Balance is one of my favorite topics for bonsai discussions. The term can be used broadly – I recently mentioned a few of the possibilities in relation to trees exhibited this year by the Bay Area Bonsai Associates.
One of the more primary considerations is whether a tree points left or right. Getting direction right has a big effect on a tree’s overall balance and is key to setting up formal displays. Just this week I’ve had several discussions about the direction of the tree below. It’s a Japanese black pine.
Black pine silhouette
It’s a great case study. Looking at it brings up a number of questions for me.
- Does the tree point left or right?
- What makes you think so?
- Does the tree have good balance?
- Would the tree look better if it pointed the other direction?
- Are there areas for improvement?
I’m curious to hear what you think about it: feel free to share your ideas – even if it’s your tree!
Subscribe to Bonsai Tonight
New Posts Delivered Every Tuesday and Friday
Bruce winter says
It points left, the trunk and key branch point left. The balance is fine. Pointed the other direction? You mean turned around? Improvement? Well, there’s no taper to the trunk but I could live with that;-)
PS…Val Munroe says “hi.”
Peter Tea says
I’ve looked at the actual tree and thought the top right of the tree was a little too heavy. My thoughts were to shorten it down. Boon suggested that the left top of the tree just needs to be grown out a little be longer to balance the tree.
I think the direction of the tree is a personal preference of the artist. I don’t think the tree would look better one way or another, just different.
I do agree with Bruce, the the tree is going to the left. Key branch is on the left, the apex is even on the left, from the centerline of the pot.
Nice case study Jonas, keep up the good work!
#1 – Left
#2 – The left side of the triangle is longer and more dominant, combined with the forces of the trunk that leans/points left and the length of the first left main #1 branch…all combined to make the tree point left.
#3 – Sometimes I like trees out of balance as that is it’s beauty and “story”, sometimes I think that we try to make trees to perfect in balance. With this tree, if it were grown out to balance the left and right (equilateral or isosceles triangular shape)… to “even it out”….. it might look OK but perhaps too juvenile in age but to some that would be fine. I would prefer a more off balance scalene triangular shape.
#4 – It might, shorten the left #1 branch, grow the top and right branches longer…hhhhmmmm maybe
#4 – I think that the girth of the base would allow the apex to be grown taller and (its hard to tell from the photo) the apex could be grown out to the right more….but that might be too much “off balance: with it facing left….., I think it could be taller as it appears to be less than 6:1 ratio. Then grown the first right branch longer to complete the scalene.
Janet Roth says
As often happens, I can see things in the photo that didn’t show up when we doing the display at class meeting the other night. From the photo, I do think that the right side of the apex is too heavy relative to the left, and leaves me with the feeling that the tree is fighting itself a little. Looking at just the apex area in isolation from the rest of the tree, that section of the tree seems to be right-side dominant, while the tree as a whole is going left.
The strong upper trunk line headed to the right that is visible in the photo through the needles adds to this feeling. While the apex itself is to the left of the center point of the base, the movement of that top section is headed right I think. (At least as seen in the photo).
Peter notes that Boon wants the left side of the apex to fill out more, and it will be interesting to see a photo in 2 or 3 years when that has happened. Mark it down on your calendar to post again in a few years okay?
Mike Pollock says
I just had the pleasure of attending an exhibit critique with Michele Andolfo who demonstrated at the MidAtlantic Bonsai Societies spring festival. When critiquing a tree, he asked how the apex of a particular tree could be made to point in the opposite direction to make the movement in the tree consistent. His answer was to make one side of the asymmetrical triangle formed by the crown longer. By making one side longer than the other you created apparent movement towards the shorter side. Sorry this may be difficult to follow with my poor explanation.
In the example tree above, the movement of the trunk (right to left) is consistent with the movement of the key branch and also with the direction of the crown because of the longer apparent right side of the crown. So as long as the left side of the crown has that little indentation near the top, the crown will continue to create a right to left movement. Bulk of foliage is only one factor in the movement of a tree as I understand it. To me, this tree has a consistent right to left movement.
If I worked with black pines I’d be jealously coveting this tree right now. 🙂
So I think it leans to the left because the top of the apex points that way. My question is should the key branch always point in the same direction of the apex? Also if that is the case then this tree would look really funny going the other way because the key braanch is in a nice spot on the outside of the large bend in the trunk.
Another factor in apex direction is the shape of the apex. If one side is convex and one side is concave it creates a wave like effect that drives my eye in the direction of the concave side. With this tree, the apex is convex on the right side but the left side is only hints at concave. If just the lower section were concave, that would create a breaking wave effect and drive the eye more powerfully to the left, if that is what is desired. I think the top section would need to tuck in a little more were it meets the lower section of the apex on the left side so the transition was appealing.
Well-put, Mark. If an apex points one way but its shape belies this direction, the result will not be pleasing. My guess is that this tree will exhibit more of what you mention in coming years.
The tree flows to the left. Trunk leans left. First and largest branch flows to the left. The final bend in the trunk is to the left. (a little hard to see in the black and white – but later color post shows the last bend clearly to the left) The peak of the round apex is on the left side of the root ball. If you did some logging, the tree would fall to the left.
The flow is left.