Arts, Community, Park Forest

The Bonsai Creations of Mark Reed


Mr. Mark Reed, Bonsai artist. (Photo: Mark Reed)

Park Forest, IL–(ENEWSPF)– Mark Reed might better be known to Park Foresters as “The man with the Chinese house,” as he calls it, but he’s taken up the design and creation of bonsai trees.  His trees may be not be alive, but each one tells a living story.  Park Forest residents may have seen some of Mr. Reed’s bonsai creations in the Park Forest Library, or at the Tall Grass Arts Association.

Mr. Reed has lived in Park Forest for 26 years.  By profession, he’s a field service representative with a biosciences company.  He also assists at Living Testimonies Ministries in Chicago with Pastor Judge Gardner.

wild-geese-flying-over-mountain-peak-bonsaiMr. Reed also served in the U.S. Air Force doing heavy ground radar maintenance, a Vietnam era veteran.  While on active duty in Anchrage, Alaska, he traveled to Japan en route to temporary duty in Thailand and Korea.  “I probably discovered bonsai from books.  I don’t remember seeing any bonsai trees when I went to Japan.  I liked the architecture, the mystique in Japan.”  He credits his father with fostering his interest in electronics and science, “I was able to get a fundamental knowledge from my father.  He gave me the fundamentals.  I entered science fairs.  I think I probably would have preferred to do art, but had already got into electronics.  I decided that I’m already into this, and if art comes up down the road, then I’ll pursue it.”

Designing bonsai trees actually grew out of a desire to put some finishing touches on Zen garden near his front door.   “After I did the house, there was a small space as you approach the door.  I wanted a Japanese tri-landscape rock garden. It’s basically like a Zen garden, where they have the rocks there with moss, and they rake the gravel periodically.  I wanted that kind of look, so I did a miniature garden on my front porch.  And I wanted a centerpiece for it.  So I decided, ‘I’ll put a bonsai tree there!’

two-views-over-red-mountain“Doing bonsai was an outgrowth of the garden on the front porch.”

“After making this crude tree, I thought, ‘I can improve on this.’  So I went and got some bonsai books.  I finally got to Bonsai: It’s Art, Science, History & Philosophy by Deborah Keroshoff.  I used her more or less as my guideline for approaching and crafting the bonsai.”

“Approximately ten years ago, I invented a process for creating lifeliks pine bonsai.”  Mr. Reed shared his experiences as he worked to perfect his craft.  ““When I first started out, I copied the photographs that I saw.  But I realized that if I’m going to expand on this, I need to be more creative, more imaginative.  So I came up with my own variety of styles.”

He’s competed a number of trees over the past decade.  “I have roughly 14 or 15 trees completed.  The thing about them, is I have developed them over time.  According to the books, you have two styles: the Japanese style, and the Chinese style.  I’ve primarily been leaning toward the Chinese style.  The Japanese style is the one that most Westerners are accustomed to,  they got a lot of foliage.  You don’t necessarily see the trunk.  In the Chinese style, they tend to show you the trunk, and the bones of the tree, as to the adversity that it has overcome.  So you see more appearance of the trunk with minimal foliage.”

“I tend to lean toward the Chinese style because it expresses the adversity that the tree has gone through.”

bonsai-groupingMr. Reed also commented on his house on North Orchard.  The sculpted bushes in the front yard were present when he purchased the house.  The inspiration for the design on his garage door actually comes from the Mr. Miaggi of The Karate Kid movies.  “That’s my logo on the garage door.  I got a mental picture of a sculpture [Mr. Miaggi] had in his living room – a circle, and the lines.  So, when I got ready to do the garage door, I was doing house plants, and saw on the front cover of a book the reed palm tree.  So the combination of the circle, and the lines, and the reed palm tree worked.  It was inspired by the sculpture in Mr. Miaggi’s living room.”

While he recently replaced the roof, residents may remember the gold roof as the house is pictured above.  He plans to do more work on the exterior of the house in the near future, “My intention next year is to upgrade the overall look of the house, especially now that I’ve had the roof done.  I normally have my yellow roof.”  No, there are no companies making yellow shingles, “I painted it with a paint brush – each shingle.  So now I have to come back sometime next year and repaint it.”  He says he can meditate and reflect while painting.

Mr. Reed also designs stands for his bonsai trees, and writes a poem for each one.  “It’s my intent with each tree to come up with a poem representative of the tree itself.  So, I create the tree, and then I come back and allow for the tree to speak to me.”

“When I do a tree, I want the tree to say something.  Every tree needs to say something.”





Reflection of Grace
by Mark Reed

The Thorn which transformed the older
caused the wise removal of the mirror
so the younger is not stunned.
Grace brough forth creativity.
Creativity caused the thorn to become
a shadow rather than a constant.



“The Chinese House”

Photographs courtesy Mark Reed