Carving a Japanese Black Pine and a Podocarpus

The two trees.
Podocarpus
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Black pine
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The podocarpus you’ve seen before at the Epcot Flower and Garden Show in 2013.
It belongs to my friend Bobby, in fact, they both do.
He wants me to carve on them and give a more natural look to the deadwood.
I’m starting with the pine and, as always, safety first.
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The pine was imported from Japan and the age guesstimates are between 80-100 years old.
It is what the growers in Japan consider “export” grade.
Which means it’s impressive but not very unique. There’s probably thousands of them on the market.
By exporting them, the prices are somewhat higher than what the grower might get when sold to a local finisher and, most importantly, it’s easier to sell; the Japanese consumers are not interested in this size tree much anymore, for various reasons.
So, it was sold to an American importer (it might not have even been seen before purchase except in photos) and went through the quarantine procedure (and all that) and then sold to my friend.
Wait, quarantine?
Yes. It seems that Japan is a nasty ecological nightmare when we consider fungus, disease and insects.
Which explains all those pictures of the hapless bonsai apprentices wearing hazmat suits and respirators spraying the bonsai with all types of nasty chemicals.
And also explains to you, dear reader, why I’m decked out like a Grand Theft Auto thug while I’m carving this pine tree.
I don’t need some rare, degenerative, alveoli-shrinking creeping-crud fungus living in my body.
The only problem is, this get-up makes it tough to slake the thirst, so to say.
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The problem I have with the pine is it’s commonness.
Besides it’s girth (which isn’t all that impressive, have you seen my belly?) it’s pretty undifferentiated from any other tree.
So, with that in mind, here’s my design for the tree:
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Pretty ambitious, I better get to work.
The tree was grown fat using (what appears to be, from the scars) many sacrifice branches.
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Whomever cut them off, however, didn’t have the forethought to leave any nubs for Jin or carving.
Slightly annoying.
In my carving today, I have to be real careful of knocking off the bark; it takes a long time to grow and it’s one of the most prized aspects of pine trees that show age.
Now, I think I’ll begin by cleaning out the….whoops, we have bark section falling off here.
Emergency!
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I DID NOT do that!!
I don’t know who did, but it wasn’t me, promise!
Who has the glue?
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Disaster averted.
Proceed.
I’m going to touch up the sawn-off-flat sacrifice-branch scars first.
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I’m using my flex-shaft grinder with the small handset, a one inch rotosaw, and the flame bit.
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And the carving commences.
Four down and…. hmph, looks like a hippo-
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A wise, jaded hippo..
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This one has a slim bit of wood to carve.
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This is just a hole, into which I can’t help but to stick my finger.
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Here’s a knob has some meat to it.
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But overall there’s not much to carve.
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This one turned out cool.
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I still can’t really believe how sloppy the grower was in just sawing off these sacrifice branches.
This is the trunk chop.
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It looks like the Farpoint Station/space jellyfish from the first episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation.
To boldly go where no one has gone before indeed.
How’s this, more like a tear than a pointy point?
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Unfortunately, no one’s going to see it.
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By this point you should’ve realized I was pulling your leg when I showed you my “design”.
If I did that now I’d surely kill it.
The extent of my carving today is cleaning up the sloppy job the grower did when pruning off the sacrifice branches.
I don’t need to transform every tree I work on into an Adam Lavigne exclusive tree.
And, even if was asked to do a full on, carved out, hollow trunk re-styling, I don’t think I would.
The tree, with it’s impressive size, has a gravitas already that needs more than a flash and bling treatment just for the sake of doing it.
To prove to everyone that I can piss just as far as they can.
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And so, this is how we will leave the tree.
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But wait, you say, what about wiring? Candle pruning?
It’s a big bush!
I know, I know!
You all (and my wife) can attest to my penchant for trimming back a big bush, but it’s just not the correct time, by about a month, to do that kind of work in Florida.
This tree is on it’s maintenance schedule and we can’t interrupt it just because my palms are itching to do it.
(You know, if you think about it, a bonsai tree on a schedule is a tad like work:
Thou must do this specific work, on this aspect of development, and at this particular time, falling during this exact interval on the Julian calendar or else.)
Anyway, next tree: podocarpus macrophylla.
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My job here is to make the Jin a little more natural.
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I like to teach that your carving should be carved, not just drawn on the surface with the carving tools.
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I like deep detail and a natural look.
Here, I even connected the two hollows.
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I wish there was more to carve here.
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I have no choice but to make this feature a little, ah….vulval.
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Which isn’t all bad, if your into that kind of thing. Which I try to be…you know….into those kind of things…
Ahem.
Anyway, it’s better than a sharp stick in your eye.
As you can see, I didn’t changed the structure or look of the tree at all.
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The style and the mature look is there already, I just blended the old look of the branching with the, now, older, more natural looking Jin. Or versa/vice, as it were.
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And that’s all.
Sometimes I do feel the need to drastically change a tree.
But it wouldn’t be honest to do that kind of work to every tree you’re asked to work on.
Would it?
Thank you, Bobby, for the opportunity once again to work on some high quality material.
I will see you soon my friend.

About adamaskwhy

Visual artist specializing in bonsai, mostly.
This entry was posted in carving, refine and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Carving a Japanese Black Pine and a Podocarpus

  1. It’s nice to have restraint. Not everything needs chopped down. After hanging out with you I’m pretty sure everything does however need to be wired…

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