Chapter 2: DEVELOPING THE FORM!
Photos by Angela Tillman and Silk Hope School principal Rob Tharp. Under school policy, the photos appear with permission of the students but with only first names.
The following week, eighth graders entered the classroom with a burst of energy unlike
anything I'd seen in my previous eight years of teaching. I heard comments such as "Has
my plant grown any?" and "I see some new growth on this branch Mrs.
Tillman!" while students were scurrying to view their bonsai.
After passing out all plants (and watering them once again via the saturation method in our plastic trays), we discussed the techniques for making a successful sketch of our bonsai before any pruning was done. Most importantly, I told the students to draw only what they actually see.
If a branch, leaf, etc. is not visible because of the way it curves around another, then you will only draw the portion that is in your field of sight. Focusing on what is truly in front of you, helps to not only render a more realistic view, but gives one a greater appreciation for the uniqueness of his or her tree. The eye must follow every curve and twist of the plant to draw it correctly.
Using a water soluble graphite pencil, the eighth graders made the sketch and then proceeded to give it a wash with water to create a soft, black and white painting. I have to admit . . . the students who applied proper viewing and drawing technique surpassed my highest expectations. Once, our illustrations were completed, it was off to the next step!
"HOW TO PRUNE" sketches began the following week. Since the class had previously sketched the plants, the "how to prune" sketch was quite easy. Main branches were counted and numbered as well as individual leaf stems. Students then began to create a personalized future growth plan by deciding on which stems to leave and which ones to remove. Discussions about what a tree looks like in nature (and how to mimic such an environment in a pot) were very helpful when students were envisioning the future shape of their trees.
With "how to prune' sketches in hand...we were ready to begin the challenge of actually pruning our plants. Using our drawings as a blueprint, I told the students to carefully remove leaf stems and branches that are not part of the future design plan. I reminded them of the statement in the Dwarf Schefflera Keiki Bonsai & Handbook that said, "Branches can be removed at any time but are impossible to glue back. In all pruning, don't be in a hurry."
Vaseline was applied to ends needing sealing. Some students were quite timid and only removed a few leggy branches here and there. However, I noticed others that held nothing back as they confidently removed all branches that would not benefit their future design.
The next step was to illustrate the future vision on paper.
© Fuku-Bonsai Inc. & Angela Jones Tillman, 2002 All rights reserved