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Dan's Story

Dan Robinson looks and acts younger than his years. He is driven and obsessed to create bonsai; crucial traits for an artist.

In 1978 Frank Okimura, the curator for the Brooklyn Botanical Garden, watched Dan create a cascade from a monumental upright Ponderosa Pine. He quietly said "Dan is the Picasso of Bonsai". An apt description of an inventive artist unafraid to challenge traditions.

Frequently called from his lake-side home in the Pacific Northwest to share his wealth of knowledge and skills with bonsai enthusiast, Dan travels the world helping others develop their own vision. His seminars and workshops on carving and sculptural processes present a unique American perspective; emphasizing natural forms and in effect, rejecting prescribed rules that restrict artistic expression. Dan is credited with the development of a root enhancing technique now used by collectors around the world. He introduced power-tools into bonsai creation arena in 1978. His articulation on "The Aging Process" clarified the design implicit during ascending stages of age in trees. His treatise "Focal Point Bonsai Design", which challenges the perpetuation of the "One-Two-Three-Triangle" design concept has been published in US, Italian, English and French bonsai publications. The subject of many newspaper and magazine articles, Dan Robinson was featured in a Smithsonian article on Bonsai in 1989.

Dan's personal bonsai collection numbers more than 200, and are significant for their quality and age. His work is also represented in numerous public and private collections, including the American Bonsai Collection at the National Arboretum in Washington D.C. The National Forest Service purchased a Robinson collected bonsai as a gift to America in 1978. It was presented during the 100th Anniversary of the Forest Service as the National Bonsai Tree.

Dan Robinson's formal education in forestry at the University explains his vast horticultural knowledge. There is no explanation for his creative courage.

A biographical listing of Dan Robinson's credits is long, diverse and encompasses over 30 years of lectures and demonstrations in America, Europe and Asia.

Dan weaves his love of nature with the ancient art form of bonsai. His impressions from the High Cascades form the basis of his artistic education. The University of Washington School of Forestry provided the technical education. For Dan, bonsai has been a solitary artistic pursuit, developing a distinctive and abstract style. He holds no schools nor claims any direct followers. Yet he is a profoundly influential figure.

Generous and passionate, Dan travels extensively lecturing and demonstrating his unique style. Instead of just assembling facts that describe and define places and time, it may be helpful to also characterize selected entries so as to give you an impression of the work or event and its place in the evolution of Dan's significant stature.
  • 1969: Dan joined Seattle's prestigious "Bonsai Bums", an energetic group of doctors, leading architects and industrialists, who ultimately created the Puget Sound Bonsai Association. The "Bonsai Bums" encouraged and influenced Dan to pursue his passion for his unique vision of the art form.
  • 1978: This year began a yearly series of tours around the United States, lecturing and demonstrating at national and international bonsai conventions and bonsai clubs.
  • 1978: A crystallizing demonstration by Dan at the Portland International Bonsai Convention divided artists for many years. Dan's use of power-tools at this international forest service venue challenged traditions and forever changed the "rules" for the art of Bonsai.
  • 1978: In a nation wide search, The National Forest service selects a Robinson Bonsai as The National Bonsai Tree
  • 1984: Dan as President of the Puget Sound Association, a vibrant club of over 400 members, hosted The International Bonsai Convention.
  • 1991: For a Demonstration in Birmingham, England, Dan creates a bonsai tree from a Needle Juniper. The tree subsequently is chosen to be in the British National Collection.
  • 1997: Dan returns to Birmingham England as a guest lecturer at The Bonsai Gold Convention.
Subsequent Events
  • Headliner at European Bonsai Convention in Monaco
  • Joined major artists at Franchi Nursery Expo in Italy.
  • Judged bonsai competition, judged for Flower Show and held a demonstration in Manila, Phillipine Bonsai
  • Judge for numerous and ongoing local,national and international bonsai competitions.
© 2005 Elandan Gardens, ltd.      3050 W State Hwy. 16, Bremerton,WA, 98312      360-373-8260 
Open: April - October, Tuesday - Sunday 10 - 5 pm.   November - March, Friday - Sunday 10 - 5 pm