grasp the japanese mindset, is to become involved in multiple japanese hobbies. The culmination of what they look for and why they see it becomes apparent. For example in Ikebana, one school (there are many) displays it's featured pieces with the idea that the sun is touching one side or the other. A simple concept, we see it in tokonoma display with bonsai. But as your sitting high atop a mountain and studying the trees and their growth pattern, It makes you very aware of where the sun rises and sets and why trees over the decades have reached for it, and hence contributing to their shape.
I'm in the midst of downsizing now and have my camera packed in any number of stored boxes. I would have liked to have shown a picture of a high mountain alpine fir that sat in the sales area of NW bonsai for two years. The others gathered nearby had long gone home. But this particular tree had all of it's limbs facing the front of the tree because behind it was a rock wall. I spent hours wiring every little piece to adjust it to it's new life in the pot. It was good sized or else it would have been a candidate for establishing on a stone slab with a stone cliff behind. Too heavy for me to move in my advancing years.
But my point is that so much affects why a tree grows the way it does. Mother nature can open your eyes as well as learning from those who went before, perfecting the art of really "seeing", and then being able to understand why....
In my understanding of other aspects of Japanese craft the over-arching take away is that everything they do has a specific purpose. For instance, If you examine the joinery of japanese timber framing you'll see that every joint locks in all axes. Incredibly complicated, yet every part of it has an exact purpose.

I think one of the reasons that they enjoy bonsai is that the mountain trees that they're duplicating have been reduced to only what is purposeful and only what can continue to survive.
 
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#11
Great point Vance - I try to look at nature for inspiration as much as I possibly can. It's amazing how my perspective has changed towards nature since I've started bonsai these past 2 years. I've always loved being outside and enjoying nature but I look at the landscapes around me in a completely different way and they intrigue me to such a high extent now.

I have over 100 acres of woods by my house and I take hikes back there from time to time, I always keep my eye out looking for trees that have grown in an odd manner from various environmental forces. It's filled with the Florida Pine trees and they're incredibly inspiring, they do prescribed burns in the woods I'm referring to so as a result the pines have tons of deadwood and shari.
 
#12
In my understanding of other aspects of Japanese craft the over-arching take away is that everything they do has a specific purpose. For instance, If you examine the joinery of japanese timber framing you'll see that every joint locks in all axes. Incredibly complicated, yet every part of it has an exact purpose.

I think one of the reasons that they enjoy bonsai is that the mountain trees that they're duplicating have been reduced to only what is purposeful and only what can continue to survive.
I found this to be very apparent as an auto tech. Honda's, my favorite of Japanese cars for reliability and affordability, are designed perfectly, if something looks wrong it is, and every bracket and bolt has a purpose, there are no unnecessary or unneeded parts, everything has a purpose. Nissan, Toyota, Mitsubishi, and Subaru are they same way just slightly different approaches in engineering.
 
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#15
I feel fortunate to live where I do with just a short trip to the mountains or coast to enjoy trees for bonsai inspiration. Studying trees in nature, I feel is the best way to develop an eye for styling bonsai. One of the most difficult skills in bonsai in my own experience is carving deadwood that looks natural. Taking lots of photos of natural deadwood for future reference helps me greatly.
Here's a little tree porn from California....
 

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#17
We appreciate nature as we find it in our various countries. And sometimes we ignore all of the, old and new Japanese rules and display unusual trees in an unusual manner.

But most of those who judge at our shows are often trained in Japan and judge through the Japanese screens. And these judges are setting the standard for American bonsai (because most are desires of winning a ribbon). So the question becomes how do we change the judges Japanese screens to that of a naturalized screen?
 

edprocoat

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#18
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#19
I think this topc came up because many of us have had different teachers and have learned they all have different ways of doing things. In this hobby and other related japanese hobbies ( Koi, suiseki, ikebana, etc.) there are as many schools of thought as there are teachers.
But because of the vastness of the united states, and the particular part you live in, mother nature herself, can teach you things different from one geographic area over another.

I think it all comes down to subectivity and each individual's ability to identify it, and deal with it, with dignity and freedom from having to do it in a certain way.

Mother nature is the ultimate teacher, just be willing to accept what she teaches you, if different from somebody else who's classroom location is quite different. :)
 

sorce

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#20
She also taught......

How to remove old Juniper needles.

The other day I walked out of the woods covered in those 2legged sticky seeds. Been covered in them a lot.
Removing them is like plucking old Juniper needles.

Sorce
 

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