Bonsai Study Group Forum

General Category => General Bonsai Discussion => Topic started by: Elliott on March 30, 2012, 02:58 AM

Title: juicy debate part II,
Post by: Elliott on March 30, 2012, 02:58 AM
If your a bonsai teacher, how honest are you with your students with the trees they bring you? I have 2 fairly well known teachers. One will not hesitate to tell me that that is a stick in a pot, get rid of it! and the other has never said anything real negative about anything and has always tried to help me make the best out of whatever I bring him.
 As my goal is to make the best trees possible, I want to be told, "hey, that will never be top notch" or "hey, that is good for practice but you will want to put it in a club raffle eventually" or "it can be good, but you won't live long enough to see that".
 I know some people are sensitive, and some people have a better eye than others and it's also a matter of opinion sometimes, but when do you  say to someone "don't get mad, but your waisting your time with that"?
Title: Re: juicy debate part II,
Post by: MatsuBonsai on March 30, 2012, 08:01 AM
Like just about everything in this sport I think it depends. It can be tricky to tell someone their tree sucks and will never amount to anything. With my study groupers we work on technique and improving one's eye. There are ways to point out flaws to lead them towards recognizing the limitation of their own material. I'm not particularly good at it, but I'm sure it can be done. :)

What I will teach them is the proper use of your and you're. ;)
Title: Re: juicy debate part II,
Post by: Adair M on March 30, 2012, 08:21 AM
I happened to stop by the bonsai shop yesterday and there was a lady there who was all excited about bonsai, been doing it about a year, told me she had 20+ trees, yada, yada, yada... 

She was there to get a grafted white pine repotted.  The candles had extended out as much as two inches, so I taught her a little about pinching back to balance the growth.  The tree was an established bonsai that had been neglected by it's former owner... allowed to get leggy and all.  We discussed  what needed to be done in the future...

Anyway, I had to keep biting my tongue because this lady really had no idea of "bonsai", she just was happy with "trees in a pot". and she was a good customer of the shop owner, and I certainly didn't want to curb her enthusiasm.  When she had difficulty understanding what I meant about a "domed apex" for her white pine, I found some copies of "International Bonsai" magazine, and showed her pictures.  Apparantly, it was the first time she had ever looked at photos of bonsai!

I hope I at least got her thinking that bonsai is more than a potted tree!

Meanwhile, I bought a JBP that had been intended to be a Japanese garden tree.  It was about 8 feet tall.  It has great low trunk taper, about 6 inches across.  We chopped it.  I'll start a thread on it soon.  (Sorry Matsu, I did not take a photo of the pre-chop.  Should have.  But it DID happen.  The lady I had helped with her white pine about passed out!  LOL!!!)
Title: Re: juicy debate part II,
Post by: nathanbs on March 30, 2012, 10:27 AM
What I will teach them is the proper use of your and you're. ;)
  ;D
Title: Re: juicy debate part II,
Post by: Elliott on March 30, 2012, 12:30 PM
Matsu
 Sorry, I'm a product of the L.A. county public school system. No English teacher ever told me my spelling sucked and I should get rid of it. I have been wasting my time ever since. Yuur point is taken, besides, uoo should see what these rants I put up look like before spellcheck.
Title: Re: juicy debate part II,
Post by: MatsuBonsai on March 30, 2012, 01:35 PM
I grew up in Kentucky. Your point is invalid. :)
Title: Re: juicy debate part II,
Post by: Elliott on March 30, 2012, 04:26 PM
Matsu
Again, I stand corrected. I had to live in a tiny town called Clinton in south/east N. Carolina for 6 horrible months. If it was not for me, there would not have been 16 teeth in that whole town. My bumper sticker said "North Carolina, first in flight, last in test scores" LOL!
 Anyways, lets get back on topic and I know there are some tarheels that got butthurt over the N.C. Joke. I apologise! Please go back to eating corn through a picket fence ;)
Title: Re: juicy debate part II,
Post by: akeppler on March 30, 2012, 11:32 PM
Most people with a modicum of intelligence know exactly when they purchase a marginal piece of material.

The only thing that solves that problem is money. Do you really need to pay someone to tell you you're working on less than desirable material?
Title: Re: juicy debate part II,
Post by: Elliott on March 31, 2012, 12:41 AM
Al don't worry, I would never pay you for advice, but thanks for making me giggle.
Title: Re: juicy debate part II,
Post by: Chrisl on March 31, 2012, 12:52 AM
I want my instructor to be bluntly honest with me too, as well as discuss WHY this or that needs to be done now or later on.  He's pretty good about point 1, I have to ask sometimes to get to point 2 lol 
Title: Re: juicy debate part II,
Post by: akeppler on March 31, 2012, 01:20 AM
Al don't worry, I would never pay you for advice, but thanks for making me giggle.

Your loss....
Title: Re: juicy debate part II,
Post by: Elliott on March 31, 2012, 04:25 AM
 ;D even harder! Pretty soon Leno is gonna hire yuu to write for him.
Title: Re: juicy debate part II,
Post by: nathanbs on March 31, 2012, 11:12 AM
Most people with a modicum of intelligence know exactly when they purchase a marginal piece of material.

The only thing that solves that problem is money. Do you really need to pay someone to tell you you're working on less than desirable material?

A modicum of intelligence and an artistic eye dont always go hand in hand.
Title: Re: juicy debate part II,
Post by: John Kirby on April 01, 2012, 06:15 AM
Al, no respect from this bunch of whipper snappers. Us White Haired guys have got to stick together. Let's sart adding a second thing that we leave out of key descriptions of getting special techniques done.....
Title: Re: juicy debate part II,
Post by: Judy on April 01, 2012, 08:34 AM
Al, no respect from this bunch of whipper snappers. Us White Haired guys have got to stick together. Let's sart adding a second thing that we leave out of key descriptions of getting special techniques done.....

Hey now, how is it that I re-attach that branch to the trunk again???

some of us are listening!!!! :)
Title: Re: juicy debate part II,
Post by: Chrisl on April 01, 2012, 09:40 AM
Al, no respect from this bunch of whipper snappers. Us White Haired guys have got to stick together. Let's sart adding a second thing that we leave out of key descriptions of getting special techniques done.....

I agree, man Elliot, please try at least to be  a little courteous to others.  Al's always had advice to give to others, whether you agree or disagree.  And I don't have white hair either lol
Title: Re: juicy debate part II,
Post by: John Kirby on April 01, 2012, 10:59 AM
Crazy glue, it goes with the profile. And since my sense of humor has been misinterpreted here, I absolutely, resolutely and completely say this with All of the seriousness intended, no sausages or SoBs intended. ::)
Title: Re: juicy debate part II,
Post by: Elliott on April 01, 2012, 11:12 AM
Well Chrisl, according to ur pal AL, if you did not know how to determine what raw stock is gonna be good material, and what won't, than u don't have " a modicum of intelligence", and since nobody is born with that skill ( if u have it, ur not new), and we all started out new to bonsai at some point, then he is basically saying we are all idiot's, and THAT'S disrespectfull!
 Maybe we can get back to the topic, so we can maybe learn something that would make us better at creating trees or teaching others how to.

Title: Re: juicy debate part II,
Post by: MatsuBonsai on April 01, 2012, 11:26 AM
... And since my sense of humor has been misinterpreted here...

I enjoy your sense of humor, when I understand what it is you're talking about.  :)
Title: Re: juicy debate part II,
Post by: Peter Tea on April 03, 2012, 04:10 AM
Another good question Elliot!

I believe a good Bonsai instructor needs to tell his or her student that a tree isn't suitable for Bonsai.  That's what the student is paying them for.  Isn't the point of taking classes and workshops to improve our skills?  I think the tricky part is explaining it to people so that their feelings don't get hurt.  It's not just the bonsai we're working with, but the people as well.  At least that how I feel about it.  Personally I always let a student know if a piece of material is not good because then they can then refine their eye and find better material in the future.  It's a win win really.  Instructor is helping a student with better material and the student is learning.  I can always fall back on the, "we can use this tree as practice," but the realities are, there are better trees to practice on that can become great, and perhaps the material is so bad, there's no real meaningful skills to gain from it.

Of course, having said that, bad material to one instructor could be great material to another, and that's where the skill and experience of the instructor comes in.

I remember when I first started Bonsai and had my share of bad trees that I thought was terrific at the time!  That was just my inexperience and ignorance of Bonsai.  An instructor set me straight, I felt sad, but I got over it and started working on my skill and experience, to the point to where I'm now in Japan studying it.  :P

Title: Re: juicy debate part II,
Post by: Zach Smith on April 03, 2012, 06:22 AM
This is an interesting topic.  When I was younger I had all the youthful zeal about bonsai, and was more prone to tell students or club members that their "children" were less than beautiful since I knew it all.  As time went on I got a little wiser and tried to fit the observations/advice to what I perceived to be the person's ultimate goals in bonsai and what skill level they wanted to attain, if any.  Many people enjoy bonsai who have no intention of ever becoming a bonsai artist, so why burden them with my opinion about a tree I don't have to look at each day.  I'll repot it and offer a few diplomatic suggestions, and that's as far as it needs to go.  Now, if a student really wants to learn the art then it's worthwhile to point out the challenges with less than stellar material.  Objectively, there's material that pretty much every last skilled bonsai artist would agree is horrible.  Then you move on to material that most wouldn't touch, and eventually you get to material that most everyone would love to work on.  I've seen a lot of butt-ugly material turned into very nice bonsai, given time and skill, so I try not to pre-judge a lot of the questionable trees that show up at the nursery or club meetings.

For what it's worth.

Zach
Title: Re: juicy debate part II,
Post by: Elliott on April 03, 2012, 07:00 AM
Exactly guys! And Peter, thanks for the vote of confidence. I post these topics for debate so we can think about how we teach bonsai to others. Since we can't all go to Japan to study, its almost a see one, do one, teach one mentality and alot of wrong information gets passed along.
 I have seen newbies go to there first club meeting and get told that their malsai ficus or elm should be tossed away and then try to sell them what appears to the newbie to be just a stump in a tray.
 On the other hand, I have seen that newbie happen to join the club one month before the annual club show, and that awful little home depot special ends up in the show because nobody had the heart to tell them that glued on aquarium gravel and w old Asian dude fishing mini figurine is not classic bonsai art.
 A teacher should be as honest as possible wittout turning someone away from doing trees. If you have been in it a while already, yoor teacher should be able to come over to see yur collection and honestly critique whats there. If you choose to continue to water the rejects or get a second opinion, that's the persons prerogative.
 The general level of bonsai in any given nation will not improve without higher discipline levels by the instructors.
 
Title: Re: juicy debate part II,
Post by: MatsuBonsai on April 03, 2012, 08:58 AM
I jokingly mentioned I'm just no good at gently saying "your tree sucks", but really, I'm no good at. I've butted heads with more than a few of our "elder" members.

We've got some old guys that have been in the club since 1972. They are the definition of "1 year of experience repeated 40 times."  One such gentleman whom I have a particular history with professes to hate wiring, states that repotting trees kills them, and whole heartidly believes in potting soil as a bonsai potting medium. When Bjorn was here he brought a newly purchased $5 juniper from Home Depot to the workshop!

I try to be respectful of those that aren't as enthusiastic (my wife pronounces that obsessed) as I am. What irritates me mist is when these old farts contradict me and heckle me at club meetings. On two separate occasions at repotting workshops I have had "senior" members exclaim that I just killed my tree!

Anyone have similar experiences?  Advice for the easily annoyed?
Title: Re: juicy debate part II,
Post by: Adair M on April 03, 2012, 10:07 AM
Wow,Matsu, just, "wow".

How long have you been a member?  I could understand if you were a newbie.  (But, I don't think you are.)

As for the "you just killed your tree", offer to place a bet, and you return the tree next year.  (Or maybe to the next meeting!)



Title: Re: juicy debate part II,
Post by: MatsuBonsai on April 03, 2012, 10:11 AM
Since 2004. President for 2 years as well, but that's a whole other horror story.

I have brought the trees back often.  I've since given up on the club in favor of focusing on my study group. Much better environment filled with only those individuals interested in improving their trees and their skills.
Title: Re: juicy debate part II,
Post by: Chrisl on April 03, 2012, 10:29 AM
I also say "Wow"   I've also found rather feelings in some of our older members in the club too.  That's why I don't attend regularly anymore.  I'm trying to find people to maybe start a study group.  Though Chicago is so big, it's hard to find people who don't have to drive hours for a few hours of studying.  And I totally understand.  But I too would think it'd be a much better learning environment!
Title: Re: juicy debate part II,
Post by: Zach Smith on April 03, 2012, 10:43 AM
I jokingly mentioned I'm just no good at gently saying "your tree sucks", but really, I'm no good at. I've butted heads with more than a few of our "elder" members.

We've got some old guys that have been in the club since 1972. They are the definition of "1 year of experience repeated 40 times."  One such gentleman whom I have a particular history with professes to hate wiring, states that repotting trees kills them, and whole heartidly believes in potting soil as a bonsai potting medium. When Bjorn was here he brought a newly purchased $5 juniper from Home Depot to the workshop!

I try to be respectful of those that aren't as enthusiastic (my wife pronounces that obsessed) as I am. What irritates me mist is when these old farts contradict me and heckle me at club meetings. On two separate occasions at repotting workshops I have had "senior" members exclaim that I just killed my tree!

Anyone have similar experiences?  Advice for the easily annoyed?
You win the prize!  The only conclusion I can draw is that you've been blessed with the ignorant hecklers to help you grow as a person  ;)

That said, your best bet would be to start a private study group and provide less ammunition for your fans at the club meetings.  It was one of the Blue Collar comics (can't remember which one) who said you can't fix stupid.

Zach
Title: Re: juicy debate part II,
Post by: MatsuBonsai on April 03, 2012, 10:52 AM
That was the conclusion I arrived at as well. Tis ashame, as they're the ambassadors of bonsai locally. Two of my study groupers have taken over as president and vice president. Hopefully they'll have the patience to wait out "stupid" and continue to work to improve the club. Maybe then I'll feel welcome in my own club. :)

As to Chicago, Cat Nelson(?) is working hard to improve things there. You should get in touch with her and see how you can help.
Title: Re: juicy debate part II,
Post by: Chrisl on April 03, 2012, 11:02 AM
Cat's great John!  We've had conversations about this and she acknowledged the problems.  I give her great credit for at least trying and being able to put up with the politics of it all.   I just don't see any change as these members have been there, some for over 30yrs., and nothing is going to change their opinions.  Very discouraging to newer members.
Title: Re: juicy debate part II,
Post by: MatsuBonsai on April 03, 2012, 11:08 AM
They can't live forever. ;)
Title: Re: juicy debate part II,
Post by: Chrisl on April 03, 2012, 11:10 AM
So true! LOL!!!  That was funny John!
Title: Re: juicy debate part II,
Post by: Adair M on April 03, 2012, 11:40 AM
Oh, gosh, this thread has brought back memories...

Back in the day, I was an enthusiastic newbie, and took classes, bought books, magazines, workshops,etc.  The "guru" back then was John Naka, who would come to town every year (maybe ever other year) for a workshop.  We used to search all year for appropriate material to bring to that workshop!

But, yes, there were factions within the Club, the Atlanta Bonsai Society.  Some followed "this" local guru, some "that" guy.  I was Vice-President one year, and I gave a couple of demonstrations myself.  And yes, I now remember I was heckled some, too.  (I had forgotten all that...)

I am considering re-joining, but only so as to have access to the workshops and demos when they bring in the young bucks who have been spending their youth at the Japanese bonsai apprentice programs.
Title: Re: juicy debate part II,
Post by: Larry Gockley on April 03, 2012, 12:19 PM
Great conversation guys. It reminds me of that Nazi impersonator on the old Laugh In TV show who. The only thing he ever said was " Veeeeeery interesting". I know I'm showing my age.
  I do have a few cents to add however. It seems that club politics are their major downfall. People leave or clubs break up because of peoples difference of opinion. The club usually has an alfa male, or female, who likes a certain look in his trees, and those who agree style their trees the same way, and the others end up leaving the club. I have been to many  different club meetings where all the trees looked very similar. It seems that nobody teaches the basics anymore. Anyone who is serious about bonsai needs to read David De Groots book, " Basic Bonsai Design". I believe it should be mandatory reading. I have been to clubs and touched on subjects such as proportion and balance, only to realize this person has no idea what I'm talking about. If everyone learned the basics, club politics would not play as big a part, because everyone would be on the same page.Davids dedication page is to " my teacher and friend", Vaughn Banting. I still enjoy watching his teaching videos, but I never hear anyone even mention his name. There is a lot to be learned from the basics.   That said, I would never tell someone their tree sucks. I saw a Ryan Neil critique recently where he mentioned we should look for the good in a tree, and try to determine the story the artist is trying to tell. He said, if all you can see is bad in the tree, you need to look for another hobby. I don't like when people say this tree is ugly and it will never be a good tree. It makes me think, don't blame the tree man, you're the artist, do something.  That brings up another point I was thinking about. If you had, say a hundred trees, and every one of them won an international award, what exactly would that get you? Would you get more satisfaction than someone who loved his trees, and got satisfaction just looking at them, every one being a stick in a pot? I honestly believe that being too critical of others trees is not the way to spread the art/craft of bonsai. Just my two cents. Larry
Title: Re: juicy debate part II,
Post by: Elliott on April 03, 2012, 12:41 PM
Matsu. Oh my god! U hit it so hard on the nail, I thought I was reading My own post I put up when I was high or something and forgot I posted it!!
 I'm in So Cal- the land of do it like it 1978 or ur an idiot. ( I refer u back to Nathan's recent thread about John Naka). We are also waiting patient for some of those to retire to diapers so the modern world can step in( not all are like that, there is a few older members who are on the ball and open to always learning, but not many).
 Jim Barrett is an example of someone who has been in it since the sixties, has been teaching since the seventies, and is still putting out valid info and beautiful trees in a modern style.
 Lately through my teacher who did an apprenticeship in Japan with Mr. Sakurai, I have met many people who have awesome material and I have not even heard of them before, because they are not involved with clubs. They stick to themselves and avoid all the BS.
 It seems the best club to be in is the no club, club!
Matsu, u don't have the power to change these guys. Once you realise that, it gets easier not to be frustrated by them and it only makes you look bad when you try to go against them ( i got accused of being rude early on on this very thread for laughing at someone like that). Remember, u can lead a horse to water........

Title: Re: juicy debate part II,
Post by: John Kirby on April 03, 2012, 12:55 PM
Elliott,
Smile man, things are getting better. I love the attempts at World Domination by certain facets of the community. Let's put it this way, Not too many Years ago, John Naka was the big draw at Bonsai conventions, then we had the army of demonstraters from So Cal that traveled about (and some still do!), then came Warren Hill, Chase Rosade, Joe Harris, Kathy Shaner, Kenji Miyata a few others, then Marco Invernizzi, Walter Pall, Marc Noelanders, Mike Hagedorn, The Englishman Translator Guy(?), Ryan Neal and soon Matt Reel, Peter Tea, etc., etc, etc. All talented, bright and often spectacular people.

The beauty is, there is a lot of talent in the country and visiting the country. They all have great strengths (let's not forget Bill Valvanis who has been working on Bonsai Education for decades). My suggestion is pick a teacher, a study group, a club and sick with it, until you feel you aren't learning anything anymore, then move on. I have been fortunate to study and work with one person and club for the past 7 years, I am still learning, generally that there is a whole lot of stuff that I don't know or can't do, yet. Keeps it fun, and helps justify the plane tickets to get there.

John
Title: Re: juicy debate part II,
Post by: Elliott on April 03, 2012, 01:05 PM
Larry
 U have some valid points and ur right, it is a very interesting thread. That's why I have been starting these and I'm glad its worked.
 However the question was when should a TEACHER tell a student that that tree will never be great. I'm not talking about going around and pointing out all the bad points on everything you see to whoever will listen to you. Most trees have good and bad and in a critique its best to start with the good parts, but if the person that you pay $ to for their opinion is not honest, than ur getting a bum deal. It is up to the instructor to relay honest info in a responsible and considerate way.
 I have many trees that my teacher has said get rid of it. I'm still gonna keep some cause I like the tree, or It used to belong to a friend who died or whatever, but I still expect my teacher to be brutal with me because he can be that way to ME. Somebody else he may have to be a little softer. This thread is about teacher and student relationship, not appointing urself king of bonsai judging and pronouncing yea or nea on everybodies trees.
 Hey John, this is for u... :D
Title: Re: juicy debate part II,
Post by: Brian Brandley on April 03, 2012, 01:32 PM
I haven't contributed here very often.  Most of you don't know me, or whether I know a stick from a masterpiece, but that's OK.

In discussing the teacher - student relationship I would like to emphasize how important precise and non-judgemental communication can be.  Many people will tell you that they want bluntness, or to "call a spade a spade".  But honest communication doesn't have to use vague terms.  To call a tree "bad" or "worthless", or "not worth your time" may be true, but it suffers from a lack of precision.  I don't mind blunt criticism, but I need to know why the tree is bad, worthless, or whatever.  It is much more useful in my mind to skip the perjorative terms, and focus on objective critique - "the tree has no taper", "internodes are too long", "this trunk does not impart the appearance of age because...."

Often those receiving the critique (particularly beginners) stop listening after they hear "bad", "worthless" or whatever.  Those terms generate an emotional response, but worse, they are meaningless without the objective details that follow.  So why bother with the emotionally laden terms at all....just get to the heart of it.

Brian

Title: Re: juicy debate part II,
Post by: Larry Gockley on April 03, 2012, 03:38 PM
Elliott, you are exactly right. I ques I was talking about a slightly different circumstance. If I were paying a teacher to guide me, I would expect him / her to be honest about my tree.A teacher should ,perhaps ask the tree owner his long range plans for the tree, and if that is not practical, the student should be told.
   I do understand the original question of the thread, and yes, on occasion I did get an idea that the instructor was holding something back. I just could never put my finger on it, not being sure if he was witholding info on purpose, or maybe wasn't very good at getting his point across. As I said, some are better at teaching.
Title: Re: juicy debate part II,
Post by: nathanbs on April 03, 2012, 03:45 PM
Great thread! Not much that i can add to the teacher/student aspect as I think you have all covered it fairly well, however I think it is very important irregardless of our age that we don't give up on clubs nor do we set out to start a new one(unless that is the only option).  These clubs are often the core of the hobby here in the US and it is important that there is all around useful, helpful, exciting, cutting edge and even basic information being disseminated at these meetings.  The majority of us are complaining that there is an old way about these clubs and they are unwilling to change. Imagine if there was only a diehard, cutting edge no holds barred your tree will never amount to anything attitude at these clubs. This may work for you or I that strive to be the best we can be in not just the hobby, but the Art of bonsai, but I can guarantee that it will not work for Mr. or Mrs. Smith that is not interested in change.  Perhaps I just stumbled upon something, the "hobby" of bonsai versus the "art" of bonsai?  The hobbyist versus the artist?  Maybe that's the black and white divide?  Maybe we need clubs devoted to the hobby and others devoted to the art?  Although this does bring me to a major pet peeve I have, and that is that there are approximately 10 clubs within a 1 hour drive from me. I think this is excessive. They all struggle ,more or less financially, with attendance, and with coming up with good demonstrations that you didn't just see down the road 2 days ago.  I guess time will sort all of these things out. My advice is that if there is more than one club in your area, figure out which one is most likely to change and bend to more modern techniques and ideas and slowly take it over with you and others that share the same agenda. The other club in the area can be where they serve jello and work on sticks ;)
Title: Re: juicy debate part II,
Post by: Judy on April 03, 2012, 04:19 PM
Brian I agree with you. The whole idea behind teaching is to impart wisdom, and if the teacher is any good, they will tell you the meaning behind the terms.  By just saying a tree is bad with no more input than that is not teaching at all.  How would anyone learn from that method.  I can't imagine why anyone would be a student of that kind of teacher. 
Title: Re: juicy debate part II,
Post by: Larry Gockley on April 03, 2012, 04:27 PM
And since the topic is " a juicy debate", I would like to add a few more irons to the fire, questions if you will. What exactly is modern bonsai, and if you don't like how things are done, can you change them and just call it modern bonsai? Also, what about the little old men fisherman figurines? I could be wrong, but are not figurines still used in Chinese bonsai, and haven't they been doing bonsai about 1,500 years before the Japanese? Why is one way right and one wrong? And one more question, I can see that a craft would have right and wrong paths to take, but isn't art, more or less by definition, interpreted by the artist? Case in point - hip-hop music. Larry
Title: Re: juicy debate part II,
Post by: nathanbs on April 03, 2012, 05:25 PM
I would say modern bonsai is bonsai that is modern ;) , no really, it would be bonsai that is being produced by today's artists.  Artist like Kimura, Suzuki, Harrington, Neil, Noelanders, Boon, Matson, Shaner, Bjorn, Owen, Peter Tea, John Wang, Potter, many more, apologies to those that were left off.  And no, implementing change does not necessarily equal modern. The changes would have to be in the direction of what is currently being done. I think there is a slight misunderstanding I am not referring to the word modern as a style but as reference to present time.  Since the era when Naka was considered modern there have been many many changes to bonsai that an artist and hobbyist alike should pay attention to, these changes have to do not only design techniques and methodologies but overall hoticulture as well.  Translation, all design aspects aside there is better information today about taking care of your trees than there was yesterday.
Referencing penjing or pensai(Chinese bonsai) is a valid discussion for another thread. What are we striving for? Bonsai? Penjing? European style bonsai, American style bonsai? In general as an art form you are absolutely correct it is to the interpretation of the artist. I greatly respect all forms of bonsai, mainly modern Japanese bonsai and some modern penjing(without the mudmen), therefore I yearn to study them and learn all that i can about them so that I can implement or borrow techniques used by them to create what I consider to be beautiful trees. By the way what is wrong with hip-hop music? :)
Title: Re: juicy debate part II,
Post by: Jerry Norbury on April 09, 2012, 05:32 PM
...snip...
In discussing the teacher - student relationship I would like to emphasize how important precise and non-judgemental communication can be.  Many people will tell you that they want bluntness, or to "call a spade a spade".  But honest communication doesn't have to use vague terms.  To call a tree "bad" or "worthless", or "not worth your time" may be true, but it suffers from a lack of precision.  I don't mind blunt criticism, but I need to know why the tree is bad, worthless, or whatever.  It is much more useful in my mind to skip the perjorative terms, and focus on objective critique - "the tree has no taper", "internodes are too long", "this trunk does not impart the appearance of age because...."

Often those receiving the critique (particularly beginners) stop listening after they hear "bad", "worthless" or whatever.  Those terms generate an emotional response, but worse, they are meaningless without the objective details that follow.  So why bother with the emotionally laden terms at all....just get to the heart of it.

Brian
I agree - I believe this is the way to do it.

Teach the skills to enable the student to reach their own conclusions.

On a UK forum, frequented by many inexperienced hobbyists, I became so tired of trying to correct or even find ANY form of design in so much worthless material that I wrote a set of "objective" selection criteria. These are a set of rules which must apply to the material you buy. It was the usual stuff about needing visible roots, low branches, many branches, trunk taper, trunk girth etc. One subjective attribute is an "interesting trunk", and I recognise that it's tricky one, but the rest were all measurable things.

Needless to say a number of these beginners then went off and measured their trees against my criteria. Guess what? Lo and behold , it turns out they have sticks in pots after all! No one was told they had bad trees; no one was told their trees were wrong; an objective assessment gives you the result.

Now this doesn't work for all styles, but for most beginners, it is sufficiently objective that they can work it out. I go into more detail on each attribute when required.

Positive attributes
Visible (surface) roots
Interesting trunk (this is subjective)
Trunk taper
Trunk girth
Adundant branches - on all sides
Foliage starting near the trunk
Branches start low - close to the roots
Branches are ramified
Abundant foliage (i.e. healthy)

Negative attributes
Awkward or unbalanced roots
Long straight section(s) of trunk or main branches
Particularly thin trunks
Sparse branches or odd placement of branches
2 dimensional structure
Odd trunk or main branch bends
Visible chop or cut scars
Odd trunk/branch taper
Title: Re: juicy debate part II,
Post by: akeppler on April 14, 2012, 12:07 AM

A modicum of intelligence and an artistic eye dont always go hand in hand.



This is true.  I read about it daily on the myriad of forums I peruse......since 1997.  Kirby gets it....He is one of the few that knew me in the good ole days.
Title: Re: juicy debate part II,
Post by: John Kirby on April 14, 2012, 09:41 PM
Smile Al, we can only have so much fun.
Title: Re: juicy debate part II,
Post by: akeppler on April 14, 2012, 09:53 PM
Maybe jet lag would help....