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artofbonsai.org • View topic - Talent - The Holy Grail of Bonsai
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 Post subject: Talent - The Holy Grail of Bonsai
PostPosted: Tue Aug 19, 2008 8:27 am 
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 Post subject: Re: Talent - The Holy Grail of Bonsai
PostPosted: Mon Sep 08, 2008 12:07 am 
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I noticed that a discussion on this article has been going on over at BT* lately, and not surprisingly, the subject matter there is leaning toward the old worn "everyone has some measure of talent" justifications. Is it really so hard to simply admit that some people just are not and never will be talented in bonsai? Maybe it is just too painful?

Also no big surprise, Chris Johnston (sporting a twenty year old picture) in a usual bout of jealously inspired venom spitting, had a few senseless words about this piece. Although I find most of the discussion there off the topic as presented in the article, Chris's missed on so many points, that I'll just address his here.

He starts out by saying "Interesting that you felt the need to post and discuss this article here, when no one has felt that urge at Art of Bonsai, where it was published. Perhaps you should have brought it up there." Then, in his usual contradictory manner, he goes on the discuss his views on the article right there at BT, after chastising the original poster for doing the same.

The original poster there at BT (lagunamadre) opened the discussion politely, while making it clear that he was interested in what the members of BT thought with the words, "The other day I read an article at http://www.artofbonsai.org, by Will Heath, titled " Talent - The Holy Grail of Bonsai", and it was so thought provoking, I decided to start a post here on BT, to see what others think. All I ask is that before responding, you read the whole article." Since his post was not argumentative or rude, we can only assume that Chris's panties were in a knot only because of the mention of my name and/or an article by myself. Again, typical.

Chris then continues with the following:

"Proceeding from definitions, Mr. Heath makes the assertion that "By all definitions, talent is inherent, it cannot be learned, taught, bought, sold, or acquired in any manner what so ever."

Studying the document carefully, the case could be made that this is his thesis statement. This theme is repeated throughout:

"With it, one can create artistic, beautiful, and inspiring bonsai, without it, one creates simply potted trees."

"However, they do not show us how to create great art, because this cannot be taught. A person can spend a lifetime studying aesthetic principles, techniques, the rules, the guidelines, art theory, and the work of the masters and still never be able to create great art."


"What is needed to create great art cannot be taught, learned, bought, or sold. There are no articles teaching us how to obtain it or how to learn it. What is needed to create great art, to bypass the shackles of the rules and the application of such, is talent."

And so forth. And so on. Ad infinitum. Ad nauseum."


Yes, Chris, this was the thesis statement, I first put forth the accepted definition of Talent and then I returned to it throughout my article, hence always supporting my statements with fact. This is common practice when writing an article, that is, creating a solid foundation to build upon.

Chris stated that "Not everyone agrees with the definitions of talent put forth by Mr. Heath" but the fact is that I gave my sources for the definitions I used and yes, every respected dictionary and encyclopedia of our time states the same.

Chris also said that, "It's interesting that he never dealt with any opposing viewpoints except as straw men." It is obvious that he never read my article in entirety and as far as straw men go, he will remember his own arguments on this subject here http://bonsainut.com/forums/showthread. ... nt+article

In a following post, Chris states that, "I much prefer the characteristics of humility, caring, camaraderie, hard work, ethics, etc. to any amount of raw talent." Here he misses the point once again, no one ever claimed that talent was all one needed, or that one could create art with only raw talent. I won't even touch his comments on humility, caring, camaraderie, and ethics, those who know him can judge these words.

Lastly, Chris ends his posts with "You didn't strike a nerve so much as dredge up old mess. His article is posted at AoB for the purpose of discussion. You should comment on it there." No Chris, the poster did not drudge up an old mess, you did, he simply asked for comments, politely, and kindly. It was you who jumped in head first, and again told a member there to go post elsewhere with his comments, while you posted right where you said he shouldn't.

Shallow indeed.



Will



*See http://forum.bonsaitalk.com/f14/bonsai- ... 30470.html


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 Post subject: Re: Talent - The Holy Grail of Bonsai
PostPosted: Tue Sep 09, 2008 7:36 am 
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Al Keppler has been discussing this article at http://forum.bonsaitalk.com/f14/faux-ap ... 30500.html and basically making the false assumption that talent is learned by an apprenticeship with the masters in Japan.

Technique and skill is learned, but without talent they will never alone make great bonsai. There is no doubt of the value of quality education, but let's face it, technique can only take an artists so far.

I am happy this piece is inspiring so much discussion in the community, thank you. Maybe the sampling is off, but it seems like those most strongly against the (long accepted) concept of talent, are those who do not yet show it. ?


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 Post subject: Re: Talent - The Holy Grail of Bonsai
PostPosted: Wed Sep 10, 2008 4:05 pm 
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So this is the elevated tone which is vaunted so highly here at Art of Bonsai? Interesting. And my picture, believe it or not, is only 5 years old. I was asked to continue using it because it shows my glowing personality so well.


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 Post subject: Re: Talent - The Holy Grail of Bonsai
PostPosted: Wed Sep 10, 2008 5:47 pm 
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 Post subject: Re: Talent - The Holy Grail of Bonsai
PostPosted: Wed Sep 17, 2008 2:09 pm 
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Hans Van Meer, has added his thoughts on talent which, considering the source, may well be some of the best spoken in the discussion mentioned above. His words sum up the premise of my article perfectly.


"Almost everybody can lurn and do Bonsai and can even become pretty good at it. Some of those will even become really good, trough hard work on their own or by studying with a (good) teacher. But only a few of those will create Bonsai Art on a really high level! And those few are the ones that, no matter by what way they got to that point, are gifted with talent to create beautiful Bonsai Art. By claiming that everybody is able to reach this level, you dismiss the difficulty of Bonsai as a Artform!"



http://forum.bonsaitalk.com/251480-post52.html


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 Post subject: Re: Talent - The Holy Grail of Bonsai
PostPosted: Fri Sep 19, 2008 11:21 pm 
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I agree with most of what Hans said, but without the skills to turn your talented vision into reality then it is useless.

You have to know how to sucessfully bend a 5" thick branch on a pine without splitting it, you have to know how to use leverage points, you have to know how to wire and where to wire too, you have to know how do root work, you have to know how to do deadwood work, carving, power tools, etc, you have to know how to horticulturally make the tre thrive, etc, etc, etc, I am sure I am forgetting 100,000 things to make a very high quality bonsai that doesn't require talent.
Talent is a part of creating killer bonsai, it is not the holy grail and without the skills to get to the end the talent is useless.

Just my thoughts on it :)

Jason


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 Post subject: Re: Talent - The Holy Grail of Bonsai
PostPosted: Sat Sep 20, 2008 7:32 am 
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 Post subject: Re: Talent - The Holy Grail of Bonsai
PostPosted: Sat Sep 20, 2008 7:27 pm 
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[quote="Will Heath"]
There has been a tend recently by some to discredit talent and place more importance on learn-able skills and techniques, stating, as Jason has above, that talent is useless without the proper education. [/quote]

No, talent is useless without the proper skills to make the vision a reality. That is not an education, it is skills that make the talent shine.

[quote="Will Heath"]
However, the many self taught, highly talented artists of the world, such as Hans and Walter, slaps this theory down quick and hard. How could they have so much talent, create undeniably masterpiece bonsai, and not have had formal training?Of course, as I stated in the article above, skills and techniques are important, this was never denied. [/quote]

Hans in a artist before he ever knew what Bonsai was, so he already had it in him artistically. But, he has studied and learned techniques from many European bonsai artists. So, its not like one day he woke up and knew how to bend heavy branches or wire, etc.... he learned some on his own but has also worked with many notable artists for days at a time. There is a lot to learn there. Walter on the other hand, well he is just one of the very, very few that did something not many have.


[quote="Will Heath"]
However, skills and techniques can be learned by anyone with the desire to do so. Skills can only take a person so far, without the talent to use the skills in a creative, artistic manner, all the techniques in the world will not make up for it.[/quote]

And this is a 2 way street~ Without the skills to bend that 6" thick branch the talent is useless since the branch won't move. Just because someone has talent doesn't mean they can learn to move a 6" branch. Not everyone is mechanically inclined or has that engineering mindset to use the proper anchor points, or use the right tools to get the job done.


[quote="Will Heath"]
Those with talent will create great bonsai using what tools they can acquire, and as is shown in many art forms, the talented often need less tools to do greater things.[/quote]

The talented ones still need the same tools, hand tools, power tools, branch benders etc. then those with no talent. Talent doesn't make up for tools to get the job done. You can't compare bonsai to any other art form. It is nowhere near the same. Bonsai is a living breathing thing that the artist has to dominate to make his vision a reality. And it could take 25 yrs for that vision to come out in a living tree. Putting paint on a cavas takes talent and skill but is in its own world compared to bonsai.


[quote="Will Heath"] From the article:

[i]"Talent is the Holy Grail of Bonsai. It is sought after by many, found by few, raised to the level of myth and legend, and those that seek it for themselves, can not find it, those that process it can not give it away or sell it. Most all claim it, few have it, and great battles (debates) are often seen raging on its very nature.

Those who have talent create the art that inspires us all, they are the ones who put forth the image of what bonsai is and what it has always been meant to be. These rare few individuals should be praised and respected, they are the ones that set the standards, raise the bars, and feed the imagination of all. "[/i][/quote]

I agree to an extent with ya Will, but I don't think that without talent you won't create a masterpeice bonsai. The biggest factor is the material you start with, not the talent. There are too many variables in bonsai to declare one thing as bieng the "holy grail", and the biggest variable it the material you start with.

BTW, when you coming out for a visit. I promise it will change your view on bonsai. Just ask Brent.

I tried to go back and make the quoted sections I broke out look better but no luck,haha
Jason


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 Post subject: Re: Talent - The Holy Grail of Bonsai
PostPosted: Sun Sep 21, 2008 1:31 am 
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 Post subject: Re: Talent - The Holy Grail of Bonsai
PostPosted: Sun Sep 21, 2008 9:13 am 
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 Post subject: Re: Talent - The Holy Grail of Bonsai
PostPosted: Sun Sep 21, 2008 8:28 pm 
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Will said "Let's look at it this way, I can safely say that most bonsaists with 5 or more years of experience know practically every technique that Walter, Hans, and other highly talented artists know. If not, they are quite willing to teach them.....so why is it that all these bonsaist, knowing the same techniques, are not creating the same caliber of work?"

I can assure you that Walter has techniques and tricks in his bag that he hasn't shown anyone in America. Same with Hans. When you are a master you have some secret techniuqes that you only use behind closed doors. Trust me, they don't let everything out of the bag. They need something to keep them seperated from the rest.

I can also assure you that someone with 5 years expericnce will NOT have the same bag of trick that Walter has. I can't believe you think this Will.

The analogy of the 3 trees and people.....hmm....The biggest difference is experince and knowledge, not talent. At this point we don't know if the begineer has talent and the novice he might jsut be getting to the point of knowing if he has a talent for bonsai or not. The master well he has talent.
But it is the knowledge and experience that is going to be the most visible diffenrence. The begineer won't know where to start, the novice will know where but won't have the bag of skills the master has. Another area the novice and begineer are lacking is their EYE. An eye for seeing the tree and knowing which direction to take it. This isn't talent but rather a learned skill that comes from working on 100's or thousands of trees all the time. You develop an eye for bonsai by bieng around quality trees all the time and working on trees.

So in this case the master is way ahead because he has the know how and skills to get started and turn it into a bonsai. The novice is doing a good job and gets pretty far but the master needs to do some tweaking and refining to make it a killer tree. The begineer if he was smart would have sat back and watched what the master was doing.

There is no winnable answer to this topic, only opinion.....To make killer bonsai you need talent, I agree and you need techniques, skills and great material.
Material is very important in the end result. You think Kimura or Pall will make world class material out of mediocre material???? No, they both start with material that most humans can't afford or have acess to. Material is as important as skills, know how and talent. Just ask any of the masters, they will tell you this. I have asked them so I know.

Jason


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 Post subject: Re: Talent - The Holy Grail of Bonsai
PostPosted: Sun Sep 21, 2008 8:33 pm 
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 Post subject: Re: Talent - The Holy Grail of Bonsai
PostPosted: Mon Sep 22, 2008 11:19 pm 
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 Post subject: Re: Talent - The Holy Grail of Bonsai
PostPosted: Tue Sep 23, 2008 3:58 pm 
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The following is an email received from a reader on the subject in this thread:



Dear Will,

I don’t have the talent to properly work on forums or to log in to forums etc.

I regularly read articles on the artofbonsai website. I read your article on talent and its influence on creating artistic bonsai. I agree with you that the creative quality of a masterpiece bonsai is directly proportional to talent if enthusiasm is part of the artist’s qualifications.

I have been styling bonsai for more than 30 years.

1) One of your critics says that quality of material is more important. I don’t agree. I styled a seedling 33 years ago and it is today a very nice tree. Did I develop talent over a 30 year period or did I have some talent then?

2) Why are there new talent competitions held in just about every country if talent was not the main contributing factor for the creation of bonsai?

I have observed at these competitions that somebody with 2 years experience with styling bonsai create better bonsai than others with 6 years of experience.

I run marathons and train with people with more talent than I, we do the same training, eat, drink and sleep the same, but the bloke with talent always beat me.

3) Michael Angelo created the David statue when he was 29 years old. I don’t think he could have done much better twenty years later when he new more about marble, chisels and hammers.

4) One also doesn’t develop an eye to create beautiful bonsai. You have it or not. I have had an eye for beautiful women since age 16, I don’t think my eye has developed and I became better at it. I still have that same eye (talent).

5) I was in Australia with Walther Pall a few years ago. There was a man with only one arm with beautiful bonsai. Were his trees beautiful because he had developed skills over the years or because he had talent to develop the trees?

6) I had to do a demonstration once when I had broken my arm and shoulder. I could not do any carving with the power tools. I got a friend who was skillful at carving to help me. I told him exactly how and where to carve and the tree looks what I wanted it to look like and not what the skilful carver wanted it to look like.

7) When I pay money to see bonsai masters work, I rather want to observe their artistic skill rather than their mechanical skills.

8) I have seen Kimura, Walther, Robert Steven, Marc Noelanders and Marco Ivernezi at work and they are great because they have talent and enthusiasm for what they do.

9) Kimura is an artistic (talented) engineer.

The one thing I desire to have more of to create killer bonsai would be artistic talent.

Regards

Louis Nel




-Reprinted with permission of the author.


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