|Forest Plantings - Page 3|
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If you look at the composition and feel the necessity of counting the trees then something is wrong. It could be just a peccadillo of the viewer or there is something wrong with the composition. Most of the time there is a flaw in the composition. But, and this is an important consideration, if you only see a forest then are the numbers important. I personally think not.
There really are no hard and fast rules to creating a forest planting. If there were then they would all look the same. All boring "cookie cutter" copies of the original. There are however some things that they do have in common.
There are three trees that set the tone in that forest. I have seen lots of names put to these trees. Primary, secondary and jumper tree or Mother, father and son etc. It all depends on what book you are reading.The names are not really all that important just as long as you know the purpose of those three trees.
I like the more technical names given to them. Number one, two and three. Makes more sense to me that way. Easier to tell what tree goes in first.
The first (or primary) tree is the oldest tree. It is the tallest and has the thickest trunk. The number two tree is the next oldest and largest and naturally the third tree is somewhat shorter and younger than the number two tree.
All the other trees will fall somewhere between those trees in both height and girth. Again this might sound a bit complicated but it really isn't.
Since the #1 tree is the largest its placement is the most critical. Being the largest and most dominate feature the viewer's eye will naturally gravitate to it. Its position will set the tone of the composition more than anything else.
Let me simplify this as much as I can. Let's only consider the first three trees in that forest. Naturally they are the largest. The heights and placement of all the others will be dictated by them.
The Standard forest (as per illustration below)
Any tree between #1 & #2 should be taller than #2 but shorter than #1.The #3 tree being somewhat younger is naturally shorter than #2. Any tree between #1 and #3 should be shorter than #2 and taller than #3.Trees on the outside of #3 should be shorter than #3. Same goes for the trees on the outside of #2.This will always give
Take a pencil and add 2 trees to the drawing below using those guidelines. Add an outward facing branch to the two outside trees.The result will almost invariably be a 5 tree forest with an overall triangular shape.
There are many different variations on this but this is the most popular one. It will give you the start of a good forest planting. In the beginning of this article I said that my intention was not to tell you how to make a forest, just how to make your forest look better. You have the hard part. My part is easy. I just give suggestions you have to decide what to do with them.
A forest planting is almost a misnomer. For the most part what is called a forest in bonsai is actually a grove of trees. Or maybe a stand of trees.
We try to make this group of trees look like a forest. We hint at what is not really there. The vastness of the forest is merely suggested. Our few trees are placed in such a way as to suggest that there are many more in the background and that they are bigger, more massive. So big that we almost feel like we could take a stroll through those little trees all the way to Grandma's house.
The vastness is shown by what isn't really there.
There is an old bonsai adage "Less is more! This may not hold much credence in the stock market but here it is an absolute. So how do we do this? How do we create mass when there is none or at least very little? Not an easy question to answer. Almost like asking how long a string is.
Let's take that word mass and change it to something called visual weight. Bring it over to what the eye perceives and how we can fool them. Visual weight is just another way of looking at the relationship between positive vs. negative space. Dark vs. Light. Visual weight has nothing to do with actual weight. It is all about where the eye naturally wants to go to. We build our forest much like one would balance a scale.
So what is heavy and what is light?
Since visually thicker trunks move to the foreground thin trunks at the back of the composition can show depth.
An area of dense branching can be counterbalanced by a strategically sparse area of branching. The same goes with the number of trunks in a particular area.
A smattering of thinner trunks in the back of the forest will look like distant trees.This will create depth.
Consider the pot in relation to the forest. If all the trees come to the edge of the pot then the land portion will appear too small to support the forest. A bit of negative space on one side of the pot will make the land space look bigger. Especially if it is counterbalanced with a smaller negative land space on the other side of the pot.
Balance the scales to keep the viewer eyes on the center of the whole composition. With a little thought and planning this is not all that hard to do.
In the preceding paragraphs I have tried to do more than just show pictures of forest plantings. I wanted to go past the standard 1,2,3 steps of making one and opened up some possibilities for you to understand the why of things.
.......... Ron Martin
The Journal of the American Bonsai Society - Summer 2005 & Autumn 2005 (2 Parts)