Hannah Overman Koch

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Bonsai

The Bonsai Tree

On a recent trip to Chicago, I was able to visit and immensely enjoy the Chicago Botanic Gardens!
On special exhibit there was a large variety of Bonsai Trees.

The appearance of age, the organic beauty and tender care were on display in each tree.
Here are some photos from this exhibit-

The pamphlet on the collection.

Most often when displayed, the Bonsai is paired with a smaller plant or rock.

The photo below describes this particular tree-

It states:
In Bonsai, literal age is less important than the appearance of age.  This pine has both:  It's the oldest tree in our collection.  (Hundreds of Years), and its style speaks of the harsh, cold, windy conditions endured by an ancient tree.

This is an overview of the entire collection of Bonsai Trees.

The curves...

The shallow roots..

Another note from the exhibit:

Old tree/young tree, dead wood/lush growth, the passing of time.
The illusion of dead wood arises from branches stripped of bark, then painted with lime sulfur that both bleaches and preserves the wood.

This gnarly root is so gorgeous!

Well after returning home and thinking about all that I saw and experienced in Chicago, the Bonsai has captivated my imagination!  It was time to bring the ideas to paper-

A page from my sketchbook

Materials included - pencil, watercolor, colored pencils and black pens.

A few closeups of my sketchy markings.

Next, I wanted to make a collage-

I decided to only use one magazine, West Elm because of the beautiful patterns and wood designs included.

Hence, this is aptly named - West Elm Bonsai Tree.

The black paper was left over from another project.

I decided to cut tans and browns from the mag to represent the wood of the bonsai.

The mag also had subtle greens that I used to represent the greenery of the leaves.

Materials used - student quality drawing paper, black acrylic paint, magazine clippings, glue stick

My final ode to the Bonsai was making a few thank you cards.

I made quick sketches with a black pen.

Next, I glued the sketch to a piece of colored card stock.

Then I sewed a simple line (using my sewing machine) around the card stock to adhere it to the card.

Added some other black lines and the word "bonsai" to finish it off!

I find hand written notes to be something very special to me.  
I try to do it as often as possible.

And to complete the card - of course the Bonsai Tree stamp collection!
Thank you to the US Postal Service for such beautiful stamps.

When I think I Bonsai Trees now, I do not just think "tree".  The words that come to my mind are:
Age, beauty, organic, journey, ancient, convex, concave, pruning, size, time, Japanese, simplicity, lines, roots and care.

Caring for a Bonsai is symbolic to caring for our own lives.

looking at the Bonsai in a whole new way on this artist holiday,


  1. Hannah,

    What a lovely collection of bonsai photos taken at the Botanic Gardens. Your study of them through drawings is just lovely - I really enjoy seeing your artistic expression of them and I love that it's an Asian theme :). Great graphics, love the black outlines with the calming colors. The collage is also interesting and so cool how you utilized 'textured' pieces of the magazine for your creation. Finally I love how you found words other than 'tree' to describe the bonsai - my favorite is 'pruning' - so symbolic of life itself. Always inspired by you♥.

  2. what a great post. I do love trees. The bonsai has such interesting shapes and they are small but feel so powerful. So glad you explored the subject, very cool art work came from it. As I read I kept thinking, this post just gets better and better...enjoyed the photos of bonsai, then the sketch..done so well and next a collage made from magazines...cherry on top!

  3. I haven't visited your blog for a while, but I'm really enjoying catching up! Love this post!! The photos of the bonsai trees are great, but your artwork ... wow!! Your sketches and collages are wonderful!