Author Topic: judging bonsai for bwaynef  (Read 14527 times)

Walter_Pall

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judging bonsai for bwaynef
« on: August 04, 2009, 01:00 PM »
"Walter, thank you for bringing this discussion here.  Hopefully we all can gain a better understanding.

I've seen this topic broached on many different occasions in the past, and in all that time I don't recall anyone seriously claiming that a well-done naturalistic tree looked ugly.  The world is large enough that we have to allow for differing tastes and if one likes the (neo)Classical styling more than the Naturalistic so be it, but I believe that most have an appreciation for the naturalistic style when its well-done even if they've no ambition to style their trees thus.  The strongest contention I've seen on this topic had more to do with the need to classify them at all.  

I can see how the Naturalistic style could pose challenges for judged work wherein the criteria on which it is judged hasn't been updated to accommodate for its strengths and nuances, leading some to think that the judges either have no appreciation or are unlearned (in their tastes).  I'd posit that over time, as the style gains familiarity and a broader appeal, an agreed upon criteria will be developed whose scores will adequately judge the quality of such Naturalistically styled trees.

On that note, what criteria would YOU use to judge a Naturalistic-styled tree?  What rubrics could be used to quantify excellence in this style?  What should have the most emphasis in terms of grading?  What is the biggest difference in terms of emphasis?  I'm no expert so all that I have are questions."

OK, I'll bite. Here are two bonsai that we can try to judge. I will do this in detail later. Now look at them and make up your mind.

Both would be in the category "flowering bonsai" in a judged competition.
Which is the better bonsai? What is good, what is bad? Are they comparable at all? Give them points from 1 to 10 and explain why. Tear them to pieces if you like, they are both my trees.

1) Azalea indica, 55 cm
2) Prunus cerasifera, European wild cherry, 60 cm
« Last Edit: August 04, 2009, 01:02 PM by Walter_Pall »
 

Rick Moquin

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Re: judging bonsai for bwaynef
« Reply #1 on: August 04, 2009, 07:08 PM »
I'll bite the bullet Walter. I have admired your style and followed your work for some time. I like what you are doing and where you are taking the art. Some of your trees move me, and some leave me flat. Perhaps if seen in person this might change my mind somewhat, but I know you always show the best front.

With the ability to navigate several desktops at once I will endeavour to offer some positive criticism why neither moves me.

The first thought that comes to mind for the first tree, is poodle. I am no expert nor do I know the fundamentals of classical judging. I also understand that a Satsuki is allowed to bloom every second year or so and allowed to recover ans style in between blooming sessions as azaleas only bloom on new growth.

The pads on the first tree are over grown and albeit I like foliage clouds, there fullness represents a poodle effect for which I know you and I both do not care for.

Little movement of the trunk can bee seen although imagined.

The nebari is well established and peaceful with it's surroundings.

The first branch is a little too low for my liking, on second look that branch requires to be removed, it is coming from what appears to be the interior of the curve, more on that later...

The entire apex needs to be reworked and cut down and re-grown, it doesn't suit the tree. Once this done, depending where the first branch exits from, I would rethink whether it stays or not.

I would like to criticize this tree naked.

Second,

Well established tree with a decent basal flare and nebari. The secondary and tertiary branches are immature, which I know will be cut back next year or so. This tree isa about 3-5 years before exhibition state. I know this tree has been in a recent competition, but... The top can be developed from what is there, it is your vision Walter, you know where this tree is going, therefore I will bite no further.

Both trees 6.5
 

weeijk

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Re: judging bonsai for bwaynef
« Reply #2 on: August 05, 2009, 07:02 AM »
Just a quick reply, just visualy comparing, I would say the second tree is the more realistic.
Now in a more closeup view, this is my observation.
tree1/picture1: has a almost perfect nebari, its styled more or less moyogi, I agree with Rick about the Poodle like paths. 2 branches on the left are quit straight looking.

I would judge it a 7 in naturalistic view.

tree2/picture2: Quit a strong looking tree, the nebari is good, but not as good as tree1. It has deadwood features and a good taper. Branches are the branches which you could find in nature, maybe not to well placed for a traditional tree, since branche1 and 2, left right are almost at the same height and very different in style.

I would judge it a 8,5 in naturalistic view.

In direct distant like and closely judged tree 2 is for me the best looking natural tree.

Just my views offcourse, Wessel
 

John Kirby

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Re: judging bonsai for bwaynef
« Reply #3 on: August 05, 2009, 11:48 AM »
Walter,
Very interesting. The first tree was styled to show off its flowers, it is a Satsuki, and I would posit is not really a bonsai at all, but a platform for flower display. an 8 as a flower platform.

I like the Cherry, I think the long bare trunk with nice dead wood, between the very lush (inferred) pom poms of foliage (3 left, right and apex) is a little incongrous, but the overall package and feel is good. I would give it a 6 based on averaging of nrbari, trunk, branch, foliage (tramification) and feel scores.

John
 

Attila Soos

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Re: judging bonsai for bwaynef
« Reply #4 on: August 06, 2009, 04:44 PM »
To me the obviously better bonsai is the azalea.
For several reasons:

1) It has the "wow factor" that the prunus simply cannot even attempt to match.

2) It is much more refined that the prunus.

3) From the standpoint of bonsai techniques, it exhibits about 100 times the amount of work and skill level, than the techniques applied in the case of the prunus. The prunus could have been created by a bonsaist with average skill levels. The azalea of this size and caliber can only be created by those with expert knowledge and top skills. Proof: this azalea is obviously was imported from Japan. So far, I have NEVER seen azaleas of similar caliber created outside Japan. This is a testament to the skill level and enormous time required. Mind you, it is not artistic skill that I am talking about. It is horticultural skill, combined with artisanship (if I am wrong and the tree is not a Japanese import, than this is the first one that I've seen, of this caliber).

4) The azalea has achieved what it was created for: showing off the gorgeous, gigantic, and luxuriant flower pads, in a possibly exaggerated way. And it has the massive trunk and large nebari to provide adequate support and balance. The prunus, on the other hand, has some ways to go, before it crosses the "finish line", which is naturalness, age, rugged austerity, offset by the delicate early spring flowers (if I am not mistaken about the flowers).

So, the obviously superior bonsai is the azalea. A child can see that (I know, I will get shot at, for this statement, but I stand by it) :o

BUT...and this is a big but... this doesn't mean that we are supposed to like the azalea better. It is an entirely subjective choice.

For those who love azaleas, are enchanted by its flowers, and seek to light up a whole room with color and happiness, it is an easy choice.

But for those who rather prefer simplicity, austerity, randomness and spontaneity, they will see the azalea as too constrained, pompous, lacking naturalness, and frankly, a fake. So, they will like the prunus better. They will bring up any excuse from the book, such as "too big pads", "too straight branches", "too red flowers", "too much nebari", and anything else they can find, in order to justify their dislike - never mind the fact that there is nothing wrong with big pads and pocket branches by themselves, as long as they are used in the right context and for the right purpose. We all know that a so-called "fault" can always be used in a positive way, if we know how to present it.

As far as naturalness goes, what IS natural? Is the flower of the azalea not natural? Nobody expects a satsuki in flower to look like an old centurion from the Alps...I hope.

As far which is more Naturalistic..as we refer to the style in question, the prunus can definitely qualify, the azalea cannot.

I would score an 8.5 for the azalea and 6 for the prunus. Although I cannot totally exclude my personal preference in bonsai, I believe that when judging, one needs to put aside the personal feeling as much as possible, and look at the bonsai to be judged from the perspective of skills/techniques empoyed, in conjunction with the overall story that the tree is trying to convey.

Great thread, thank you for doing it!



« Last Edit: August 06, 2009, 05:21 PM by Attila Soos »
 

rockm

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Re: judging bonsai for bwaynef
« Reply #5 on: August 07, 2009, 08:26 AM »
I think this comparison is "apples and oranges." You can't really compare the prunus and azalea toe to toe. They're completely different in intent and accomplishment.

Azaleas aren't constructed in Japan to be bonsai, per se. They're constructed to be "flower delivery systems" --to present their blossoms in the most spectacular manner possible. They are not intended in any way shape or form to be "naturalistic." When not in flower, they're mostly shoved onto back benches or back into the ground until the next flowering season.

Deciduous trees, like the prunus, used for bonsai are meant to convey an image of a real tree. They're not show ponies. They're more wild mustang. Mustangs rarely look like polished sleek racers. They're shaggy, snaggle toothed, worm ridden beasts. It's their spirit, however, that makes them beautiful. Spirit is conveyed in scars, attitude and solid bone structure.

Spirit is conveyed through their imperfect, damaged bodies. Same for naturalistic trees--gnarled trunks, wilder branch construction, barely tamed roots, and spare, but beautiful flowering in this case. Spare flowering in the prunus, I might add, is a foil for the massive unnatural showiness of the azalea.

Where the azalea pushes hundreds of blooms in drifts, the prunus has only a dozen or so on an unpretentious gnarled time worn trunk --spare melancholy and simple (which almost always trumps overblown, showy and loud--that's just me though...
 

bwaynef

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Re: judging bonsai for bwaynef
« Reply #6 on: August 07, 2009, 10:33 AM »
Since this thread is "for" me, I'd just like to point out that I wasn't asking for a comparison between a naturalistic and a (neo)classical styled tree (much less of such disparate refinement).  Its fine if that is how Walter sees fit to explain, but what I was after was an explanation from him as to what rubrics could be measured to determine a good naturalistic-styled tree from a bad one.  I think comparing the two (non-naturalistic-styled) trees actually complicates the discussion I was hoping to see.  Perhaps a comparison between a good and bad naturalistic tree is in order.

OK, I'll bite.
My apologies if you thought I was taunting you into a discussion.  Your reply implies that.  That was not the spirit in which my post was created.
 

Attila Soos

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Re: judging bonsai for bwaynef
« Reply #7 on: August 07, 2009, 12:48 PM »
-spare melancholy and simple (which almost always trumps overblown, showy and loud--that's just me though...

That may be true, but after being surrounded by melancholy and simplicity for a long time, my body is really itching for some decadence and sensuality, if you get my drift...
Or else, I might as well trash my party music,  lock myself up in a monastery, and become a monk. :)
Then the next day, when I wake up with a headache, I can go back and look at my prunus again. That's the great thing about bonsai: there is one for every mood and every occasion.
« Last Edit: August 07, 2009, 12:54 PM by Attila Soos »
 

rockm

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Re: judging bonsai for bwaynef
« Reply #8 on: August 07, 2009, 01:02 PM »
I'll take my decadence with Bushmills neat at the local watering hole. ;D There's no use searching for decadence in a tree. They can't dance very well and their jokes tend to be old and stale... :D
 

Attila Soos

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Re: judging bonsai for bwaynef
« Reply #9 on: August 07, 2009, 01:26 PM »
There's no use searching for decadence in a tree.

You have to stretch your imagination a little harder.
I have a hackberry with a trunk that looks just like the lower sections of a nude female - you can look at it from the front, or back  :)
Next spring it will be ready for a a bonsai pot, so I will post it here as soon as the "lady" is ready.
 

Larry Gockley

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Re: judging bonsai for bwaynef
« Reply #10 on: August 07, 2009, 01:28 PM »
I'm reminded of a phrase from John Naka. To paraphrase, he said,  make your bonsai look like a tree, not your tree like a bonsai.  I realize that both trees underwent a lot of skilled labor to get to this point, however, I take a lot of stock in first impressions, and IMO the azalea does not look like any tree I have ever seen, or could imagine. It still looks like an azalea bush, beautiful as it is. I guess it's just that blond, brunette, red head thing. The second tree gets my vote. It looks like a tree. One I'd love to have , BTW. Larry
 

Attila Soos

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Re: judging bonsai for bwaynef
« Reply #11 on: August 07, 2009, 01:36 PM »
It occurs to me that, if I compare our bonsai exhibits with the sections of a video store, most of our trees fall into the "drama" and "special interest" sections.

May be it is time to create some trees for the "comedy", "action", and "family" sections as well. I know that this would get us out of our confort zones, but that's what Cirque du Soleil, and other successful creative endeavours do with their artists - get them out of their confort zones, in order to be more creative. We are too ingrained into our old ways.
 

rockm

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Re: judging bonsai for bwaynef
« Reply #12 on: August 07, 2009, 01:38 PM »
"You have to stretch your imagination a little harder.
I have a hackberry with a trunk that looks just like the lower sections of a nude female - you can look at it from the front, or back"

No offense, but I'm married and have enough trouble with the spouse over bonsai without anthropomorphizing them. If I had one that competed for that kind of attention with my wife, I would find myself searching for a tree that looks like it had its assets seized. ;D
 

weeijk

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Re: judging bonsai for bwaynef
« Reply #13 on: August 07, 2009, 03:07 PM »
May be it is time to create some trees for the "comedy", "action", and "family" sections as well. I know that this would get us out of our confort zones, but that's what Cirque du Soleil, and other successful creative endeavours do with their artists - get them out of their confort zones, in order to be more creative. We are too ingrained into our old ways.

They exist allready, Pop bonsai, crash bonsai and some trees of Nick Lenz (he has a few pop bonsai aswell  ;) )

I think we're drifting off the initial question here, I'd like to see more vote's from different BSG users.

No offence, Wessel
 

MatsuBonsai

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Re: judging bonsai for bwaynef
« Reply #14 on: August 27, 2009, 01:18 PM »
Walter,

I was wondering if you had any more to share on this topic?  How would you propose these trees be judged, etc?