This month’s Bay Island Bonsai meeting focused on bonsai design. Members brought trees for critique and designed trees on paper. Both exercises focus on the criteria we use to design attractive bonsai and help to refine the stylistic sensibilities that inform the decisions we make when we work on our trees. The critique also provided an opportunity for us to ask questions about our trees and get input from Boon and other members.
The first tree we looked at was a juniper. The silhouette suggests a well designed tree. Upon closer inspection, we identified some opportunities for improvement. The bottom half of the trunk has taper and movement whereas the top half is fairly straight. The proposed solution is to convert the apex to a jin and create a new apex from branches that emerge lower on the trunk.
The suggestion: convert the apex to a jin and highlight the curves on the lower half of the trunk
The view from the side
The second tree we looked at was quite full despite its thin trunk. It was time for thinning and branch reduction to create space between foliage pads.
Heavy foliage on procumbens juniper
Boon discussing branch pad design
After removing shoots that were growing downward
The meeting also featured a design exercise in which members drew primary branches and silhouettes based on given trunk shapes.
Designs by BIB member ‘A’
Designs by BIB member ‘B’
Less about right answers and wrong answers, the exercise highlights the decisions we make relating to key branches, tree direction – does it lean left or right – and balance. For inspiration and examples, we consulted a Kokufu book – the best design reference I know of.
Red pine shown at Kokufu #54
Kokufu prize winning Trident maple
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