Developing a large shinpaku


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I enjoy working with such material because I think of it as posing a puzzle that needs to be worked out over time. I don’t hastily start cutting branches without meditating on what would bring forth something unique. First, I need to find the front of the tree. I always think of the exposed roots and trunk first because those are difficult to radically change. Since shinpaku don’t usually produce good exposed roots (nebari), I need only look to the trunk to guide me. In this case, the trunk is slender and undulates upward with some exposed shari (dead wood). I want to create an almost separate shohin tree by incorporating the opposite facing branch attached low down on the trunk. This part could simply be removed without affecting the rest of the design if not wanted. Next, I want to reduce the amount of foliage so that it does not overwhelm the visual weight of the trunk.

Next, I remove what I consider unnecessary branches that would interfere with the final design. During this initial pruning I remove about 80% of the unnecessary branches. I remove the rest as I wire the tree, but before I begin styling. I am often asked how to determine what is a necessary or unnecessary branch. Next to determining the front of the tree, deciding which are necessary or unnecessary branches is critical to the success of the design and to the practitioners growth. What I can say is that one needs to develop his/her observation skills.  One needs to ask oneself and to ask his/her teacher, over and over, “Is this branch necessary”. Experience, reflection, and an openness to possibilities not yet encountered are all that is required to expand your world of bonsai.
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By eliminating much of the foliage, the graceful movement of the trunk is accentuated. Balance in all things is to be admired and appreciated. At this point, I look at the tree and realize that the lower branch to the left is unnecessary and detracts from the tree. Further, most of the branches that have no foliage can be removed in order to accentuate the thin, sinuous nature of the main trunk.

Thank you for your time.


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