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Aquarium Design Amano International Contest--

Results out! 1147 entrants!

Don't know how many of you there are out there, but those aquascapers who entered the ADA contest, I hope you're checking your mail boxes to see how you did.

For those who don't know, ADA is the largest international aquarium design contest in the world.  It is probably the single most influential statement about the world skill of aquascapers, and gives a lot of info on the styles, innovations, etc. that have been happening around the world.

The contest continues to grow, with over 1100 entrants this year, the contest gets fiercer and fiercer!

This year, 48 Americans entered, including myself.  This was my first serious entry to international competition.

I ranked 71.

71 . . . well, breaking 100 is not bad.  It's probably the perfect score for me.  It's one I can't be embarressed of, as it puts me in the top 10% of the contest.  However, it's far enough from my goal of top 50 to motivate me for next year.  :D

:iconlovely-complex:  Lovely Complex = goodness
  • Listening to: Hey! Say!
  • Reading: The Game
  • Watching: Lovely Complex!
  • Playing: Pokemon Diamond
  • Eating: Ramen
  • Drinking: Kirin
For those looking at my gallery for the first time, please enjoy my aquarium designs.  I am a photographer/painter/illustrator/anime artist, yes, but my real creed is aquascaping-- that is, designing a scene of nature inside the aquarium.  Whether the motif be a mountain, seashore, river bed, or grassy patch on the sidewalk, with careful layout of stone and wood, and with careful care of plants and fish, one can create a piece of living art the truly catches the essence of nature.  Aquascapes are alive, and thus, have a truly captivating quality about them.

I hope you enjoy my little gardens.

Oh and check out my new blog:

If you can't speak Japanese-- you're being spared some really horrible Japanese.  :D'

and I joined this club:

:iconlovely-complex:  Lovely Complex = goodness
  • Listening to: Secret Garden (Pokemon Movie 5)
  • Reading: Shadow Puppets
  • Watching: Kiseido Go Server
  • Playing: Virtual On
  • Eating: Ramen
  • Drinking: Kirin
This was an article I wrote for BarrReport Advanced Aquascaping Section.  I figure people should have a place to access this even if they're not a subscriber at BarrReport, so I'm posting it here.

Title:  Aquascaping Philosophy 101

Birth of an Art Form:

Only thousands of years ago, man had little outlet in the means of expressing his creativity outside of making pictures on cave-walls with mud or a by using a rock as a chisel.  Our drawings could become more sophisticated only as the dyes became better, and the media became more refined.  How easy it is to forget the invention of paper, the invention of ink.  Ikebana, Japanese flower arrangement only became possible with the invention of ceramics.  Sculptors emerged with the refinement of chisels and mallets.  The painter as we know him only emerged with the invention of the canvas.  Two hundred years ago there were no professional photographers, and fifty years ago there were no computer graphics artists.

Aquascaping also, is just one more in a series of creative paths (I'll use "creative path" and "art form" interchangeably throughout this article) that has made itself available to people with the advancement of technology.  Technology gave us the mass-produced glass tank, powerful artificial light, CO2 injection, and the airplanes that allow us access to the soils, stones, wood and living things around the world.  I believe there are many people in the world of fish keeping who do not see Aquascaping as an art at all, but just another way of keeping fish.  They think this way because they see the aquarium for only its traditional use of keeping fish, and do not see it as the vessel of a new art form.  Thinking this way is like thinking that ikebana is not an art form because the pot's traditional use is storing water.
Though the individual technologies that have made Aquascaping possible may not all be the most cutting edge in principle, it is only recently that these technologies have really come together to be used as an art form.  Even if the individual technologies are not very new, and have a traditional purpose (basically keeping fish alive for us to enjoy watching) once they are used for a creative path, they have a different purpose.  A tank can be used for its original purpose, but it can also used for a different purpose-- and the purpose of Aquascaping is like the purpose of other art forms:  That is, the search to create beauty.
People follow creative paths for a number of reasons, but the most basic one is to create beauty-- and as technology progresses there will continue to be more paths opened to them for this purpose.

Why do we need so many art forms?
And more specifically, why Aquascaping?
It is true that it seems strange that there should need to be so many art forms when many have very similar goals in mind.  A landscape photo or a landscape painting -- they both exist for capturing the beauty of nature, and yet people still have a love for more than one form, and the artists in them seek different forms.  That is because each form has its own weaknesses and strengths, requires different skill-sets, and gives a slightly different feeling.  Photography is stronger than painting at accurate rendition and detail, but painting is not limited to objects that are real.  Pixel-based computer graphics is good at detail, and can draw anything the mind can imagine, but it is limited to the colors of your computer screen and printer (not to mention the available memory of your computer, lol).
Aquascaping, like photography, has its limits as to what it can render.  In terms of subject matter, it is even more limited than photography.  After all, alongside not being able to render giant robots, fairies and unicorns, it is not even able to capture airplanes, city streets, or the everyday moments of suburban life.

Aquascaping is pretty limited to just nature-- and even then, not able to super accurately render real places, but more of a metaphorical-representation or otherwise sheer fantasy of nature.  Bottom line is Aquascaping is a pretty limited art form in many ways.

With that said accuracy and flexibility are just two of many aspects.  Many people feel that painting has a better "human aspect" than photography-- the very fact that paintings are imperfect in rendering, lends them a better glance of human emotions, thoughts, and the struggle with our limitations.  This "human aspect" is very important to people.
Aquascaping, more so than painting, photography, or almost any other art-form, carries a strong "living aspect."  This incredible "living aspect" comes from the simple fact that Aquascapes are alive.  People have strong connections to life and nature because they are alive and part of nature-- they can see it as beautiful.  People paint landscapes because of a love for this beauty.  People invented aquariums because they wanted to admire the living things they could keep inside it.  Aquascaping actually uses the original purpose of fish keeping, as one of its tools to increase one of its facets:  The "Living Aspect."

Aquascaping is an art that draws strength from its "living aspect" combined with its unique ability for metaphorical-representation, which was the original purpose of painting, and has its limits not from human limits but from nature's limits.  

Those limits are mostly concerned with what organisms and materials are usable inside the aquarium.  Remember that limits are not always a bad thing-- like painting the limitations of Aquascaping in some ways makes it stronger; they enhance its "living aspect."  Combine these features together, and you get an art form that possesses incredible intensity.  Whether it's a small desk tank or Amano-sensei's house aquarium, a well done Aquascape pulses with life so strongly that it's hard not to be captivated, hard to move one's eyes away.  Aquascapes are hypnotizing.

Please tank a look at the illustration in the link below:…
This is an illustration I did last year.  I had it printed on canvas sheet and framed.  I have some skill at computer graphics, so it is a nice work and some people who have seen this and works like it have told me to go into professional painting or illustration.  However, here is the interesting thing:

A drawing this good, gets no attention at all when hung in the same room as my aquarium.

Both my aquarium and this painting are by the right wall of my dorm room.  I have oriented my bed to double as a sofa for people to sit on and relax when they visit me.  It's also oriented so they will look at the painting and the aquarium.  Do they notice this painting?  Not at all-- everyone just sits and is completely mesmerized by the aquarium.  The painting would never be noticed if I did not point it out.  Even I almost never look at it and sometimes forget it is even there.  I am sure the majority of Aquascape owners have seen this as well:  When someone walks into the room, all they can look at is the Aquascape.  It's like the whole room revolves around it.  

That's because more than painting, photography, computer graphics or almost any other standing art form:  Aquascaping has intensity.  This intensity, this sheer eye-catching brute strength, is what makes Aquascaping a great art form despite all its other limitations.

Alright, so the "Living Aspect" is incredible, but why freshwater planted?
I have a heard this question many times, particularly in comparing planted tanks to saltwater tanks.  When people think of a "hard core aquarium" they generally think of salt-water.  Just the other day, a friend of mine who was walking to my room with me to see my aquarium said, "Oh, it is fresh-water?  So that means you're a pansy right?"  Well, she said that before we got to my room.
A salt-water aquarium does have huge visual intensity, just like planted tanks.  Another point raised is that salt-water has fish that are often more incredible and colorful than freshwater fish.  It's crazy to see and people go to full scale aquariums (the kind with seals, dolphins and biotope exhibits) in order to see these creatures.  However, this visual power, also is what gives saltwater its weakness:  It's too over-the-top.
If there's a lionfish in the tank, no one thinks "Wow, what a beautiful tank."  They think, "Wow, what an amazing fish!"  Power is good, but it's no good if it totally takes the creative aspect out of the work.  If you take out the creative aspect, you no longer are on a "creative path."  
Perhaps an even greater weakness to salt-water, and this weakness applies to biotopes as well, is that the metaphorical-representation capability, that was half of Aquascaping's strength, is basically gone.  People are almost completely incapable of seeing saltwater corals and fish as anything but what they are:  corals and fish.  This same weakness applies to salt water "planted" tanks with seaweed and algae:  People don't think "mountain," they think "mound of seaweed."  Without metaphorical representation, you almost completely lose the creative aspect, and fall off the "creative path."  Basically, you end up back where we started with the traditional purpose of aquariums:  Enjoying fish.
When people dive into the ocean, they feel like they've "entered another world."  Even those who spend a great amount of their time snorkeling.  I also spent my childhood in Hawaii, but when I swim with the sea life, I feel like I'm just a visitor.  Human instincts are not wired to think of the sea as their home.  We cannot see it as anything but what it is, and it is always something amazing-- but also something that is alien.
Freshwater tanks use angiosperms, ferns, and bryophytes-- these are plants not so different from the ones that are a part of our terrestrial existence.  When we see freshwater Aquascapes we can think "mountain" or "meadow," "forest" or "shore."  These places and things are part of our deepest instincts and memories, and places that we can call home or long to live in or go to.  Because of this, freshwater planted tanks are capable of metaphorical representation, and therefore have a way to a "creative path."

Using the power and intensity of "Life Aspect," and combining with the creative aspect of "Metaphorical Representation," one is able to open a new creative path:  Aquascaping.
My newest aquarium, "Naupaka Coast" is now up and running.  It's been going for about 2 weeks now.

ADA 60x30x36 cm
110 watts flourscent lighting (4 hours full, 10 half)
CO2 (2 bubbles /sec)
EHEIM 2213 with ADA inflow/Outflow
ADA aquasoil

Lava rocks
Hawai'i river twigs

There are photos in the scraps, some plant photos in my deviations, and in a week or two it might be possible to do a formal photography session (as a progression, an aquarium isn't finished until 3 months after set up).  At that time, I might post some better photos as deviations.  :)

Tagged O.o

Wed Aug 2, 2006, 10:44 PM
I got tagged!!

Tagged by :whitekitsune:

Honto no wa . . . I don't know what this tagged thing is exactly :sweat:

I guess it's post 10 things about your art thought-- which sounds cool since I haven't talked art in a while.  :D

1)  I'm an aquascaper which means there are quite a few difficulaties that I deal with:

a)  It's expensive . . .
b)  You have to keep things alive . . .
c)  It's not a very big art form yet, with few serious artists so getting quality feedback is difficult.

the 3rd one is probably the most frustrating for me because I am a rather talkative person.  XD  kitsune-chan mentioned that knowledge is power in her journal, and that's certainly true but I think it'd be difficult for me to follow my chosen genre in an art school-- so here I am studying economics :P  because aquascaping is expensive  XD

2)  Aquascaping does have some history-- which is traditionally a rivalry between the European-based school of ordered "flower-garden" type lay-outs, and the Japanese/Oriental-based school of "Natural looking" layouts.  I personally feel a much stronger connection to the natural style, and like most aquascapers acknowledge Takashi Amano as the single greatest in the world.  One could say that Amano-sensei is the one who truly made aquascaping into an art-form and it true that through his example the expectations of both beautification and photography continue to rise rapidly each year in the international competitions.  I think though, that it is starting to become rather stale.

3)  As a fellow aquascaper pointed out, there is no build off from Amano, and almost all the scapes today are simply imitations of his work.  I have yet to really enter into the international competitions yet, but when I do I want to make sure my scapes are a breath of fresh air, and that I can jump to the top right from the start.  I am currently making preparations for a scape to compete with in 2007.

4)  Where does an aquascaper pull his strength from?  Personally, I think one of the most crucial things is a "pool of memory."  How much has the aquascaper lived in and experienced the beauty of nature?  Having grown up in Hawai'i I think I have a special advantage in this regard.  My current trip to Japan is also of tremendous importance.  Between July 1st and July 18th, I hiked all over southern Japan, trying to get as much exposure as possible to the huge natural beauty there.  Ginkakujii temple, Miyajima island, Nikko's cypress forests, and a bunch of other places.  After taking in the thousands of memories of cool flowing streams, carpet thick moss fields, and dappled light through maple and sakura leaves, I think that my "pool of memory" has expanded greatly, and while my next aquascape is going to be a hawai'i-themed tank (look at my featured aquasketch for to see the concept CG), I believe I now have lots of inspiration for future Japan-themed scapes.

5)  Along with the obvious need for appreciation of plants and landscapes, I think an aquascaper must also be a lover of life and nature-- especially a lover of small animals.  He must try his best to remove any contempt for animals from his heart.  On this trip I took photos of bees, lizards, spiders, beatles, frogs, freshwater crabs, fish, dragon flies, butterflies, and just about every small animal I could find.  The cicada has still kept itself hidden from me, but I hope I can photograph one before I leave Japan.  I also have a small aquarium here in which I am keeping a collection of small yet beautiful nerite snails.

6)  Photography is really important to an aquascaper.  After all, how else will he convey his works to people who cannot come to see the aquarium he designs?  When I came home from College, I asked my uncle to teach me as much as possible in the month and a half before I left for Japan.  My Uncle is a very kind and generous man, and gave me 2 cameras to use-- A small olympus camera that has 10x optimal zoom (which I took to Japan), and a Cannon EOS 10D for my serious aquarium photography.  The Olympus is great at landscapes and close ups outside of water, but just doesn't have the flexibility needed for shots through glass and water.  The EOS is a great camera, and I've used it to get good shots in the past at pet stores.  But I am becoming aware that in order to get professional aquarium photographs done, set up around the aquarium is probably just as critical as the camera settings.  I'll have to plan my dorm room well when I set up the aquascape, with a mind to sliding background material behind the tank, and having room for external lamps to increase lighting in the aquarium-- though actually over-exposure is the enemy of digital photography.  It's a good thing I have a pretty good background in anime CG-- it's helped me become a skilled digital photo-editor with a minimal amount of training ;)

BTW-- I took over 1000 photos in Japan with the Olympus-- and editing those photos, especially the land-scape ones, is a big help in both re-living those moments for my "memory pool" and learning how to achieve different effects in photo editing.

7)  Engineering is probably one of the places where I'm lacking in experience.  Consideration of aquarium set up is difficult for me.  In the fall the aforementioned scape I'm planning will be the first with some of the more advanced tools like a canister filter and pressurized CO2 injection.  I have bought some useful tools in that regard here in Japan, and made arrangements with a pet-store in Hawai'i to supply me with my lighting systems and glass CO2 diffuser.  I still have to make arrangements for purchasing a CO2 tank and the rest of my CO2 equipment in California.  Hopefully, all will go smoothly . . . to iindesuga . . . >.<

I also have plants to do things with the substrate and lava rock that I've never tried before, but hopefully the laws of physics won't fight against my inspiration  (again, look at featured peace to see what I'm talking about).

8)  In the last year, I've taken to doing CGs of future scape-designs, because I didn't have the means to do a full-scale aquascape (it's expensive . . .).  Actually, this Fall's one will be my first really serious attempt (meaning I will be lacking nothing I need).  CGing scapes is a wonderful tool though, and has helped me made somewhat of a name for my self on the aquascaping forums.  Aquasketching, as I've called this aquarium CGing, is both a means and an end for me, both a "concept sketch" and a finished piece.  I'm glad that I've been doing it, and I will be gladder when I get back home and get my tablet so I can do some Japanese-themed aquasketches.

9)  My knowledge of fertilization regimes is really meager.  :sweat:  I know I should read up and gain more knowledge on recognizing symptoms of nutrient difficiencies, but I'm really lazy (kinda like how I was at learning how to draw anatomy when I did anime . . .).  I do know the basics, and had success just doing what it says to dose on Rex Grigg's beginner's website . . . well, I'm sure I'll get it with experience.  :sweat:

10)  I need more experience raising some types of animals.  Amano shrimp and Nerite snails are really useful for algae control, but I just don't have much experience caring for these animals.  Hopefully, I'll have enough experience and knowledge to keep them healthy in my fall project.  :)

That's all for now!  later guyz!!

I'll tag someone else later too . . .

Well, if no one knows, I'm in Japan right now.  My classes at Joji daigaku start tomorrow.  It's been a fun trip so far-- I toured Japan with my Dad and we got to see all kinds of stuff (took about 1000 photos, mostly nature stuff because that's my thing :)  )

Enjoying the luxuries of Tokyo (like 250 yen Shonen Jump magazines . . .), and sake/beer in vending machines.  XD

Missing my friends though.  Check photos on facebook later when I put them up.

PS--got me a Japanese hair cut XD