Johnny One Note

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.

Watercolor 160616 Monochrome

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?

Watercolor 160617 Monochrome

 

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?

Watercolor 160618 Monochrome - Cerulean 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.

Watercolor 160619 River Scene

 

 Which one is your favorite?

 

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About Judith

Author, artist, and an independent consultant for Perfectly Posh. I enjoy sharing my thoughts and interests through blogging and invite you to visit my sites.

38 comments

  1. I like the burnt sienna. (K)

    Liked by 1 person

  2. dawnmarie

    I think my favorite is the one in full color. I saw the Burt sienna and really liked it….nice trees by the way. Then I saw the blues and liked both of those two….but then the color came and I’m a sucker for full on color. So hard to choose!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Dawn. I like the color one, and of the three monochrome paintings, I think I like the burnt sienna best.

      Liked by 1 person

      • dawnmarie

        It’s hard or me to choose between the monochrome a cuz I like them all and they are all just a little bit different. So hard.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I also made a “trading card” landscape like the burnt sienna one and submitted it for Grumbacher’s current Artist Trading Card event. The theme is “Water”…so I did a landscape with water in the scene, using watercolors. I thought that would fit the theme nicely. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • dawnmarie

        This sounds stupid…but what is an artist trading card?

        Liked by 1 person

      • It’s a small piece of art (the size of a baseball card) that artists trade. Artists can do it individually or in groups. Grumbacher Art Supply features one every month or so. Artists create their ATC, send it in, and Grumbacher posts them all on their Facebook Event page, then “swaps” them…they’ll send mine to another artist, and I’ll get someone else’s card. Plus with Grumbacher, when you participate in ATC events, you get a “punch card” and earn free art supplies. 🙂 Here’s the link to the Facebook event. Everything is explained there. https://www.facebook.com/events/974199546028381/

        Liked by 1 person

      • dawnmarie

        Nice. Okay. Thank you very much for the link. Free art supplies sounds excellent.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Yeah, I’ll always take free art supplies. Grumbacher also has a “Mystery box” giveaway every Monday on their Facebook page. I actually won a mystery box a few months ago. I got opaque watercolors, acrylic markers, some brushes, pastel pencils. Lots of goodies.

        Liked by 1 person

      • dawnmarie

        Ooooooh. That sounds nice.

        Liked by 1 person

      • If you need the Facebook link to their official page, let me know. That’s where they do the mystery box giveaways.

        Liked by 1 person

      • dawnmarie

        I saved the other link so I can look around. I will find it, but thank you for the offer.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I love the second one. I have always loved blue tones…and to me this reminds me of that “bone chna” blue, or of Japanese art…like a Hokusai, reminiscent of Fine Wind, Clear Morning. I love blue :-))

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks. Blue is my favorite color, too. For the landscape, though, I’m learning more toward the burnt sienna just because it’s “earthier”. I do love that blue China with those lovely scenes.

      Like

  4. There are parts of each that I like more. I like the distant trees (both sides of the path) most in the third one, the mountains more in the second, the main tree more in the first. However, I have always considered (and was taught) that ultramarine is a cool blue, whereas cobalt is the warm blue. I was taught with a very limited palette. The only other blues I’ve used are pthalo – both blue and green shades, and I recently was given an cerulean in oil, though it’s not something I would necessarily purchase. If ultra is your warm blue, what is your cool blue? And where on your scale does cobalt come?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Interesting. I’m still learning my color theory, so I could be confused, but I had ultramarine down as warm and cobalt as cool. I’ve found that it’s sometimes difficult to get precise information on different pigments. My aim is to build a palette with 3 cool primaries and 3 warm primaries, plus a few earthy neutrals. I’m open to suggestions!

      Like

  5. I am a lover of color so of course it would be your last rendition. But I do like the detail work of you burnt sienna version. Can I like them all? I think one should.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Great experiment Judith – I love the burnt sienna one – so much depth and warmth and earthiness to it. I love how different they could look with mono colors and full colors! Thanks so much for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks. It was really fun to try different colors. I couldn’t see doing a landscape in red though. I thought about doing green, but green skies didn’t appeal to me. That was when I decided to do the fully-colored one. Next, I’ll be getting bi-polar LOL…doing complementary color schemes. That will be fun, too.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I’m going in the burnt sienna camp… though they’re all lovely! I love the way that one has more contrast and a graphic look to it. It’s really striking!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. This is a pretty cool excersise Judith, I loved reading your post and its kinda hard to choose but I’d go with the burnt sienna as well. It turned out really well!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I’d go for the last one, but if we’re talking mono, then I’d pick the burnt sienna. The second one in blue works, too. Do I win something if I pick them all? This is so hard.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Mine would definitely be the last one. I love color and that last painting had it all. Though the burnt sienna is calling…..hmm both of them. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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