Marc Noelanders Demo
By Behr Appleby
Each year the Texas state bonsai organization 'LSBF' Lone Star Bonsai Federation, has a visiting artist tour all the clubs in the state that wish to participate. The LSBF pays half of the artist expenses and the local club pays the other half. This is a wonderful program which allows bonsaists in Texas to view the work and learn from an internationally recognized artist each year.
In 2005 the contracted artist was the renowned European Bonsai Master, Marc Noelanders from Belgium. Our club in San Antonio was the first club to have Mr. Marc conduct a workshop and demo on Thursday September, 8th.
At the demo meeting Mr. Marc had 5 junipers to choose from for his demo tree, which would be raffled off at the end of the meeting, He chose a Juniperus chinensis 'Torulosa' [hollywood juniper] for his demo tree, the only single trunk tree, and the tree which had the best visible nebari.
|The tree was extremely dry and not in the best of health. Mr. Marc explained he would like to have taken some of his bends a bit further, but had concern for the health of the tree, it was much too brittle. I was very impressed to see an artist that had more concern for the health of the tree than for the final result. This should always be the situation, but often is not. Thankfully we seem to be finally moving away from the styling and potting of trees in the same demo session.|
As he began cleaning up the tree Mr. Marc did engage the audience in some extremely educational discussion about the many different possibilities for this tree, pointing out the positives and negatives of each, and involving the viewers in the decision making process concerning which branches and trunks to retain. In retrospect I have a feeling he was encouraging us to arrive at the same decision he had already made about the final design, but was very ingenious in doing so. The decision was made to remove the two right trunks in the first photo where the trunk divides into three trunks about a foot above the soil line, because the leftmost trunk did leave the most and best branches to work with for a literati form, even though they were mostly on one side of the tree.
|As he worked on the jin areas, Mr. marc gave some extremely valuable insights into the literati form, explaining that there were no rules for this form.|
|Often the branches will cross the trunk or the trunk will even cross itself, height to width at base ratio is not a real consideration, good taper is not a requirement, and foliage while light and airy has no standards concerning placement in relation to the trunk height.|
|He also stated that the literati form was a good choice for this particular tree due to the vast reduction of foliage without disturbing the roots. This would allow the tree to make a better recovery because the roots would not need to supply near as much water to the reduced foliage mass.|
He completed the roughing out of the jins and created a small shari indicating that the jins would certainly need further refinement and the shari should be extended after the tree has had time to recover.
The tree was then turned over to the club president Jay Nolen to have raffia applied to the upper trunk before wiring, and Mr. Marc did some trimming and clean-up on one of the multi trunk junipers, discussing future possibilities for the tree. During the evening there was much discussion of various styling and horticultural techniques. The differences in soil, water, fertilizer, and proper times for different procedures, depending on your location were discussed, and it was mentioned that there is not a good book on bonsai written by someone from the southern United States, dealing with our climate and the species of trees that are native to this area. Mr. Marc shared with the group some insight into his raising of reptiles such as the galapogos tortoise, nile crocks, and an alligator, which according to him is "no puppy alligator", indicating it to be 6 or 7 feet long, He discussed the escalating occurrence of bonsai theft in Europe, and measures he was having to take to protect against that. He also shared a very funny story concerning the largest bonsai in his garden, a yew probably 500 or 600 years old, and although he did not state measurements he did indicate the size to be about two feet diameter at the base. When collected he indicated the tree was about 7 feet tall with a root ball of about 6 feet diameter. He said after digging the tree they used a crane to lay the tree on its' side in the back of his van letting the root ball hang out the back because it was too large to go inside. When he got the tree home they could not lift it to unload it so they tied ropes to the tree and secured the other end to his house, and he proceeded to slowly drive the van out from under the tree. As the tree reached a point where most of the weight was outside the van, all of a sudden the base went to the ground and the top went up into the air ripping a huge hole in the roof of his van. The worst part was the van was only a month old.
|After the raffia was applied to the trunk he wired and then twisted the top part of the trunk while Mr. Jay held the lower trunk in place, to bring the branches into a better position on both sides of the trunk for the final design.|
|Wiring and shaping of the branches then began.|
|As work progressed toward the apex he made the decision to remove the branch originally left for the apex, and create one from the next branch below.|
|With wiring completed, branches and trunk shaped, he then placed three chopsticks in the soil to allow the winner of the raffle to better identify the front and inclination of the tree when repotting, and here is the artist with the final result of the lecture/demo.|
|As the raffle chairman made the final call for tickets Mr. Marc began to do a sketch of his vision of the tree's future. This sketch is how he thought the tree should be developed.|
Personal thoughts and observationsAfter having some time to really look at this tree and see beyond the first impression, it has been even more of a revelation as to why Mr. Marc is considered a 'Master Artist' even in Japan. He stated 'the literati form has no rules', but to me it is very apparent that in the design of this tree he did very closely observe the 'artistic rules' of line, form, and balance, to create a tree with feminine grace, beauty, and movement.
|The jin and shari work.|
'The little things'
I have spent most of my life in the entertainment business doing some theater, film, and TV, but mostly music. I have studied and played, concert and marching band music, orchestra, 50's folk, 50's and 60's rock, country, gospel, bluegrass, and many forms of jazz. All of these are based on the same scale, the same chords, the same time configurations, yet each are very different due to 'the little things' [the details] such as syncopation, instrument voicing, the attack of each note, and chord progressions. It is the attention to these 'little things' that usually makes the difference between the 'ok' music and the 'outstanding and memorable' music. This is true in all of the arts and most other things in life, and it is very true in the art of bonsai…
One interesting point Mr. Marc made at the meeting was about wiring. He stated 'wiring is the most essential thing in the creation of a good bonsai', and then asked how many present spent an hour a day wiring. When teaching music, I have always insisted my students spend a minimum of one hour a day practicing, but had never transferred mentally the necessity to practice bonsai. He said he tries to wire for at least that amount of time each day, and when his schedule does not allow him to do so he can definitely tell a big difference in his hand motions, usually requiring a half hour or so to get the motion back to normal. I would like to say that he does wire faster than anyone I have observed, and the final result is very pleasing to look at.
|The next photo is of the lowest branch, which I refer to as the character branch on this tree. When I look at this tree I view the whole, but always end up coming back visually to this branch, even when viewing it many times daily. This branch to me signifies grace, beauty, and age. This branch in my opinion is bonsai, it is penjing, this branch is 'art'.|
|This is an eye level view from the front of the tree.|
|and this is viewed from above showing the spread of the branch.|
|Finally moving on up to the apex.|
|Again the movement Mr. Marc put into this area is not only interesting, but for me at least, also educational…As I previously stated he removed the branch that he had originally left for the apex, and used the next branch down to bend up the first secondary branch as the new leader. I am sure this technique has been used before but this is the first time I have seen it executed in this way. Since he had already wired the main trunk and most of the branching before the decision to change the apex, the small part of trunk above the red line was a major anchor point for the wiring and could not be removed at this time without re-wiring much of the tree|
|This is the lower part of the apex branch, once again displaying the grace and beauty that is so outstanding in this literati.|