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Finding a Way to Improve Any Bonsai


Fajri-SimulationRobert Steven's simulation of a Pemphis acidula that was submitted by Nurul Fajri (the original photo is below).

Traveling today, so it’s archive time. We first featured the critique back in November, 2013. The tree is exceptional and worth another look

When I opened my email from Robert Steven and glanced at the before photo (below), I thought it was the after photo. But only for a moment. It’s the pot that gave it away. The rest looked pretty good (some of us might trade our entire collections for a tree like this). But not good enough for Robert who always seems to find ways to improve any bonsai.

FajriThe photo that Nurul Fajri submitted to Robert.

Robert’s Critique
Pemphis acidula that are collected from nature often have rocks attached. Composing harmonious designs that incorporate these rocks while retaining a tropical look, requires well-developed bonsai sensibilities and skill.

The trunk, the foliage and the pot, which are the basic elements in the design above, look like they are all from different sources and lack unity. The neat round crown suggests a formal tree and does not fit with the casual character of the trunk; it’s apical shape breaks the flow from the trunk to the releasing tip. Also, the pot is too big for the rocky base; its bulky heavy feel distracts from the natural beauty of the tree. Consequently, the overall design lacks harmony and the tree’s dynamic movement is not adequately expressed.

The ideal shape for the crown is irregular. This fits much better with tree’s the casual feel. In order to improve the visual balance, the trunk is leaned slightly to the left. Due to the heavy rock, the best way to minimize the bulky base is to use a shallow hand-made container. Its natural shape also fits well with the other elements. As a result of these changes, a more dynamic and harmonious mood is created.

Robert’s General Comments
There is more than one way to design any bonsai and my critiques and recommended solutions might not always fit your taste and personal preferences, but I always try to give my opinion based on artistic and horticultural principles.

To understand my concepts better, please read my books Vision of My Soul (out of stock for now) and Mission of Transformation which is available at Stone Lantern.

Your are also welcome to visit my facebook pages and my bonsai blog.

 Robert helped Nurul Fajri make this background for his display in the International Bonsai Art & Culture Biennale 2014.

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