Some times you are just in awe...

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An amazing black pine. The care required to develop this tree was impressive. Almost as impressive as the care required to maintain it :)





 
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Great photography, but personally it looks like hundreds of other shohin black pines, this meets my definition of cookie cutter bonsai.













Not, mind you, that I would kick this tree off my bench for shedding needles.....I just think a little opening up of the foliage in order to lose that typical helment shaped crown, would do that remarkable trunk much more justice.






Will
 

Attila Soos

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An amazing black pine. The care required to develop this tree was impressive. Almost as impressive as the care required to maintain it :)
I agree, it is an amazing little tree. To me, it is a symbol of perfection.

Yes, it is a cookie cutter tree, but as I said on another forum, there is nothing wrong with cookie-cutter, as long as it is perfectly executed. Cookie cutter just means that it is a well tested design that has worked for hundreds of years. This design works, and will always work, no matter how many times it is copied.

Now, as to the question...Is this Art? ...that's another story:) (Oh, wait, there was no such question in this thread - and I really believe that this would be a useless question, anyway. Sorry for dropping a bomb on this great little tree)
 
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I agree, it is an amazing little tree. To me, it is a symbol of perfection.

Yes, it is a cookie cutter tree, but as I said on another forum, there is nothing wrong with cookie-cutter, as long as it is perfectly executed. Cookie cutter just means that it is a well tested design that has worked for hundreds of years. This design works, and will always work, no matter how many times it is copied.....

Now, as to the question...Is this Art? ...
Alright, who arted? ;)


No matter how many times Monet's "La Promenade" is copied, none of the copies are art, even if they are perfectly executed, they are just mere copies. Imagine seeking out fine art and stumbling time and time again across nothing but copies of works and even copies of copies......

Of course, for those who can not create art on the level of Monet, the option to buy an original may be quite expensive, so a copy by a skillful technician may be considered by some to be a step up from a print. Yet, isn't a print an exact copy of the original? Thousands of prints are sold depicting great masterpieces, cookie cutter? Or is the cookie cutters in this medium those painters who produce copies on canvas?

"....well tested design that has worked for hundreds of years. This design works, and will always work, no matter how many times it is copied....."

Well this may well be true, there is little doubt that such works lack creativity, perhaps even talent, but they do certainly show a great deal of skill.

That alone is enough to cause one to be in awe.





Will
 

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No matter how many times Monet's "La Promenade" is copied, none of the copies are art, even if they are perfectly executed
Yes, but to take the painting analogy further, I think you are painting with too broad a brush :) I don't think you are suggesting that all formal or informal upright Japanese black pine bonsai are all shallow copies of a single original, are you? Formal style bonsai adhere to the tightest standards of bonsai, and therefore, if executed well, will tend to look similar. I'm not sure one can get past this. I can admire the tree for its execution, despite it looking similar to other black pines executed in the same style.

Perhaps it is a question of intent? In one case people can set out to "copy" a specific bonsai. In another, people set out to create a tree in a certain style, which ends up looking similar to another tree in the same style...
 

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Well, this shohin black pine looks pretty good to me, if someone can do better ones in this genre, I am willing to learn...

In regards to this little tree, it is irrelevant to me whether or not it is called a copy or a variation of the same theme. It is irrelevant whether it is called art or science, or whether it is created by talent or technology. I don't see how is this relevant to this bonsai.

What matters, is that it evokes beauty, harmony, and the toughness, longevity, and dignity of the black pine. And the emerging fresh little needles are a feast to the eye.

If a tiny tree in a pot, a few inches tall, can offer us all of the above, isn't that enough? If this little pipsqueak of a plant can bring the beauty and majesty of nature onto your desktop, are we really supposed to demand from it to compete with Michelangelo's David? Let's not forget, we are talking a tiny tree in a pot here. I one is looking for a shohin black pine design so unique that it has never ever been done in the last 2000 years, good luck with it :)
 
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I'm sorry some can't see the differences in these trees posted. Just because the canopies are full does not mean they are "cookie cutter" trees (a condescending term if I ever heard one). Each tree posted has its own good and bad points, and its own personality. I like some of what Walter Pall had to say about "cookie cutter" bonsai way back in 2003:

(1) „Cookie Cutter“ Bonsai
The term cookie cutter is used sometimes to denote a kind of bonsai style which makes all trees look alike. Some think that it means a common form which is created without skill. But cookie cutter does not necessarily imply a lack of skill. Alan Walker suggests to use the expressions “(s)lavish following of the rules, a carbon copy of one’s instructor’s trees, lacking originality”.
If used in this narrow sense, I can understand the sense of it. But he goes on to qualify the misuse of the term:

The term seems to mean what was called neo classical style in a previous chapter. A style which tries to repeat the classical one, but not with the same skill level. An artist applies what he has learned as being the classical rules to each and every tree he designs. He just goes through the motions without giving it a second thought. The outcome are cliché trees, which somehow all look alike. It could also simply mean that the trees of a certain artist somehow all look alike. This is, of course, a phenomenon in all art forms. Indeed, one can browse through a magazine or walk through an exhibit and spot some trees which definitely come from one person. Cookie cutter? Well, most would love to have this cookie cutter. It simply happens that in designing a tree there are many decisions to be made at various points. While there usually are many options, a specific artist will tend to choose a similar option for a certain decision every time. The result is the “handwriting” of the artist which can be subtle or very strong. One can argue whether this is good or bad, whether one should be able to see the hand of man or not. But to use the term “cookie cutter” in this context is hardly appropriate.
Does one do cookie cutter bonsai when all the trees somehow look alike in a collection? Not necessarily. The designer may well be on a high level of artistry with a lot of creativity. He might apply his skill to all trees the same way and such they all show the touch of an artist. This is not bad at all. It happens normally in arts. How else is it possible to go thorough a museum and be able to say „this is a Picasso“ from far away. Is it derogatory to say „this is a Kimura tree“, without really knowing who did it. Maybe the master himself or some of his scholars.
This only starts to become a problem when there are only repetitions, only copies of copies after a while.
What is a good representation of classical bonsai for most, may well be a cliché bonsai for some. It all depends on the point of view. It depends on the sum of experiences. Someone who has spent decades working with one style may well be fed up with it as he becomes aware that all he does is only repetitions. (emphasis mine-cj)
An outstanding tree may be a cliché and an icon at the same time. What one sees as cliché then others are seeing possibly as a symbol, as an icon. If that icon is still a “loaded” one in their minds, then they will respond to it because for them it is carrying an aura of great intensity. The creator himself may at the same time admit that it is just a cliché that he has become tired of. It is a bit like in some old marriages. While the world may view a man as having great charisma and being a wonderful sport, the lady knows better after so many years and sees him in a different light. But its still the same man, only viewed with different eyes.
Ernie Kuo takes the term and uses it in an ironical way for the images of trees that he stores in his head. The old trees in nature should be inspirations for our bonsai. If they are truly inspirational they will form an indelible image in our mind. These become part of a cookie cutter catalog for our bonsai.
The term cookie cutter is usually meant in a derogative way. It may be worthwhile to pause for a moment and realize that this is a typical western notion. We do not call replicated work art and originality is the keynote of our art. In Japan just as in the rest of Asia in general repetition is highly valued. The best copy is the best piece of art there. The very word bonsai, holds a certain meaning – accepting replication, denoting the symbolic quality of art (in the Asian sense) .
So the idea that a style has been done before doesn't necessarily denote a "cookie cutter" or poor copy, it just means that this is a style and we want to produce the best example of that possible. Since these trees all have different nebaris, trunks, branching, and movement, I find it hard to classify them as "cookie cutter" bonsai.

That derogatory term was, unless I am mistaken, and I honestly could be, but don' think I am, originally used for "pine-tree" styled deciduous, tropical, etc. trees that were slavishly following "first branch, second branch, back branch" instruction manuals, as Walter points out below.

The most cited „cookie cutter“ is the pine tree cliché. In Japanese art and culture the pine has a special place and significance. The ideal shape of a pine tree is a highly regarded icon. The ideal bonsai has the shape of a pine tree. In Japanese culture, art, and even bonsai, pine is the dominant icon . This lead to the ideal formal upright and informal upright pine tree form, which is well known. The classical rules of bonsai as they are (mis)understood lead more or less to the shape of a pine tree if applied to any material. The designer must have some image in his mind when he approaches his material. Most bonsai enthusiasts have the image of the ideal pine in their head. Thus it is not surprising that in the majority of cases the result of bonsai styling resembles a pine form.
It is interesting to note that the pine tree as the ultimate bonsai icon is a relatively new development. At the end of the 19th century, after the Meiji Restoration, the now classic pine shape became predominant. Before, the dominant trees were flowering trees in much decorated porcelain pots. Partly as a nationalistic response to Western influences tastes in arts in general changed. Also pot styles changed to the pastel tones and shapes which we call “classical” today.
Walter closes his post (I think perhaps it is a quote from his book which he says will not be published?) with a very good summation of his view on "cookie cutter" bonsai:

Sometimes a cookie cutter tree is referred to as a bonsai that does not look like a real tree. Really a bonsai does not necessarily have to look like a real tree. It is an icon of a real tree. At least this is true in the classical style which aims for the ideal tree vs. the naturalistic style which aims for the natural tree. A bonsai should have the “essence” of a real tree, it is “distilled nature”, as Jim Lewis said. Now, if a bonsai looks somehow good, but just happens to be sterile, not to breath this essence of nature, then it misses the most important part of art, and can rightfully be called cookie cutter bonsai. It may well be like so many of the models in fashion magazines who are beautiful, but somehow sterile, not really sexy at all and somehow all look the same.
So he's talking about the essential "treeness" ;) of the bonsai image, isn't he? I for one would be hard pressed to call any of the beautiful shohin JBPs on this page "cookie cutter bonsai."
 

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Very good and extensive exploration of the term "cookie cutter" by Walter, with notes from Chris.

All the remarks from Walter and Chris also highlight the fact that this term is used very loosely, and has various meanings, depending on the context and on the person who uses. From denoting like-ness, to closely following classical guidelines, and to mindlessly following rigid rules. This covers a wide range of trees, from exquisite to bad.

I don't use it as derogatory. I use it simply to refer to a popular shape of bonsai. Not an exact copy of other bonsai, but one that has lots of similarities. Obviously, each tree is a little different, even the closest-looking bonsai have slightly different nebari and branching, so they are never exactly the same.

Good comments, so far.
 

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Hi.

Will i have a question about your principles on art. If two or three artists paint the same bowl of fruit from the same angle at the same time, does this mean two of those paintings are not art, as they are the same as the others? (They were all done by artists).

If an artist paints a copy of another painting surely its is still art as an artist has painted it.
The same as each cooky cutter bonsai has been sculpted by an artist and must be considered art, as none will be excactly the same.

If every tree had to be different to be considered a good quality piece of art, then there would of been no point in the principle styles created by the japanese.

Simon
 
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Hi.

Will i have a question about your principles on art. If two or three artists paint the same bowl of fruit from the same angle at the same time, does this mean two of those paintings are not art, as they are the same as the others? (They were all done by artists).

If an artist paints a copy of another painting surely its is still art as an artist has painted it.
The same as each cooky cutter bonsai has been sculpted by an artist and must be considered art, as none will be excactly the same.

If every tree had to be different to be considered a good quality piece of art, then there would of been no point in the principle styles created by the japanese.

Simon
Simon,
I like where you are going with this, and I think you are close but we want to zero in a bit closer. Is something art because an artist says it is? There's a great deal of debate on this point, but even Will's definition of art no longer asserts that. If three great artists paint the same sunset, you will likely have three great pieces of art. Not because they are called artists, but because they are artists, with the talent and training to make great art.

If two of them have copied the third, whether or not they have produced great art will depend solely on what they bring to the composition. But themes rapidly spread in art communities, with each artist seeing some different angle, some twist on the original thought.

And remember that the styles are merely codifications of what was in existence in the day, much like a dictionary is not an arbiter of a language, it merely reports on usages. We are the ones who have taken styles to the level of straitjackets, not the Japanese.
 

Hans van Meer

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If three great artists paint the same sunset, you will likely have three great pieces of art. Not because they are called artists, but because they are artists, with the talent and training to make great art.

QUOTE]

Yes Chris you are right, likely! Because, like in any art form, not all the work a great artist makes are masterworks! Or even close to just being good! It is a false assumption, and a costly one, to believe that all great artist create good art, all the time and every time! Most of the times, even they, just fall back to the same thing that worked before, and payed for the bills!;)
Hans van Meer.
 
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Chris, Thank you for sharing Walter's thoughts with us.....



If two or three artists paint the same bowl of fruit from the same angle at the same time, does this mean two of those paintings are not art, as they are the same as the others? (They were all done by artists).
Hi Simon, yes, just as there are many artistic representations of Japanese Black Pines that are not helmeted.

If an artist paints a copy of another painting surely its is still art as an artist has painted it.
Could you name me just one example of a world renowned piece of art that is a direct copy of another?

If every tree had to be different to be considered a good quality piece of art, then there would of been no point in the principle styles created by the japanese.
Every tree is different, but there are some that are original.....amd yes, originality exists in the styles as well.

not all the work a great artist makes are masterworks! Or even close to just being good!
How very sadly true.






Will
 
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The Pine posted is a killer little tree!!! I would be willing to bet that noone who has posted to this yet can make a tree like that. Some can write about it, and make generalized statements, and even voice opinions on what they think is art or not art, but at the end of the day this tree is better than most will EVER own in bonsai. It takes a huge amount of skill, training and knowledge to get a tree to this point. No one in America can grow a tree like this....yet! :)

I am with Greg on this one, this tree is amazing!

Jason
 
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The Pine posted is a killer little tree!!! I would be willing to bet that noone who has posted to this yet can make a tree like that.

Which has absolutely nothing to do with the discussion at hand. I can't build a power plant either, but I know better than to stick my finger in the socket. ;)



Will
 

Graydon

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I agree with Greg and Jason on this one. Great tree. It's so far above what I may ever do I'm not going to even get drug down in to the art mud. Stunning.
 
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The Pine posted is a killer little tree!!! I would be willing to bet that noone who has posted to this yet can make a tree like that. Some can write about it, and make generalized statements, and even voice opinions on what they think is art or not art, but at the end of the day this tree is better than most will EVER own in bonsai. It takes a huge amount of skill, training and knowledge to get a tree to this point. No one in America can grow a tree like this....yet! :)

I am with Greg on this one, this tree is amazing!

Jason
Which has absolutely nothing to do with the discussion at hand. I can't build a power plant either, but I know better than to stick my finger in the socket. ;)



Will
On the contrary, it has everything to do with the discussion. Greg showed us a tree that he likes, admiring what went into it.

You posted a couple of other nice trees and called them cookie cutter.

Others have agreed that this is a magnificent tree, even if only by virtue of the work that goes into it, but I would argue that there is a lot of artistry in this tree as well.

One may not agree that the tree works or is great, but at least give it the respect it deserves. It's not kitsch, it doesn't have any visible flaws, and seems to meet every criterion but yours that it's a good, even a great tree.

Should every shohin black pine try to look like this? Silly, of course not. But is this one not beautiful as it is?
 
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On the contrary, it has everything to do with the discussion.
No, it has absolutely nothing at all to do with the discussion, or my statement that the tree is basically a textbook example of a cookie cutter tree, as most define such. The fact if participants in the discussion can create such a tree is irrelevant.

Regardless of if anyone in this discussion has created a bonsai like the one shown, does not automatically disqualify them from discussing it. http://www.artofbonsai.org/critiques/index.php

One may not agree that the tree works or is great, but at least give it the respect it deserves.
Chris, at least take the time to read my posts before you respond to them. All respect was given to the technique and skill used to create this pine.



Will
 
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Those that can, do.

Those that can't, write about it.

And those that can do neither complain about those who can.



For the record... for those who seemed to be grossly misinformed......

I write about bonsai and have been published some eighteen or so times, translated into at least 4 languages as well.

I teach bonsai, workshops and demos and most recently I am teaching introduction to bonsai classes every semester at a local community college.

I helped to create www.knowledgeofbonsai.org and www.artofbonsai.org and I have created what are unquestionable the best and most successful bonsai contests on the web. I have played an instrumental role in bringing together the webs first collection of world-class galleries, interviews with some of the best artists in the world, and a collection of blogs by top notched artists as well.

I also do bonsai, bringing in 4 first place ribbons, three second place ribbons, and a handful of third place ribbons at club shows. I have about 500 trees in the ground and a hundred or so in development, some have been shown here, at KoB, in articles, and on other forums around the web.

So, not only do I write, I do bonsai as well, and for frosting, I add to the bonsai community on a daily basis. Yes, this beginner is directly responsible for some of the best bonsai content available on the web.

This, in spite of constantly listening to static such as yours, which is off topic, off subject, and posted only to attack the person, not the subject. But I'm not complaining, this sort of stuff always motivates me.


Oh yeah, this will be my fifth year in bonsai.......




Will

Check my blog for more chest punding http://www.knowledgeofbonsai.org/will_heath/


;)
 
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Hi.

Will i have a question about your principles on art. If two or three artists paint the same bowl of fruit from the same angle at the same time, does this mean two of those paintings are not art, as they are the same as the others? (They were all done by artists).

If an artist paints a copy of another painting surely its is still art as an artist has painted it.
The same as each Cookie cutter bonsai has been sculpted by an artist and must be considered art, as none will be excactly the same.

If every tree had to be different to be considered a good quality piece of art, then there would of been no point in the principle styles created by the Japanese.
Simon,

Good, intelligent questions, thank you.

Imagine three painters all painting the same view, perhaps a pond with water lillies.....we could even imagine thousands.......each painting is original. But not each painting will reach the level to be considered art. Take Monet's "Water Lillies" for example, obviously art, greatly loved and respected. Why his version and not the many other paintings of water lillies? His talent of course....

But wait, isn't his just a copy of the pond, like all the others? No, his vision is different.

Now imagine painting a copy of his painting, using his vision as a template....now we are simply making copies. In fact there are painters who make a living copying his work, stroke for stroke to be sold to those who want a oil painting of quality, but who can not or will not pay the price for a true original.

To answer your question, no, each artist paints an original of the fruit. The cookie cutter comes in when one artist takes a painting he likes and duplicates it endlessly.

Sadly, the helmet style Japanese Black Pine has become so common, so copied, so much so that we have all seen pictures of Japanese nurseries that have rows and rows of these on benches....it's called mass production.

Certainly the technique is excellent, even in some cases, flawless, but technique does not make art. The cookie cutters often lack the "soul" they often look more plastic than real, and maybe a newbie would say wow, look at that.

Cookie cutters may be technically perfect, but where is the originality, the creativity, the vision, the soul?


Want a real test? Put the tree shown by Greg in the hands of a talented artist. My bet is that it becomes nothing more than quality stock to be used to release the artist's vision.
 
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