Many, many years ago, Rodgers and Hart wrote the score for Words and Music, a movie experience that told the story of their collaboration and ultimate success. The film was filled with spectacular musical numbers, including Judy Garland singing about the plight of poor “Johnny One Note.” Being a young musician, I loved Words and Music. As a child, I was already a fan of Judy Garland, but all the same, I didn’t care for “Johnny One Note”. He was, you see — according to the song lyrics — a fellow who could sing only one note.
Of course, he sang it with gusto, drowning out the bass and the drums, the flutes, and even the trombones. He sang his note until he was blue in the face.
I suppose there’s a message in the music there. Find one thing you do well, and do it. Do it loudly. Do it unapologetically. Do it every opportunity you get.
Now, that is good advice, especially for new artists like me. I’m learning to be loud and unapologetic! I’m seizing every opportunity I have to draw and paint. Unfortunately, unlike Johnny, I haven’t yet hit upon my “one note” — that one single thing I’m good at.
Actually, though, I’m digressing, straying far from the point of this post. It’s not about music or messages. It’s really about monochromatic color schemes, which sound about as interesting as a one-note song.
In looking back through art history, you’ll see that there have, indeed, been artists who have taken monochrome to extremes, such as Yves Klein, whose 1957 exhibition ‘Proposte Monochrome, Epoca Blu’ featured 11 identical canvases, all painted with ultramarine blue. Klein might have been an artist with a following, but may I refer back to a question I posed recently and say, yes, but is it art?
Generally, when we talk about monochromatic art, we’re meaning art that is based on a single hue, with many variations of shades and tints. Using a monochromatic color scheme can help an artist create a mood, as well as focus on tonal values in the piece. Blue monochrome paintings might suggest peace and tranquility, while a red monochrome would be more suitable for an energetic work or one that focused on a dangerous situation.
Colors each have their own meanings and associations, and learning to use colors properly is one of the most important elements in the study of art. I’ve learned a few basics, and I want to further my knowledge of color theory.
What better way to begin than by studying individual colors and creating paintings from them?
For my first monochromatic watercolor, I chose burnt sienna. I wanted an earthy feeling to the scene. I wanted, too, to create a piece with a bit of warmth.
Immediately I wondered how the same landscape might look in a cool hue, so it was back to the easel, this time to grab a tube of blue watercolor — but how about using a “warm” blue like Ultramarine?
You’ll notice it’s not an exact reproduction of the first painting. It’s similar but different in some respects. I definitely prefer the “earthier” Burnt Sienna to the Ultramarine.
And what if I used a cool blue?
Again, it’s not an exact reproduction, but similar in style to the previous two monochrome landscapes.
Finally, after listening to “Johnny One Note” over and over, I had to do one more landscape and bring in a few different colors. I haven’t decided which one is my favorite, but it was a fun way to spend an evening.
Which one is your favorite?