Home Studio: Painting with Zelda

May 3, 2020


Amid cancelled and postponed public programs, we are sadly unable to celebrate an exhibition showcasing the art of Montgomery doll of days past, Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald. However, this time of quarantine has already shown the strength of our community and a shared desire to stay connected through creativity. With a proper introduction to Zelda and her art from Kirk Curnutt here—we invite you to create your own floral artwork inspired by Zelda then share your creations with us!


To gain a better understanding of basic elements of art by looking closely at a still life painting by Montgomery’s own Zelda Fitzgerald, analyzing the artist’s use of line and color value, and then interpreting her aesthetic and use of technique by creating an original monochromatic work of art.



  • Paper
  • Drawing utensil
  • Paints (color of preference + white and black) OR
  • Markers (main color + a shade and tint of that same color)
  • Palette (plate, cardboard, extra sheet of paper, whatever!)
  • Paintbrush
  • Water
  • Paper towels/wipes


  • Gradation – A scale or succession of subtle changes.
  • Hue – Another name for color.
  • Line – A fundamental element of art used in a variety of ways, including defining shapes and space, creating patterns and textures, implying movement, and more.
  • Monochromatic – The use of only one color.
  • Shade – A darker value of a color, made by adding black to the color.
  • Tint – A lighter value of a color, made by adding white to the color.
  • Value – The lightness or darkness of a color.
  • Value Scale – A scale that shows the changes in the value of a color, from light to dark.


  • Draw: In art, a line can be used in many ways, with the most common being to define a shape and the space around it. We will begin by using lines to define flowers. Using either a colored pencil or crayon, freely draw loose, curved lines, to represent flowing petals of large flowers. Draw as many or as few flowers as you want.
  • Mix: If paints are available, mix several tints and shades of the same color, creating a gradation of values, also known as a value scale. Do this by pulling aside a little of the original hue, then adding gradual amounts of white (to create lighter and lighter tints). Do the same in a new section of the palette, pulling aside a little more of the original color, then adding just a touch of black, to create a shade. Tip: black will overpower the original color very quickly, so add just a very small amount of black each time you create a darker shade.
  • Paint: Using the tints and shades you have mixed (or markers you have available), begin filling in the full color of the flowers.
    • With Paint: 
      • Use the shades you mixed to define areas that will be darker, implying that light is not shining directly on these areas (that they are in shadows). This will be the centers of the flowers and the space at the bottom of the page, beneath the flowers.
      • Now use tints of the original color to define the areas where light is shining directly.
      • Next, gently paint the original color between the shades and tints to join them together, lightly blending them at the edges.
  • With Markers:
    • Depending on the main color you are using, find markers that are tints and shades of that same color. Our example shows a gradation of reds, but if you are using blues, this would mean you find a dark blue, blue, and light blue.
    • Color the markers in the same way it is suggested for the paints to be applied, by coloring darker values where there would be shadows and coloring lighter values where light would be shining directly. Use the main hue to fill in between the shade and tint, and then use a paintbrush and water to “paint” and blend where the markers have been colored on your paper. The water diffuses the marker pigment, much like watercolor paints.


When your masterpiece is complete, step back and appreciate your creation! How many different shades and tints did you mix and use? What do you think Zelda would say about your sun-kissed flowers?

Share Your Work

We would love to see your creations! Share your work with us by taking a photograph and emailing it to us at pr@mmfa.org.

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