Saturday, August 16, 2008

Customers Say the Darndest Things

#15 - Draw a Tree

I had the good fortune to spend five years working for a bonsai master. I wish I could share one tenth of what I learned from him in this short essay. Heck, I would be happy if I could just remember one tenth of what I learned!

I spent most of my time in the nursery, which was generally blissful, the rest in sales which sometimes could be frustrating. What is this obsession with age, for instance? Yes, there are some trees that have lived in captivity, so to speak, for a hundred years and more. This is a fun fact, but let me say this as clearly as I can, you cannot purchase such trees in a commercial nursery for nineteen dollars and ninety-five cents. Yet on more than one occasion I've had people stomp away from the cash register in a huff because I was trying to cheat them with a tree too young to be "genuine bonsai."

Outside of the antique plant market, rules of esthetics count far more in the valuation of bonsai than age. Without continuous and skilled training, a bonsai does not automatically appreciate with each passing year. This is hard to explain to the gal who picks up a starter plant from the cheapest table, points to the custom collection plants priced in the hundreds, and asks - "How long must I wait until this tree is worth as much as those?" I was often confounded by this question, and never came up with a concise reply, at least not a polite one. Then there was the gentleman who insisted on buying three very expensive plants even though I'd tried to talk him into something better matched to his skill level, which I'd judged to be rather low. While I was finalizing the purchase, he told me he'd never had much success with keeping houseplants alive in the past, but that was about to change because these bonsai were "already trained." While the process of reducing and styling the plant material into a shallow pot is referred to as "training," I guess he thought it meant they'd been taught to care for themselves. What really gave me pause was his final comment. He said he didn't have children, but it made him feel good to know these lovely trees would continue on long after he was dead and gone!

20 comments:

Sarah M said...

Beautiful tree! Interesting tales as well. It's hard to believe how willfully ignorant some folks can be...

kazumiwannabe said...

Beautiful drawing - bonsaïs are very beautiful and fascinating, it must be great to work around them and learn!

Sherry said...

Thank you for posting a beautiful drawing and a thought provoking essay.

Glitz Ink said...

what a very pretty drawing!!! i like all the details in the tree!

SCquiltaddict said...

wow now thats one amazing drawing of one amazing tree...awesome!!

Kathleen said...

love the circular composition - this is a beautiful drawing

Deb said...

Your painting is a stunner! Enjoyed reading your post, too.

VLW said...

I love the color palette that you use for all of your drawings! They are so soft, sensitive, and calming. You do beautiful work. Thanks for sharing!

Vicki

freebird said...

Very nice drawing and bonsai and your story is terrific. Sometimes there is just no way to tell someone of the spirit of what they are doing or wanting.

Meredith said...

Your blog is wonderful. I love the way you match the story with the painting. Your talent is inspiring.

Sandy said...

What a Fabulous sketch, you blog is so interestig!!! thanks for visiting mine, and as far as getting the cat to pose - not gonna happen :-)

Fannie said...

Aloha, Christie. I read your message in EDM and came to your blog. Glad I did. Not only have I made contact with a fellow EDM artist, but I found a fellow "Big Islander." Small world!

Your drawings/illustrations are beautiful and your essays are thought-provoking.

Glad I found you.
~Fannie

no way said...

The format on this is wonderful, as is the detail-especially in the trunk! I like your approach to this, it got me thinking about different ways to lay out a page. Thanks for the inspiration!

lyn said...

Nice drawings, glad you've got back to it! Thanks for the comment on a hundres horses. I framed 3 for a show and did a few more quick ones. Here is a link:

http://www.nbcolympics.com/equestrian/index.html

Where you can watch any olympic event your interested in. I wonder if it will remain active?
Continued success.

Barbara Weeks said...

This is a beautiful sketch and layout. The circle is a perfect addition. I reminds me of a moon gate.

Barbara Weeks said...

Starr gave me the Arte y Pico award and I'm passing it on to you. You'll have to go to my blog to receive it. I really enjoy your work.

janice said...

Christie, I feel your pain. I'm puzzled when people ask me how often they have to water something in a container. Um, like when it needs it?

My plants are all untrained, which is why they are always getting into trouble. "Bad seeds! No compost for you!"

Margaret Ann said...

Beautiful work! :)

sema said...

thought provoking essays and wonderful paintings.thanks for visiting and your comment.that's how i came here and i am happy to have found a great blog

Roshanda said...

This is beautiful! I love your work.