My philosophy is passion first, horticulture second, technique third, and art fourth.
1) Bonsai speaks to us on a personal level for many different reasons–it could be inspiration or connectiveness with mother nature, or perhaps the idea of living art. For whichever reason, always remember your love for the art and have fun!
2) As a living art, it is very necessary to remember if your tree dies it ceases to be bonsai. Using horticulture as the basis for understanding how your trees grow is the foundation that all techniques and artistic intentions will be built off of. There is an unspoken truth of water quality and climate based difficulties that can make it hard to grow healthy trees in Southern California.
3) A healthy tree means it can respond well to different bonsai based techniques. We apply techniques with awareness of how the tree will respond noting its state of health and development. Horticulture and technique are intertwined.
4) The last aspect is realization of bonsai as an art, as opposed to a pure craft. I think this is very hard to achieve, but there are many different stylistic and aesthetic interpretations of trees based off our inspiration and value system. By succeeding at the previous 3 goals, we can realize our own artistic visions. Bonsai is very much an emergent art in that by application of technique over many years, the beauty of the tree is realized over time–as in contrast to say a painting which may be completed in one iteration. This is a interesting and a little philosophical aspect to think about in bonsai!