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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I'll also be taking ADA/Amano/AGA layout suggestions to post here. Just PM me on which tank you would like to see here.

Aquarium:


Title: The Hill
Volume: 75g (284L)
Dimensions: 48 x 18 x 21 in (122 x 46 x 53 cm)
Plants: Cyperus helferi, Eleocharis acicularis, Microsorium pteropus "narrow leaf", Microsorium pteropus "Windelov"
Fish: Hemigrammus erythrozonus, Otocinclus affinis

Questions an ADA judge would ask (taken from contest booklet...they judge on creativity, composition, fish choice, creation of natural atmosphere, aquarium condition, and viability):

1) Does the aquascape make an original creative impression to the viewers?

2) Is the aquascape composed well (is there compositional balance within the aquascape)?

3) Are the aquatic plants appropriately positioned within the aquascape? Does the balance exist in the colors and shapes of the plants used?

4) Do you feel harmony between the fish and the aquarium layout?

5) Is the aquascape laid out well making a natural looking atmosphere?

Some questions of my own:

1) What compositional rules does this layout follow? Which compositional rules does it break?

2) What are the main elements in this layout? How do they work together harmoniously (or unharmoniously)?

3) What type of atmosphere/impression does this layout seem to create for the viewer?

Just questions to help aid discussion. However, discussion can head in directions that have nothing to do with the above questions (but still relate to the above aquascape).

Carlos
 

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Rick Cain's "The Hill" and the advent of "Des

This is one of my favorite tanks of the 2003 AGA Contest, and one that still really resonates with me. In my opinion, this is a truly progressive and groundbreaking aquascape. It has greatly contributed to my thoughts on a whole other aquascaping style that I am for now calling "Design Style"- for lack of a better term. It does not seek to recreate a scene from nature like Amano/Nature Aquarium style, nor does it follow any "rules" of gardening like Dutch Style or to a lesser extent, the still embryonic American Style. These aquascapes push the current boundries of what we expect to see when looking at (or judging) planted tanks because their effect is more like that of other types of art. For example, different painting styles- when Picasso with cubism and Matisse or, the Impressionists first came onto the scene, many in the "established art world" rejected, denounced or otherwise disapproved of the work because of its complete break with convention and what painting was supposed to be. Much of the critique I hear of aquascaping pertains to the aquascapes ability to look like Amano, or convey a particular type of depth, or look "natural". That's all fine if that's what you really like in an aquascape, but I'm for expanding the horizons and stylistic potential of our artform and to me, Ricky Cain's tank here effectively opens the dialog.
 

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This reminds me of the one he did trying to recreate a volcanoe...or is this the same one? It is a great looking hill, great detail and composition on the hill itself, but I can not buy into the open, empty, white sand around it. It certainly does not look natural, and to me it is to distracting. My eye keeps getting pulled away from the plants to the white sand. I can see it is not meant to look natural. It is meant to look different and I can appreciate that effort to be unique, but it doesn't do anything for me.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
I don't know if the impression this aquarium creates was exactly what Ricky wanted. Remember, Ricky got his inspiration for this aquarium from a natural source. I believe he was trying to recreate a verdant, tropical isle in the Caribbean --the shocker is how he reinterpreted that impression:


On another note, I don't know if this aquarium's 'Design Style' is totally unique to it. In fact, there is another 'Design Style' aquascape that predates this one, by Shinichi Tsuda of Japan:


Next week, we'll be taking a look at bonsai gardening, and how we can incorporate that gardening style into aquascaping.

Keep the thoughts coming,

Carlos
 

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I think that Ricky was very successful in his attempt to recreate an island feel, it's the first thing that comes to mind when I see it.

To answer the questions:

1) Does the aquascape make an original creative impression to the viewers?

This is one of the most original aquascapes I've seen in the AGA showcase in a long time. He was very creative in his use of plants, in particular the use of hairgrass to maintain the slope of the hill.

2) Is the aquascape composed well (is there compositional balance within the aquascape)?

I think so. The main thrust of the aquascape is well placed and is in proportion to the overall size of the aquarium.

With the exception of one or two fronds the plants don't rest across the surface of the water, showing good planning as well as careful use of trimming to maintain the plan. Both techniques are essential components of composition. In fact, I feel that knowing when, where, and what to trim is more important than planting everything in exactly the right place. Plants grow and aquascapes change, knowing how to manipulate that growth in order to enhance the overall aquascape is what separates the great from the merely good aquascapers.

Furthermore, Ricky was good about not using many small groups if lots of plants. The larger areas of foliage contrast well with the bare substrate which in my opinion creates both spartan and lush elements in the design.

Personally, I don't feel that one needs any red plants are necessary to an aquascape. In fact, I think that red elements would have been disruptive to the overall composition.

3) Are the aquatic plants appropriately positioned within the aquascape? Does the balance exist in the colors and shapes of the plants used?

They're placed very well. However there's not as much contrast between the foliage textures or colors and they start to blend into eachother after one looks at the photo for any length of time.

4) Do you feel harmony between the fish and the aquarium layout?

Yes. The strength of this design is in my opinion the boldness of the planting. Too many fish and fish that were very colorful would have been a distraction. Fish that were too large would take away from the scale of the island. I feel the choice and number of "bait" was just right for this design.

5) Is the aquascape laid out well making a natural looking atmosphere?

That depends on one's idea of natural and how it relates to this design. I don't get any sort of impression that this aquascape is meant to imitate a small scale natural area so no, it's not natural in that regard.

However, I get a strong impression of a tropical island rising out of the middle of a tract of water. The choices of plants hint at thick underbrush and large palms that almost seem to be swaying in the wind. Also, the plants look healthy and are placed in areas that are suitable for their type and is natural in respect to the needs of the specific species.

Best,
Phil
 

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I have always complement this tank and I always will. The whole idea was to do something different and I think He was very successful doing it. I have seen many beautiful aquariums but never anything like this. Creating a planted aquarium is not only a project to the designer but more like a passion and unfortunately not everybody can be pleased. I know that many of us who enjoy aquascaping, like the work of Ricky Cain just for the fact of it's innovative design that to me is like a breath of fresh air.
Luis Navarro
 

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Well, I guess again I will be percieved as being the bad guy for voicing lone dissent! That is the thing about art, it is totally open to personal interpretation. When I look at Rickys pic here, I think more of an oasis in a dessert than an island in water. But I also keep thinking how cool it would look surrounded by dwarf hairgrass. Sorry!
 

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Don't be sorry.

I see the oasis too, but a field of hairgrass would ruin that view as well as the idea of an island. You keep trying to change it into a hill in a pasture or something. Don't worry Robert, we don't expect you to 'get' everything. :wink:

Maybe dark blue gravel and a sky blue background with some puffy light areas to represent clouds......

:doubt:

maybe not
 

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Robert,

There's no need to be sorry. Art is viewed differently by every person who looks at it and every view is valid. That's what's so great about it! Your views of an oasis and/or pasture describe it well also. One of the things I see every time I look at this tank is one of those huge Oaks growing alone in the middle of a field. That's certainly not an island in the literal sense, but it is a strong structure in the middle of an otherwise empty plane.

Best,
Phil
 

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Maybe dark blue gravel and a sky blue background with some puffy light areas to represent clouds......
PINK GRAVEL!!!!! ...cotton candy pink is the only way to go ;)

While not a constructive/destructive criticism, I must say that I too really enjoyed this piece of artistry in the last AGA contest. Fresh ideas aren't often executed well IMO, but this one definate is :)
 

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I get it! Honestly I do. I guess I just don't appreaciate it. I will say one thing, Ricky appears to be the first person seriously trying to incorporate abstract and symbolic art into the aquarium. I am just more of a traditionilist I suppose.

There would be more sutle ways of emphasising the island and still make it more natural looking. Instead of a bare substrate there could be an array of rocks and wood intermixed with little sparse tufts of hairgrass or something along that line. It is engaging to look at though. Every time I go back and look at it I see something I hadn't noticed before.

The japanese one that Carlos shows above I am not real crazy about either, but it looks more natural. Even with bare substrate showing.
 

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This tank was the wallpaper on my computer for about a year. It's amazing, and Jeff beat me to all the things I would say about it.

When you look at a design by a famous architect, you don't say, "That doesn't remind me of anything I know, therefore I don't like it." You look at if for the form, layout, shape, use of space, contrast, and other design/stylistic components. Same with this aquascape. The proportions, shadows, highlights, and other elements make you want to look at it all day. It's outta the box... the glass box :D

This tank looks just as good in person too which is hard to achieve. You can see the flaws of many aquascapes (like mine) when you're standing at the glass. Hehehe... this tank is dry at the moment. Ricky has taken the black rim off and trying to make an open top tank. Not sure what he will do next.
 
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