Behind the Rules
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Author:  Robert Steven [ Sun Jun 24, 2007 9:14 am ]
Post subject:  Behind the Rules

This thread is for discussing the article by Robert Steven: Behind The Rules.

Author:  Richard Moquin [ Sun Jun 24, 2007 9:57 am ]
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It is refreshing to see someone of Robert's stature take the leap and condemn the "rules" so to speak. In doing so, Robert's creations have become fluid in comparison with bonsais created under the century old fundamentals, which IMO create "rigid" bonsai.

I have always had a penchant for the Chinese approach vice the Japanese, please don't get me wrong each have their own merits. I believe what has drawn me towards one vice the other is the fluidity of movement that, that particular practice and Robert seem to convey so easily. Robert is not the only one to go against the rules so to speak, but none have done it which such mastery and elegance. An inspiration for all to follow.

Author:  Robert Steven [ Sun Jun 24, 2007 10:20 am ]
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Thanks Richard,
I have to emphasize that I am NOT against the bonsai rules and convention. On every teaching occasion, I always mention that I am not promoting a revolutionary concept to break the rules as the target, but I am offering a different perspective to implement the rules base on aesthetic and artistic principals of visual art. In another word, I am explaining the 'why' rather than the 'how' in order to create the bonsai as an art instead of hobby craft.

For more of my bonsai thought, you can visit my blog :
or view my recent post at IBC : ... ic=21997.0

Author:  Richard Moquin [ Sun Jun 24, 2007 11:32 am ]
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Sorry if I sounded so rash with my observation wrt the rules Robert. They are indeed needed for direction, but as you have so eloquently pointed out, they need to be bent on occasion IOT really transmit the essence of artistic beauty.

Walter does the same in his own way. On the other hand, Naka probably described it best with his famous saying. John is no longer with us but I believe the essence of his thoughts are transmitted through your work.

Having said that, it is indeed a rare gift you possess and as discussed last week or so in a thread, you either have talent or you don't. One can aspire in gaining a certain amount, but artistic flair at the level you display is rare indeed. To be able to take said talent and manifest its beauty at times breaking the rules in the process gives cause for reflection. In doing so, I am sure that many fundamentalist are questioning their own logic behind their application. That is what I was trying to convey so miserably in my original post.

I visit your blog occasionally, but I must admit that the latest posting of the Prennas, (forest simulations), exceed the IBC link you have provided.

Author:  Robert Steven [ Sun Jun 24, 2007 12:18 pm ]
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Thanks Richard. I hope to meet you somedays...

Author:  Mike Page [ Sun Jun 24, 2007 1:56 pm ]
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I'll be happy when the day comes that we see the word "rules" stricken from the bonsai lexicon. It seems so rigid and dogmatic. Art must be unfettered. It can't be restricted to a predictable path like a train on a track. More appropriate that it be like a bird in the open sky, and able to soar in freedom.

So my fellow bonsaiists, when you are discussing the art and practice of bonsai, and the word "rules" comes to mind, stifle it and substitute "guidelines".

Robert, many thanks for all you do to promote the art of bonsai, and for the guidance you give to us.

Author:  Dorothy Schmitz [ Sun Jun 24, 2007 2:38 pm ]
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There are only THREE rules for creating a bonsai.Unfortunately no one knows
what they are...;)

Author:  Peter Evans [ Sun Jun 24, 2007 5:42 pm ]
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Balance,Form, and Style.
How about these to start with?.
Robert, I do love your approach to styling. Not confined but in harmony.
This has to be inspirational to ALL.
I Love It. Peter.

Author:  Ed Trout [ Mon Jun 25, 2007 7:22 pm ]
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Dorothy & Peter,
You guys are right on ! I teach 5 basic "rules" to people that ask.
1. Balance
2. Movement
3. Taper
4. Depth
5. Health
Of course, some of these can be defined differently, but "most" good bonsai contain all in some degree. ( especially #5 !! )
Wonderful article ! I've found over the years that "contemplation", is the most enjoyable aspect of my bonsai experiences. You have obviously " thought out " your moves admirably in this, the ultimate chess match with mother nature. I really enjoyed it !!

Ed Trout Pembroke Pines, Florida

Author:  Robert Steven [ Tue Jun 26, 2007 10:03 am ]
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Thanks Ed.
I admire your work as well....

Author:  Emil Brannstrom [ Sat Jun 30, 2007 4:23 pm ]
Post subject:  Re:

Richard Moquin wrote:
Sorry if I sounded so rash with my observation wrt the rules Robert. They are indeed needed for direction, but as you have so eloquently pointed out, they need to be bent on occasion IOT really transmit the essence of artistic beauty.

Hi Richard (and the rest of AoB)!
My interpretation of was Mr Steven said in his article was that the rules are not even "bent on occasion". For example, the "rule" of "no bar branches" is often (mis)understood as if there should be no bar branches. What that rule really says is "no design elements should stop the visual flow". As for some of the other examples, such as the eye poker, breaks the "eye poker-rule" but is in perfect harmony with the aestethic principle of visual flow. As you can see, the rule is only broken if understood literally but isn't broken if the "why" is understood. Without the added eye poker in Mr Stevens example the visual flow would be impaired because the two areas of foliage would visually become two separate areas. With the eye poker in place the eye has a "stepping stone" that ties the two areas together visually. The other examples mainly deal with the concept of visual counterweights (the knee root, bow shapes trunk and the crossed branches). Again, those rules are also broken if interpreted literally.
Perhaps it is time to rephrase The Rules?

Author:  Dan Cormican [ Fri Aug 24, 2007 2:28 pm ]
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Being fairly new to Bonsai, I am still intensely focused on the number 1 most important rule in bonsai: Don't kill the tree.
Excellent article Robert. Very instructive and helpful with the photo's illustrating your points.

Author:  Robert Steven [ Fri Aug 24, 2007 11:55 pm ]
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Thanks Emil and Dan.
For your info, the second edition of my book is published and soon will be ready and can be ordered through Stone Lantern :

Author:  Dan Cormican [ Sat Aug 25, 2007 10:58 pm ]
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That is great news Robert. I've been kicking myself for the last year for missing out on the first pressing.

Author:  Heather HartmanCoste [ Tue Aug 28, 2007 7:34 pm ]
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goodness! Ditto! Thank you for letting us know and dropping the link. I know I don't post here much, I'm primarily a lurker (so many of you being soooo far out of my league), but I still wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed this article, and that I'm thrilled to see a reprint of your book available :)

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