Suggested Resources for Styling

dbonsaiw

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Anyone have suggestions on in-depth analysis of bonsai styling?

I've found that once we are able to see past the horticultural aspects of bonsai, this art is all about, well, art. If we were oil painters, I doubt we would spend all of our time discussing how to keep our paints from drying and canvasses from withering over time. Instead, we'd actually be discussing color palettes, brush strokes, perspective - the actual development of art. And although it is essential that we discuss the horticultural aspects of bonsai, where's the art aspects?

As I start to get a feel for how to care for my trees, I'm beginning to realize I have little clue how to actually develop the artistic elements of it. And I'm really only working with deciduous trees - pines are a whole different animal. Meriggioli and others have excellent introductions to bonsai formation, but are there resources that deal with the stylistic elements in more depth (without horticulture)?
 

BonsaiMatt

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Principles of Bonsai Design by Dave De Groot is pretty good and design focused.

 

BobbyLane

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This comes down to whether you like to read or watch video content, because I would of thought mirai is one of the best resources going along with the vast amount of styling videos from various top level artists that one can find on YT.
add to that the numerous progression threads that can be found in the search engine here, you should be spoilt for choice.
 

Fidur

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Anyone have suggestions on in-depth analysis of bonsai styling?

I've found that once we are able to see past the horticultural aspects of bonsai, this art is all about, well, art. If we were oil painters, I doubt we would spend all of our time discussing how to keep our paints from drying and canvasses from withering over time. Instead, we'd actually be discussing color palettes, brush strokes, perspective - the actual development of art. And although it is essential that we discuss the horticultural aspects of bonsai, where's the art aspects?

As I start to get a feel for how to care for my trees, I'm beginning to realize I have little clue how to actually develop the artistic elements of it. And I'm really only working with deciduous trees - pines are a whole different animal. Meriggioli and others have excellent introductions to bonsai formation, but are there resources that deal with the stylistic elements in more depth (without horticulture)?
I think design is the key to have trees with personality.

We use to follow other's views and rules and as a result finally all those seem clones. I know in nature (except in certain species) each tree has its own ways (as everyone of them has it's own history and circunstances). So I very agree with those that say you have to follow what the tree says in the sense that you don´t design two trees of the same species in the same way.

To me it's important to make my own decisions about design. I use to watch my trees for hours, days and months before I decide their general design. Then as times go by I make refinements on that design (or maybe even change it). It's the most rewarding part of this hobby. Horticulture is interesting, and sometimes you're rewarded with the success of a technique, but design is the true meaning of bonsai practice.

So try to understand the principles and study them if you please, but overall make your trees a result of what you envision for them.
 

Colorado

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Ryan Neil through Mirai takes the deep dive on this topic, to be sure.
 

BobbyLane

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I think design is the key to have trees with personality.

We use to follow other's views and rules and as a result finally all those seem clones. I know in nature (except in certain species) each tree has its own ways (as everyone of them has it's own history and circunstances). So I very agree with those that say you have to follow what the tree says in the sense that you don´t design two trees of the same species in the same way.

To me it's important to make my own decisions about design. I use to watch my trees for hours, days and months before I decide their general design. Then as times go by I make refinements on that design (or maybe even change it). It's the most rewarding part of this hobby. Horticulture is interesting, and sometimes you're rewarded with the success of a technique, but design is the true meaning of bonsai practice.

So try to understand the principles and study them if you please, but overall make your trees a result of what you envision for them.
Love this. Its not something we see often. I still see folks who have been here years, with 1000s of posts, but still come here to get their trees styled for them.
 

dbonsaiw

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To me it's important to make my own decisions about design. I use to watch my trees for hours, days and months before I decide their general design.
LOL, I stand outside and stare at my trees for hours trying imagine different styles. My wife just sees me muttering to myself while bent over to get a better look of the trees and thinks I lost my marbles. I may have, but that's why I got into bonsai.
 

BobbyLane

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LOL, I stand outside and stare at my trees for hours trying imagine different styles. My wife just sees me muttering to myself while bent over to get a better look of the trees and thinks I lost my marbles. I may have, but that's why I got into bonsai.
whats helped me massively is not only looking at wild trees and using them for inspiration, but often if i had a tree and didnt know what path to take it down, I'd look for good bonsai trees with similar trunks/trunk lines to mine. You'll always find something similar to what you have that someone made a good bonsai out of. obviously you want to try to at least start with fairly decent material. but ive spent many a hour googling images of specific species. for example, I cant tell you how many times ive googled 'Walter pall hornbeam' or Walter pall beech. or Maros blog hornbeam. So many times that I literally only have to type the first 4 letters and google knows what im looking for. Thats how I can walk into a nursery and see something and think I could probably make something like Walters if i get that or I could probably make something like that tree I saw in the park if i get this. Or this looks like that one that this guy had or she had etc, I dont need to begin name dropping but you get the idea. I honestly dont think people spend enough time doing that, its probably too tedious for many and much easier to ask someone 'where should i take this'?
I think if you want to begin honing your eye and seeing a tree in something then you need to spend time researching and studying good bonsai trees by someone who's work you like.
I was a lurker for like 3 years before i started posting on here and ive studied countless progression threads from here and various forums.

Ask @sorce , when I started posting here I literally had a wild tree version of almost every bonsai I was working on lol
 
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Colorado

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Yes following your own vision and studying other trees to replicate are nice, but that is not the same as a true “analysis” of bonsai design, which is what the OP was asking about.

There is much more to design than just “this one looks nice.”

Sustainability, harmony, tension, dynamism. These are true principles of bonsai design which can be objectively analyzed.
 

BobbyLane

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Yes following your own vision and studying other trees to replicate are nice, but that is not the same as a true “analysis” of bonsai design, which is what the OP was asking about.

There is much more to design than just “this one looks nice.”

Sustainability, harmony, tension, dynamism. These are true principles of bonsai design which can be objectively analyzed.
Mirai nails that for me.
 

NaoTK

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Once you understand the basics of taper building and branch placement, you pretty much need to study a bunch of finished trees yourself and mentally go through how that tree was built and what makes it an effective design. For this reason I find the Kokufu books are the best resource for learning about design, but you have to understand how to read a tree first.
 

Paradox

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I also usually spend a long time studying my tree to decide which direction it should go.
I don't try to force a tree into a design it isn't wanting to be. It's a silent conversation between us as I study the tree and it tries to tell me.


Sometimes it takes years for me to figure it out. Just recently had an epiphany with one of my trees I've owned for years. I finally saw the tree for what it wanted to be. Now we can move forward together.

So many times we see newer people wanting to turn a tree that is screaming to be an informal upright into a cascade or windswept. It usually results in a very unconvincing image as they fight the tree's natural tendency. It's their inexperience that muddles them, but hopefully in time, with knowledge, they overcome it.
 

BobbyLane

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Often there can be potential for more than one image, keep an open mind. Explore options with virtuals and blanking pieces out. Took me a few reductions to settle on this final image for a Hornbeam

On Mirai, Ryan neil often goes through with the audience discussing different options/viewpoints, or whys/hows etc.
Only was subbed for around 13 months but found it valuable.
 

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Bonsai Nut

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Anyone have suggestions on in-depth analysis of bonsai styling?
My first two choices were mentioned early on...

Dave de Groot's book reads like a text book if you were a fine art student. I love it, and recommend it everywhere, but it approaches bonsai design somewhat drily. It is the "science" of bonsai design - and draws on a lot of classic design theory.

I have been a subscriber to Bonsai Mirai from the beginning. I like Ryan's approach to his video streams, and he is very design-focused. He does not discuss design like "do this, do that" but rather "what would the tree look like if we did this - or did that? - what do people think is the best?" And then he explains what he thinks is the best solution... and possible pros and cons. I like that you get a little insight into his mind and his decision-making. Plus Ryan has a very specific design style that I like and I am trying to emulate - much more naturalistic and less "style my bonsai to look like a bonsai".

Otherwise, I would suggest taking the deep dive, and styling a tree and taking it to a master to evaluate. Nothing will get you to learn faster than having someone with skill evaluate your tree in first person.
 
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