What cases / when is it right, aesthetically-speaking, to ignore the rule of "angle the tree toward the viewer"?

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#1
Have heard this for a long time now and I do see the merit of it in the most basic sense, however I have a TON of specimen where it simply seems it'd look silly...maybe the rule is more for coniferous stuff and I'm improperly extrapolating to deciduous broadleafs! In any case I'm eager to hear thoughts on the whole "tilted towards the viewer" idea, I mean even in a 'perfect formal style' I'd feel you'd want it to be truly vertical / not sloped at all (and then there's so many trees like mine where their nebari basically determines the angle, ie tilting forward is at the expense of sinking good nebari in the front or exposing a problem on the back's base, etc.

Thanks for any&all thoughts on 'tilting the tree to the viewer'!!! Happy gardening :)
 

Dav4

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#3
It's all perspective and pertains to all bonsai, regardless of species or size. A tree with an apex moving toward the viewer will look bigger/taller then one with an apex that's moving away from the viewer, and will hopefully draw the viewer in for a closer look. Also, aesthetically speaking, it just doesn't look right with the apex moving away, and certainly doesn't make compel the viewer to move closer.
 

JudyB

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#4
It's sort of one of those things that you can fight with yourself on for a time, but in the end you'll wind up seeing it as a flaw (if you angle it away) the more you look at it. Been there done that. Some things come with time, gaining an eye for this sort of thing is part of that.
At least that is how it has been for me.
I suppose it also depends on how severe the angle is too.
 

coh

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#5
This is something I've thought about a fair bit.

There seem to be 2 main "reasons" given for leaning the apex forward. One is the idea of the tree "bowing" toward the viewer,
making it more inviting. This seems to be a reflection of Japanese cultural ideas. I don't bow to people in the US, so does it make
sense that a bonsai should bow toward me? Is it really more inviting? If a tree leans away slightly does it really feel more distant or
less inviting? Or have we just been led to believe that?

The second is that bringing the apex forward makes the tree appear larger. I think the idea here is that if you are standing
fairly close to a very large tree, the apex seems to loom over you. So bringing the apex of a bonsai forward is supposed to
simulate this. But does it really? I could argue that if I'm looking up at a very tall tree, the apex the furthest from my eye, so why not
lean the apex away to simulate that? Especially since at most shows, the trees are set lower than they should be so you are
already looking down on them to some degree (except for the larger trees). So bringing the apex forward doesn't seem like
it would produce the desired effect in this case...it would make it seem more like you are looking down on the tree, thus
making it look smaller.

I'd be interested to see how a bunch of non-bonsai people reacted to trees that were styled with apex forward versus upright
or slightly back. Bonsai people might just be seeing what they have been told they should see.
 

rockm

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#7
A little research on "forced perspective" can give you more perspective on this.

has nothing to do with the tree "bowing" to anyone. That "explanation" probably resulted from someone asking a Japanese bonsai artist why the tree leaned toward the viewer. Instead of trying to explain that the incline increases the artistic forced perspective techniques bonsai incorporate in many ways, they just said "the tree is being polite."
 
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#9
Have heard this for a long time now and I do see the merit of it in the most basic sense, however I have a TON of specimen where it simply seems it'd look silly...maybe the rule is more for coniferous stuff and I'm improperly extrapolating to deciduous broadleafs! In any case I'm eager to hear thoughts on the whole "tilted towards the viewer" idea, I mean even in a 'perfect formal style' I'd feel you'd want it to be truly vertical / not sloped at all (and then there's so many trees like mine where their nebari basically determines the angle, ie tilting forward is at the expense of sinking good nebari in the front or exposing a problem on the back's base, etc.

Thanks for any&all thoughts on 'tilting the tree to the viewer'!!! Happy gardening :)
A couple of thoughts.
Tilting the tree! Or adjusting direction of the Apex?
Burying the nebari or developing the other side to balance?
I agree quite often the issue is the nebari and creates the opportunity to improve same.
So often it is a matter of degree. Small changes can make a big difference! Very often improved with a combination of bending and wiring!
i almost always feel better with a welcoming stance.
 
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#10
I don’t have much to add technically or theoretically but can reflect on my own tendencies which are to lean the tree forward as it just looks more “impactful”. I’ve found that the smaller the tree the stronger is my tendency to do this, perhaps compensating for its size, to the point where I have to consciously dial it back sometimes.
 
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#11
Guidelines, not rules.

The guidelines are for use when needed, especially as compensating for some shortcoming. If the tree would look more appealing if it were bigger, then doing something to make it appear bigger may be called for. For trees with lots of other appealing design features, adhering to some artificial set of "gotta do this or that..." even though it has plenty for the viewer to study is just that, -artificial. Big trees have an appeal that sucks us all in as collectors, even in spite of the fact that some of the very best trees are mame or shohin and are remarkable BECAUSE they are not bigger. We take great pains to make things small.

The guideline of leaning forward is the same and mostly intended to overcome trees that naturally lean away from the viewer, NOTICEABLY. The tree should be "welcoming", yes, but mostly it shouldn't look like it's tipped at an un-natural or precarious angle. I think the rule should be re-stated as "the viewer shouldn't notice the tree as noticeably tipped one way or another unless the direction is a specific feature of the design."

Does leaning forward make it look bigger? By what percentage? What percentage would be significant? Tipping it forward un-naturally is no better than any other un-natural angle.
 

Smoke

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#12
I have very few slanting trees. I have lots of informal trees. Rules state that an informal trees apex should finish directly over the center of the roots. Most of mine do, and have very little lean towards the viewer. Some do, probably less than 5. Most are centered over the trunk, where they should be....
 

Adair M

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#13
I have very few slanting trees. I have lots of informal trees. Rules state that an informal trees apex should finish directly over the center of the roots. Most of mine do, and have very little lean towards the viewer. Some do, probably less than 5. Most are centered over the trunk, where they should be....
The “rule” that an informal upright tree should have the apex over the nebari is it should visually appear to be over the center of the nebari when viewed from the front. When viewed from the side almost every high quality informal upright will have the apex quite a bit in front. Usually to the point of where the apex is actually above the rim of the pot! If the apex is even farther forward than the rim, it looks funny.

The only styles where the apex is “actually” over the center of the nebari is formal upright, and broom.

The whole reason for the forward lean has nothing to do with the tree “bowing” or being friendly (although those explanations seem to make sense of why forward leaning trees look better than trees leaning back), the real reason is the forced perspective the forward lean imparts. It helps with the illusion. And, the tree actually appears SHORTER. With the tree coming forward at an angle, the same length of trunk would be lower than if it were stood straight up tall. If the degree of lean is more up near the apex, it also makes the internodes (the distance between branches coming off the trunk) look as if they are closer and closer the nearer to the apex. It’s an optical illusion that our eyes and brains interpret as compressing the tree. (This works so well that most of us aren’t even aware of it.). This also explains one of the reasons a true formal upright is so difficult to do. We can’t trick the eye using foreshortening to make the internodes appear to get closer up near the apex. They actually have to be! It’s very hard to achieve! Which is why you rarely seen a really good FU.

I’ll illustrate my point with my JBP:

As seen from the front:

D03C0DBA-D633-4FD6-90AF-C0C287E3A02F.jpeg

The right side:

26BD287C-E4B9-4FA6-953B-8759BB801D68.jpeg

Notice on the above picture that the apex is forward of the nebari, about over the soil near the front rim of the pot. The front is rather flat, but you can see the back branches extend quite a bit farther back behind the pot. They are substantially longer than the branches on the front or sides. They provide depth to the image. You will also note there are many more “back branches” than “frontals”.

Here’s the other side:

582BA88E-4CF2-4393-9DA6-558FE6F8BD07.jpeg

As you can see from this side, the lower trunk actually moves towards the back before moving towards the front about 1/3 the ways up.

And the back:

08053203-4A95-4011-80FE-B9D73F0891E0.jpeg

Lots of branches, lots of foliage, these provide “depth”, and frame the view of the trunk from the front.

Now, go back and look at the front. Does it look like the front leans forward? No, it doesn’t. But the front lean certainly helps the image.
 

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#14
The side views are helpful but I wonder how well this effect from the front which is supposed to project depth can really be represented by a 2d picture.

I suspect that an architect could help us here. They understand visual effects in tall structures. If I had to guess I’d say that tall things seem to loom over us, and leaning a tree forward gives it some of that feeling. As I mentioned I unconsciously tend to lean my trees forward, about as much as Adair shows, without thinking about it as it just looks better.
 

0soyoung

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#15
It is about the mood it creates when you 'sit' with it for a while. Anthropomorphic thinking often helps to understand the mood or the emotional message communicated by the posture of the tree. This seemed like BS to me until one fateful day at the Pacific Bonsai Museum.

The classic left branch, right branch, apex leaning forward is a lot like nana beckoning me when I was a toddler - I feel welcome/wanted, safe and calm. Have the apex go away and it tends to give the feeling that the tree is trying to get away - I am unwanted and a threat = it is unfriendly. Sometimes just having the canopy turn back toward the viewer is enough to change this. @JudyB had a white pine that did this (the trunk curvily went away but the canopy looked back) and it made me see a sexy babe looking over her shoulder back at me = exciting!!! despite the trunk leaning away (she is a Vargas girl! / she wants me! Ooo baby!:p).

A tall tree leaning protectively over a smaller one = mother sheltering.protecting her daughter = 'mother-daughter' = calm mood :)
A tall tree leaning away from a smaller one = father leaving, maybe saying 'come on jr.' = 'father-son' = tension!!! :mad:
These can be made just by the canopy positions alone - one canopy over the other = mother-daughter. Opposite = father-son.

I rarely like my trees treating me like a son. I want them to like me. I want them to smile back. :D
 

rockm

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#16
It is about the mood it creates when you 'sit' with it for a while. Anthropomorphic thinking often helps to understand the mood or the emotional message communicated by the posture of the tree. This seemed like BS to me until one fateful day at the Pacific Bonsai Museum.

The classic left branch, right branch, apex leaning forward is a lot like nana beckoning me when I was a toddler - I feel welcome/wanted, safe and calm. Have the apex go away and it tends to give the feeling that the tree is trying to get away - I am unwanted and a threat = it is unfriendly. Sometimes just having the canopy turn back toward the viewer is enough to change this. @JudyB had a white pine that did this (the trunk curvily went away but the canopy looked back) and it made me see a sexy babe looking over her shoulder back at me = exciting!!! despite the trunk leaning away (she is a Vargas girl! / she wants me! Ooo baby!:p).

A tall tree leaning protectively over a smaller one = mother sheltering.protecting her daughter = 'mother-daughter' = calm mood :)
A tall tree leaning away from a smaller one = father leaving, maybe saying 'come on jr.' = 'father-son' = tension!!! :mad:
These can be made just by the canopy positions alone - one canopy over the other = mother-daughter. Opposite = father-son.

I rarely like my trees treating me like a son. I want them to like me. I want them to smile back. :D
You're confusing composition with technique. Not the same thing. Forward lean in bonsai is meant, as Adair explained so well, to foreshorten the trunk to the viewer in front of the composition. Foreshortening is a critical technique in bonsai, it tricks the viewer's perception. Trees leaning over or away from one another are compositional choices, that have nothing to do with the "lean." Both trees in a composition that lean away from one another laterally, can be built by the artist to also lean a bit towards the viewer to create foreshortening.

All this said, not all trees have the "lean," but a lot of the best ones do...It can be hard to do, especially with quirky collected trunks. Often with those there are trade offs that have to be made as to trunk direction, best nebari, bends in the trunk, etc.
 
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#17
The “rule” that an informal upright tree should have the apex over the nebari is it should visually appear to be over the center of the nebari when viewed from the front. When viewed from the side almost every high quality informal upright will have the apex quite a bit in front. Usually to the point of where the apex is actually above the rim of the pot! If the apex is even farther forward than the rim, it looks funny.

The only styles where the apex is “actually” over the center of the nebari is formal upright, and broom.

The whole reason for the forward lean has nothing to do with the tree “bowing” or being friendly (although those explanations seem to make sense of why forward leaning trees look better than trees leaning back), the real reason is the forced perspective the forward lean imparts. It helps with the illusion. And, the tree actually appears SHORTER. With the tree coming forward at an angle, the same length of trunk would be lower than if it were stood straight up tall. If the degree of lean is more up near the apex, it also makes the internodes (the distance between branches coming off the trunk) look as if they are closer and closer the nearer to the apex. It’s an optical illusion that our eyes and brains interpret as compressing the tree. (This works so well that most of us aren’t even aware of it.). This also explains one of the reasons a true formal upright is so difficult to do. We can’t trick the eye using foreshortening to make the internodes appear to get closer up near the apex. They actually have to be! It’s very hard to achieve! Which is why you rarely seen a really good FU.

I’ll illustrate my point with my JBP:

As seen from the front:

View attachment 225381

The right side:

View attachment 225382

Notice on the above picture that the apex is forward of the nebari, about over the soil near the front rim of the pot. The front is rather flat, but you can see the back branches extend quite a bit farther back behind the pot. They are substantially longer than the branches on the front or sides. They provide depth to the image. You will also note there are many more “back branches” than “frontals”.

Here’s the other side:

View attachment 225384

As you can see from this side, the lower trunk actually moves towards the back before moving towards the front about 1/3 the ways up.

And the back:

View attachment 225383

Lots of branches, lots of foliage, these provide “depth”, and frame the view of the trunk from the front.

Now, go back and look at the front. Does it look like the front leans forward? No, it doesn’t. But the front lean certainly helps the image.
I disagree with the principles, AS ILLUSTRATED. Your tree is positioned supposedly because of the rule? No, it's positioned that way because it has a trunk that allows it, or forces it, or characterize it any other you want, but it has an uncommon arc that you have positioned in the best position, FOR THAT PARTICULAR TREE. Yes, it is a beautiful tree well positioned, and any other position would be wrong. The base of the tree tilts back a touch. If it was plumb, it would have the top pitched way forward. The tree is in fact tilted back putting the top in the most advantageous position. A great tree, but a poor example of the "rule".
 
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#18
I disagree with the principles, AS ILLUSTRATED. Your tree is positioned supposedly because of the rule? No, it's positioned that way because it has a trunk that allows it, or forces it, or characterize it any other you want, but it has an uncommon arc that you have positioned in the best position, FOR THAT PARTICULAR TREE. Yes, it is a beautiful tree well positioned, and any other position would be wrong. The base of the tree tilts back a touch. If it was plumb, it would have the top pitched way forward. The tree is in fact tilted back putting the top in the most advantageous position. A great tree, but a poor example of the "rule".
All caps sections made me laugh. You're also talking to a SOB (Student of Boon)...so you've been in the hobby how long? I think his words may have a tad bit more weight if accountability. But I enjoyed your passion shown.
 
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#19
All caps sections made me laugh. You're also talking to a SOB (Student of Boon)...so you've been in the hobby how long? I think his words may have a tad bit more weight if accountability. But I enjoyed your passion shown.
All caps indicate the most important words of a given sentence to the exclusion of all other thoughts or interpretations. An emphatic point. I'm certainly not trying to imitate any great teachers, although some ARE worthy of it...
 
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#20
All caps indicate the most important words of a given sentence to the exclusion of all other thoughts or interpretations. An emphatic point. I'm certainly not trying to imitate any great teachers, although some ARE worthy of it...
lol...I am no English scholar...but , may have put more focus on "some" than the word you chose. Lack of sleep...I shouldn't even comment. But...it amused me. Carry on. Back in the day...all caps in text on a forum meant one was screaming.
 
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