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Book Review: "Vision of My Soul" by Robert Steven

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akeppler:
Well Rick I have no idea what your point was...(all over the place, from Naka quotes to Walter, to Fibbonaci ) but I digress.

If I may be so bold as to offer a couple of my opinions about books. I have a lot. Let me rephrase that. I have had a lot. I am down to about 25 or so now. I have had as many as over 75 books on bonsai at one time or another during the course of study. The one thing all the books I have ever had except those that dealy with only pictures like Kokufu books is that they always deal with bonsai in the past tense.

Vision of my Soul is just the most recent...errr Mission of Transformation that deals with bonsai in the past tense. What is needed is a book on bonsai that deals with future in bonsai. What do I mean by past tense...well like Tuesday morning quarterbacking. On Tuesday everyone is a pro. This is what he should have done, this is what I would have done, if he had done this...etc.

Anyone that has showed a tree, designed a bonsai, read a 100 books,etc.etc. can look at most any tree and tell you why it works or what could be done to improve it. It is not hard to apply the rule of thirds, ( Fibbonaci sequence ) to most anything in everyday life. This is not anything ground breaking or earth shattering. The human eye left to it's own accord will do just a good of job on it's own. A sense of harmony for shape and form is born into us at the moment of conception. There is a reason why women have such lovely curves and bulges! This sense for what is beautiful and harmonious is a trait we are born with and helps perpetuate the species.  

As I study more and more about the works of Keido (Japanese art of formal display) I am taken with the Japanese idea that the human eye alone is what will find items arranged the most pleasing. While the work of Willi Benz goes on to give us a primer on display, it also does a disservice by focusing too much energy of making sure a display is set to a set of measuring rules rather than what looks pleasing to the eye. What can we do to develop this "eye" to what is the best way to make a tree or set a display? Well this is what needs to be written about. Problem is making a book with the simple words "Practise, Practise, Practise" does not make  for a very large book.

Being in a trade whereby I work with my hands (carpenter) I can tell you that practise is the way to superiority. When I began making bonsai stands I wasn't very good at it. I had the basics, could cut and glue the wood, but had no sense of proportion or asthetics of what made a stand look good. After building about 85 stands I can honestly say that practise makes perfect. Once again there is not a book on the planet that could have helped me in that journey to make stands the way I do now.

I have worked side by side of some of the most gifted artists in the world. One thing I have noticed about the way almost everyone I have ever seen is that for the most part they design bonsai by the seat of their pants. I have asked Kenji Miyata about designing trees on paper, he laughs, says that "blueprint is for building Shrine". For instance what if a tree is sketched on paper to fullfill every aspect of perfect design ideals and the rule of thirds. What if a branch breaks during bending or a branch does not quite bend to the appropriate area to fullfill the design needs. Do we scrap the whole tree based on this failure of execution? No we let it grow a year or two and come back and salvage what the tree has given us at this new moment. No need to look back, we will never have "that" opportunity again. Except in a book...haha.

Books for the writer fullfill two needs....ego...and money. Not necessarily in that order.

Books for the reader fullfill two needs, inspiration...and the hopes in finally buying the Holy grail only to find out it's all been written before.

Rick Moquin:
Al,

There is absolutely no doubt that experience cannot be found in a book, but the foundation blocks are and, the latter is not specifically applied to bonsai. You will never get an argument from me wrt that.

There is absolutely no doubt nor argument that one on one teaching is the way to go. But the knowledge imparted to any given audience on any given subject came from a book at some point in time. You cannot possibly deny that.

You are right all books are past tense. Where was the objectivity in review X? It was transparent that the reviewer had absolutely no use for Andy Rutledge, which in turn might have clouded his objectivity. The book is about the artistic side of bonsai. Personally I don't care who was involved with it. Did/does the medium get the point across to the reader. If yes, then the author reached his audience and got his point across, regardless who the editor was.

The reference to Walter and Naka:

Review X stated there was nothing new or innovative with Robert's style (melding the Japanese and Chinese influence together). In doing so did he not brake away from tradition not dissimilar to what Walter did with his naturalistic approach. That's why Walter was used as an example. John Naka is self explanatory.

Both books are about the artistic side of bonsai. So if the book was able to impart artistic knowledge and design to a person, what is more important the medium used or the end result? How many trees have you seen that were designed according to convention? As I, I bet many. Where branch X is where it is supposed to be etc, branch Y is where it is supposed to be etc, etc... the result a design that leaves us flat as the tree is a manufactured thing vice the representation of a living thing, in miniature.

Fubunaci's equation encompasses everything we see or do in our daily lives. It is something we never gave a second thought about or even cared to label it. It is either aesthetically pleasing or it is not, and if it is not then, when applying the principle "the subject" usually falls out of the equation/norm more often than not. But his equation is not limited to art perse, it is seen is every aspect of our daily functions.

You are a woodworker, as I. When we design something out of the blue for the first time, what principles or guidelines do we use? Is it important? Yes it is important, or else the object of our creation is/would appear unbalanced. This is evident to us when we draw the prototype (cheaper than fabricating the prototype), hence why many choose to draw to scale, vice a mere sketch. The sketch is an idea, the scaled drawing the plan...

We may think that we need to please the eye, but we would be wrong in making that assumption. The eye is nothing more than a camera lens, which in turn transmits a focal point to the brain where it is then compared against a vast data bank held there. Although it might be pleasing or not to the eye, it is the brain that decides what is or isn't and, how is that decided? By the information contained in our storage boxes for the lack of a better word. The information acquired through reading, viewing, teaching etc... the brain in turn then transmits lessons learned.

In turn it is the brain that will transmit the knowledge talent and experience gained from the storage bank to the hands to execute the work and, the camera lens re-transmit the focal point against the data bank once again for comparison etc, etc, etc...


--- Quote ---Being in a trade whereby I work with my hands (carpenter) I can tell you that practise is the way to superiority. When I began making bonsai stands I wasn't very good at it. I had the basics, could cut and glue the wood, but had no sense of proportion or asthetics of what made a stand look good. After building about 85 stands I can honestly say that practise makes perfect. Once again there is not a book on the planet that could have helped me in that journey to make stands the way I do now.
--- End quote ---

What did you change in your journey? What made you change things during that journey? What led to the improvements, and why did you put them into practice? Where did the information come from? So you built a better mouse trap, that's innovation, but if the fundamentals of mouse trap building are not understood, in all honesty how can you say that your new and improved mouse trap is better than mouse trap X.


--- Quote ---I have worked side by side of some of the most gifted artists in the world. One thing I have noticed about the way almost everyone I have ever seen is that for the most part they design bonsai by the seat of their pants. I have asked Kenji Miyata about designing trees on paper, he laughs, says that "blueprint is for building Shrine". For instance what if a tree is sketched on paper to fullfill every aspect of perfect design ideals and the rule of thirds. What if a branch breaks during bending or a branch does not quite bend to the appropriate area to fullfill the design needs. Do we scrap the whole tree based on this failure of execution? No we let it grow a year or two and come back and salvage what the tree has given us at this new moment. No need to look back, we will never have "that" opportunity again. Except in a book...haha.
--- End quote ---

... and through shear repetition (experience) they do not need a reference, their references are in their heads. That being said how did it get there? They are using a mental template stored in their brain and transmitted to the tree. Where does that mental image come from? You know you may look at a tree for days on end, and try and duplicate said tree, the image our eyes see, but without a foundation on "how to" how are you going to go about it?

If books are totally useless, then why are you documenting your work and posting it on the forums? What purpose does it serve? All that information you post is totally useless (in your opinion, not mine), unless you and I can get together for some one on one. But no, there is valuable information being exchanged, regardless of the medium used and that is what is important the exchange of information not the medium.

Speaking of medium. Will's involvement with Robert's second book set the stage for some pre-conceived notion wrt the book. What is more important once again, the information contained or the medium used? Was his second book of the same quality as his first? No. Why is that? My opinion on the subject can be seen here.[/b]

Attached is a photo of a cabinet I built for a specific location. The proportions are pretty much correct when dealing with the space this cabinet had to occupy. In the final phases when installing the hinges, absent minded I went with aesthetics over functionality. Would I do the same mistake again? No! That's experience.

In conclusion rules are made to be broken, what one needs is the knowledge and experience to know when, why and how they can be broken and why changing them makes sense. We don't change them just because we want to. The final results must always outweigh the former. In this particular case the swing of the door.

Not trying to preach here, just trying to put my thoughts into perspective.

John Kirby:
AH, one can tell it is winter in the hinterlands.

I just spent several lovely days plucking needles and wiring pines.

I don't deny in any way shape or form that Bonsai is art, but it also is a lot of work. It is easy to tell who does the work and who doesn't- just look at the trees.

Happy New Years,
John

Rick Moquin:
Your absolutely right John. But do you work towards a direction or just plain work?  ;)

John Kirby:
That is for me to know and for you to ponder.

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