I have been trying to learn the art of bonsai for the last few years (off and on, as it is time-consuming when done well, and I have many other demands on my time). A favorite book is Bonsai Aesthetics: A Practical Guide, by Francois Jeker.
All of us can, in some modest way, create something beautiful. Therefore, the aesthetics of bonsai is something learned. The Japanese codified this art and formalized the rules. Let us try to absorb and understand them. These rules will quickly appear natural to us because they were born from observing nature. The day will come when, with rules forgotten, we will be able to explore new paths.”
I think that captures the advanced stage of most arts: once the artist has mastered the fundamentals, s/he is free to explore and express the individual vision with the depth and nuance of having all the tools. Here is one more favorite “snippet” from Jeker’s book, relating a conversation he had with legendary bonsai master John Naka:
One day I asked John Naka if he talked to his trees. He made a look as if he was angry: ‘Who do you take me for? Bonsai has nothing to do with superstition! Of course I don’t speak to them!
I am content with listening to them …’
I think I need to spend more time listening to trees.