The growth of bonsai ‘doyens’ on the Internet continues apace, many eager to pass polite comment and praise on posts, giving encouragement and reassurance to those eager to have it heaped upon them. Very few professional bonsai artists are active on Facebook and other social media platforms and those that are rarely pass comment or judgment, this is tragic as those best placed to offer advice rarely do, as their honesty can be interpreted as arrogance and at worst unprofessional.
Last week I posted on Facebook a link to a Flickr account of a Yew progression over 7 years and commented that it was ‘7 years wasted’ I put my neck out and said what I thought. I sat back and watched the tirade of posts cascade down the screen. Most of the comments aimed at me boiled down to the fact that I am a ‘professional’ and I was bang out of order, because this guy was a beginner and should be encouraged. I backed up my argument with a link to this blog post where 7 years were NOT wasted, yet few agreed and many chose to skirt over the glaringly obvious. When asked, “how many would love this tree in his or her garden?” nobody replied… why is that?
It came as no surprise that most the PM’s to me were from respected artists in praise of what I posted yet when asked to ‘go public’ they declined for fear of exactly the same backlash I have experienced.
Perhaps the most telling statistic was that almost all the negative comments were from UK commentators, would they have been so loose with their vitriol if another ‘Professional’ from across the water had made this comment?… all of the ‘Likes’ were from beyond the UK what does that say about the UK bonsai scene?
The outcome of this tree reflected the ‘skills’ that he gained with its development yet the only Professional artist who commented on the post with: “Sorry, but with good skills, you can make a nice tree out of this material” …this is my point, you are never going to develop those skills if you are repeatedly told that your stick in a pot is amazing.
Here is another truth, the beginners in the bonsai journey who do not have access to a bonsai school, teacher or learned friend have to make do with faint praise and ‘walking on eggshells’ comments on social media. They will continue down the path of mediocrity hoping that ‘one day’ their stick in a pot will be a great bonsai because nobody had the guts to tell them otherwise. They may well be happy but ignorant and we all know that ignorance is bliss. If you put something online expect comment and critique if you do not want that don’t put it out there.
Those who know me well know everything I do to push beginners in the right direction, I have given away more material than most have had pass through their fingers. I have taken people out collecting to help them on their way and the fact that I am giving so many young guys and girls a platform to show their talent next year speaks volumes. So do not question my commitment to helping beginners or my generosity.
I am an easy target because I am visual and comment regularly, this exercise in ‘Truth’ brought out the worst in many people, and the best in a few. So if you want to ‘unfriend’ me because I speak my mind go right ahead, you will not be missed as your comments do nothing to further the art of bonsai or the skills of those wishing to learn.
For the record: “Starts with poor material ends up with poor ‘bonsai’ 7 years wasted” fact.