Critique: Walter Pall's Japanese Maple
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Author:  Vance Wood [ Mon Oct 22, 2007 9:53 pm ]
Post subject:  Critique: Walter Pall's Japanese Maple

This thread is for discussing Vance Wood's critique of Walter Pall's Japanese Maple.

Author:  Shaukat Islam [ Mon Oct 29, 2007 3:31 am ]
Post subject: 

A nicely written critique by Vance Wood, and this tree also happens to by one of my favorites (and I am sure there are numerous other admirers worldwide) that you get to see on the net, although my top favourite is Walter's RMJ.

The J. Maple is undoubtedly world class, very dignified and well styled and one can see and feel the 'art of bonsai' in it.

What strikes me instantly while seeing the image of this grand J. Maple is the very way this tree carries itself with ease, comfort and age (read also intellect). And I like the clean soil surface, devoid of any moss, which looks great. The pot selection is superb which blends very well with the tree and creates great viewing experience.

I have learned a lot from Walter's many trees posted at his blog, and the experience has been worthwhile.

Author:  Enrique Castano [ Mon Oct 29, 2007 9:06 pm ]
Post subject:  critic?

I did could not find the critique in the text, just a lot of words, kind of like jumping through a bumpy road.

First let?s look at the good points from the tree.

Great photo!!! I wish I could take pictures with this quality!
Pot, ummm great pot, good selection in size color and shape it provides a great help to the composition.

Now with the tree.

Nebari, good from the front, a nice radial set of roots that quickly reduce in thickness.

The base of the trunk show the beginning of age as the bark is beginning to mature.

The line of the multiple trunks shows a good selection of the main middle trunk which provides balance for the design.
The tree provides a good visual aid due to the negative space created between branches, which means a good selection on the position of the leafs.

Over all it creates a nice natural shape of a tree.

Negative points.

Nebari, two parallel roots looking quit similar going directly to the front. Some roots do reduce to quickly and need time to have a more natural look.

Trunk lines, there is a bit of competition between the trunks, the first trunk that goes back seems does without providing the illusion that it goes back if it would gradually decrease in thinness it would give a more pleasing shape. After a point it seems that at one time it was cut and then the upper branches were created. two branches plus the new line of the trunk appear to go in similar direction, this provides a lack of crown from this first trunk that has to be filled by a branch from a different trunk. The end result, at first glance looks good, but there is no connection. Furthermore, there are lots of branches that cross the trunk lines in an excessive way. Moreover, the lack of branches at the lower and middle height from this trunk means that it requires again the branches from another trunk. This is probably a main problem with this first trunk as it would need this branch to improve the taper of this first trunk. Second trunk small and but it provides the visual branches from the first trunk, which means the branches are far to long for this trunk. Third trunk also lacks taper. Being the main trunk it seems not to hold anything special and the top seems to become thicker than the trunk probably due to the large amount of branches at the crown which has a few gaps that needs to develop in the future. Apparently one of the branches of this first trunk may be set as the fourth trunk.

The fifth trunk appears to dominate with two branches emerging from the same point. However this last trunk does have a nice taper.
These are some simple criticisms to this great tree. Obviously, rules should not govern over design and this tree provides a nice natural feeling. However, a quick solution might not be the best over time.

Best wishes

Author:  Will Heath [ Wed Oct 31, 2007 8:43 am ]
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Hi Vance,
Your critique has been translated and posted also at
Excellent work,


Author:  Ron Sudiono [ Wed Oct 31, 2007 8:58 am ]
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My first reaction: beautiful tree, no doubt, but .. there is also a vague feeling of "no less, but also no more", so I ask myself how one can write a lot words about it. I want to underline the first sentence in my predecessor, saying that the text is not saying what the title says. But also, photographs are not such good medium to "read the tree". Despite of that fact:

Point of distraction: the point in the tree where the multiple trunks started to grow; it seem too low, and it looks like a sumo showing his fat belly. How will it looks as this point is a slightly higher on the tree ?

Another thing is the pot: it fits much better without leaves (than the summer appearance). If so, than the question should be: choose another pot which fits both seasons.

I've learned that a mature maple tree has 3 different forms for branches: the thick main branches will be firmly upward pointed, the secondary branches will be almost horizontal placed, and the tertiary branches will be slightly downward pointed, or at least horizontal.

Author:  Vance Wood [ Wed Oct 31, 2007 3:08 pm ]
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Wow, we have a critique of a critique! Hey,--- a critique is nothing more than the written impression of one viewer of a medium to another. If you disagree you critique the tree. I am certain some will agree and some will not.

I do not have to defend what I have written, I believe what I have published, this is a wonderful and significant tree that breaks a lot of barriers without being pretentious. There is a power and dignity to this tree. I challenge anyone to duplicate it, perhaps surpass it if possible.

Author:  Will Heath [ Wed Oct 31, 2007 11:11 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: critic?

Let's discuss the tree, or if you disagree with something Vance said in his critique about the tree, by all means point it out and give reasons why. Let's please refrain from critiquing the critique with vague references to such things as "too many words" or critiquing the author. It is about the tree, after all.

Great technical points on the tree Enrique, out of curiosity, would you say that the overall image, as presented, works? How would you compare it to other Maple groups you have seen?


Author:  Marc Steurbaut [ Thu Nov 01, 2007 3:45 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: critic?

Will Heath wrote:
Let's discuss the tree, or if you disagree with something Vance said in his critique about the tree, by all means point it out and give reasons why. Let's please refrain from critiquing the critique with vague references to such things as "too many words" or critiquing the author. It is about the tree, after all.
Great technical points on the tree Enrique, out of curiosity, would you say that the overall image, as presented, works? How would you compare it to other Maple groups you have seen?


I'm a beginner, but I can see why Walter Pall is a little controversial in bonsai world. I must admit I love his trees, in a way they represent what's called 'Western' bonsai, right?

Author:  Will Heath [ Thu Nov 01, 2007 4:57 pm ]
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The term commonly used to describe Walter's style is "Naturalistic"

Author:  Marc Steurbaut [ Fri Nov 02, 2007 12:25 pm ]
Post subject:  Re:

Will Heath wrote:
The term commonly used to describe Walter's style is "Naturalistic"

OK, thanks. This explains it:

Author:  Enrique Castano [ Mon Nov 05, 2007 11:40 am ]
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Dear Vance, sorry for the critique, I was just expecting to read more about positive and negative aspects of the tree.

The overall image of the tree is quite nice, but as I pointed out it has some details that does compete with the story. Usually a great and I mean a "great" bonsai does tell a story, the story might be different to each viewer as well as the felling it provokes, that's why it is an art after all. No one can tell you what to feel that part is personal but as an art you must feel something and if you look closely there is a story the tree is telling. However with this tree I feel a competition of stories, one that of a tall tree (this is due to the nicely space between the branches) and another the story of what has been done to the tree (usually we don't want to see or know this story) if you can trace back and see what branches have been cut, what has been wired and position and what has been carved etc this let you see that the tree is not yet ready. One begins to see the story of the tree more on what has been done to it than what the tree tries to show. As for the "rules" they obviously do not need to apply to get a great tree. For example, for me Peter Chan famous mountain Maple is quite a good masterpiece, it is not particular a thick tree, and it does not follow the typical rules, however the overall image is great, one cannot find the story of what has been done to the tree. One of the reasons we don?t see many great Japanese maples is because they take a long time to heal (although not so much with trident maples). One can see Bill Valanies maple that he got from Yuji, a long time ago, it is doing great, and still will need a few more years to go, but that's part of this art, to enjoy the process and to learn from nature so we can evoke this in our trees. In Japan we can find some great Maples but usually not for sale and one has to go to privet collections. Also unlike conifers Maples required a bit more attention to keep in good shape. Obviously there are many plus for maples, just to enjoy the changes it provides a great joy. Also there are several species and hundreds of varieties. But from the bonsai point of view there are few. I just wished I could grow them in the tropics as I used to do back in the UK.

Best wishes

Author:  Walter Pall [ Sun Dec 02, 2007 2:26 am ]
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See my reply here: ... index.html

The link was broken and now it's working again. Walter, 01/31/2008

Author:  Mark Arpag [ Sun Dec 02, 2007 10:03 am ]
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Well expressed love and respect for a Bonsai that has overachieved and is an interesting study. The fact that you or I might style it differently is not important. What is important is that Walter and this maple have a close relationship. I do not know the details, however I am sure they both swore an oath to each other years ago in Walters garden.

Author:  Vance Wood [ Sun Mar 16, 2008 12:30 pm ]
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I am still left feeling like I have not expressed my point about this tree and it might be centered on the possibility that many have never seen a mature ancient Beech tree. A mature Beech can achieve heights close to one-hundred feet and trunks twenty feet or more across the base. Usually the trunk has ripples that flow upward with the life lines giving the trunk a the muscled appearance of an athlete on steroids. We see a lot of these trees along Lake Shore Drive off Lake St. Clair in Michigan where some of the wealthiest families in Michigan settled over a hundred years ago and built some really spectacular homes.

Many of these dwellings have Beech trees planted in the landscapes that have now grown to immense size and displays the characteristics I mentioned above. So what is the point?

Walter's Maple displays the form of a mature Beech with the beautiful foliage of a Japanese Maple. It is surrealistic in that this is a form a J.Maple is not likely to ever achieve but it is plausible because there it is right before your eyes. This is what I believe a J.Maple would look like if it could grow to this size.

To me, or in my opinion the presence of art is in the artist's ability to make the impossible believable. This fills that category well. Yes; you can find technical faults with this tree if you choose to go looking for them and judge the tree according to some set of rules and according to things deemed species specific. But in the artistic sense Walter has done something with this Maple not seen in any other Maple I have ever seen.

Author:  Vance Wood [ Mon Nov 22, 2010 4:22 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Critique: Walter Pall's Japanese Maple

nikisha wrote:
which one?... depending on the variety, some take full sun, some will fry in part sun and need filtered shade or afternoon shade.... you must have the name of the tree to know for sure....
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You seem to be aswering a question where, to the best of my knowledge, none has been asked. Would you care to elaborate?

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