Robert Steven

Bonsai Master / Expert

Robert is an influential and respected expert, author of two bonsai Art books, Vision of my Soul and Mission of Transformation, and is the cofounder of the highly respected Black Scissors Community, a philosophy and art community that espouses creativity and the confluence of freedom and technique. Roberts vision is one that bridges and transcends traditional Chinese and Japanese practice and brings modern sensibilities of art practice into the mix. 

Robert started Bonsai in late 1979 or early 1980. At that time, he only worked according to his own imagination and taste rather than following the textbook styles. He had not yet joined any Bonsai club, until about 1990 that he started to learn more about Bonsai from books and local Bonsai artists. With this new exposure, the more he learned, the more doubts he had about the criteria that most considered necessary for making good Bonsai. The textbook rules and stylistic considerations seemed to be overly dogmatic and rigid. Robert became disheartened as he noted a distinct difference between the art that he loved and the art as followed by the rest of the community.

Because of this confusion and disillusionment Robert almost quit Bonsai for a while. He began searching for the roots of the philosophical and conceptual fundamentals of the art.  Delving deeply into the scientific and aesthetic ideals of artistry and Bonsai to try and discover the basis for these dogmatic rules. During this time, Robert chanced upon a wonderful opportunity to learn Penjing with Hu Yun Hua in China. Studying in China provided significant enlightenment. Hu Yun Hua’s teaching method and philosophical approach helped to solidify Robert’s understanding of the science and aesthetics of his endeavor. This understanding perhaps came easy to Robert because he had long practiced painting and sculpture, and had a measure of knowledge of the visual arts.

Furthermore, he firmly believed Bonsai was simply another form of visual art. With his frequent travels to China and meetings with many Chinese Bonsai masters came exposure to Chinese literature. Most of these texts had never been translated into foreign languages. Due to Robert’s exposure to these Chinese artists and writings, his perception and interpretation of Bonsai changed.

After delving deeply into the aesthetics and philosophy of Chinese Penjing (the root of Bonsai art) and with my practical experience with modern Bonsai. Robert has formulated his own approach to the art. He believes that great benefit can be derived from applying some basic concepts from this approach to Bonsai styling efforts. Robert has dedicated myself to the exploration and development of this art and I hope that others may learn from my journey.


• Started doing and collecting Bonsai in 1979. Current permanent exhibit with over 500 Bonsai collection in wide variety of species.

• Won more than 200 competition awards nationally as well as international e.g.: 

• Entry Award of 2000 JAL World Bonsai Contest

• Entry Award of 2000 Ben Oki International Design Award

• Runner-up winner of 2001 Ben Oki International Design Award

• Grand Winner of 2001 Certre Award International

• Runner-up winner of 2002 Ben Oki International Design Award

• Runner-up winner of 2002 Certre Award Competition

• Entry Award of JAL World Bonsai Contest 2002

• Runner-up of World Bonsai Contest 2003

• Bronze Award of 2006 BCI Convention in China

• Grand Winner of 2007 Certre Award International

• The Most Original Design Award 2007 of KoB

• Well-known to his unique bonsai design concept through the aesthetic and horticultural approach.

• Active in writing Bonsai and Penjing articles for newspapers & magazines and columnist for several bonsai magazine.

• Intensively travelling around the world conducting Bonsai and Penjing teaching, lectures, demos, workshops and judging.

• Ex-Secretary General of Asia-Pacific Bonsai Friendship Federation (ABFF); and Director of Education Dept.

• Indonesia – China Penjing Communication Ambassador of China Penjing Artists Association.

• Artistic Advisor of Penjing Leyuan Internet Forum of China.

• Artistic Committee Head of “Zhongguo Feng Penjing Exhibition” in China.

• Director of Public Relation and International Affair (2001 – 2004) to PPBI (Indonesia Bonsai Society).

• BCI Board of Director’s member (2002-2010) & Public Relation Committee Head.

• Expert Editor of Green Hobby magazine and editor staff of several bonsai forum; and the moderator of “Critique Forum” of

• Initiator & Coordinator of “ABFF Award – Ismail Saleh Trophy”, an International Bonsai Photo Contest.

• Initiators and key-speakers of Indonesian Bonsai Art Discussion Forum.

• Initiator & Contributor of Forum Hobby Indonesia.

• Initiator and founder of “ International Bonsai Art & Culture Biennale”; the first ground breaking bonsai event with the new concept of Multimedia Bonsai Presentation, a collaboration between bonsai and other art forms.

• Founder of “Indonesian Bonsai Artists Community” – KOSBI.

• Co-Founder of Black Scissors Community.

• First book “Vision of My Soul” was published in April 2005 in luxury limited edition as one of the best seller Bonsai books; has been reprinted and out of print now.

• Second book “Mission of Transformation” was published in 2009 and out of print now.

• Coming books: “The Five Schools of Chinese Penjing”, “FAQ of Bonsai – The Path to Beyond”, “An Idiot Guide to Tropical Bonsai”, ”Psychology of Bonsai Design” and “Panduan Estetika Seni Bonsai”.

More information on his profile and bonsai creations can be viewed at his bonsai blog: or