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Palmer Museum of Art Sketchbook Series fosters creativity through sketching

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Palmer Sketchbook Art

Palmer Museum of Art Sketchbook Series piece inspired by the Laylah Ali prompt.

Bored and looking for something creative to do? Interested in art, but not a great artist? Fortunately, the Palmer Museum of Art has just the project for anyone looking to get artsy while quarantined.

The Palmer’s latest project, its Sketchbook Series, was created for people of all skill levels eager to do something fun while stuck at home. Jules Edelmann, an education intern at the Palmer, said the series is meant to “get people’s creative juices flowing.”

“[The series] is about having different prompts for people to connect with while they’re not able to be at the Palmer in person,” Edelmann (senior-art education and fine arts) said. “[It’s just] a fun activity that you can do to follow along and get some inspiration… It’s all open for interpretation.”

Video prompts are posted every Friday and will continue throughout June and July. Edelmann said prompts aren’t meant to be followed exactly, and people are encouraged to go their own route.

“The goal of the series is not to provide instruction on specific art skills like improving drawing, but rather to explore together different arts and artists to find creative inspiration,” Edelmann said in the series introduction video.

Participants are encouraged to share their art on social media with the hashtag #PalmerSketchbook.

Hannah Thornton, an education intern at the museum, said each prompt is based on artwork the Palmer already has in their permanent collection. Thornton (senior-art education) said the videos allow people to be at the Palmer virtually while making their own art from home.

“The Palmer has so much art that is not on display just because the museum is not big enough to hold everything,” Thornton said. “So we wanted to have people see what else the Palmer has that isn’t on display all the time.”

With hundreds of pieces to choose from, Thornton and Edelmann said they picked art that stood out to them. They expressed the importance of showcasing diversity through artwork and made sure to include art created by women and people of color.


Following the university's decision to operate remotely in March, Brandi Breslin, the museum educator, said the Palmer started to brainstorm virtual activities and programs for people to take part in at home. Breslin said they began with a virtual tour of African Brilliance, the spring semester exhibition that was only on display for three months.

“When we had to close, it was kind of really disappointing,” Breslin said. “A lot of tours, especially school tours, had to be canceled. It seemed like the right thing to do was create virtual programming around [African Brilliance].”

Breslin said the virtual exhibit was very popular with art teachers and students who were looking for entertaining lessons while learning remotely. The Palmer even received international attention after Breslin shared the exhibition on a national art education platform.

Following the success of African Brilliance, the museum sought out more virtual activities for the summer before settling on the Sketchbook Series.

The first prompt of the series, released on June 12, was inspired by Laylah Ali, a contemporary artist who specializes in character work. The prompt encouraged people to make their own characters based off of the art and work of Ali.

In this video, learn about Laylah Ali, and follow along with a sketchbook prompt inspired by her work, including a print that is part of the Palmer Museum of Art permanent collection.

Search the museum database online to find additional artwork and images:

To learn more about Laylah Ali, you can visit Art21 for interviews with her and more images of her work.

Palmer's interns and staff contribute to each video to show viewers the different ways they can make a project their own. Thornton said she enjoyed the Ali prompt because she was able to utilize different colors to make the piece pop. Meanwhile, Edelmann said it was “really exciting” to see what direction she could take her ideas in.

“The fact that all of us do it differently hopefully will help people to see [they] don’t have to do exactly the same thing,” Thornton said, adding that people are welcome to use any medium they see fit.

Prompts are kept simple to encourage participation, and Thornton said they were also designed with the knowledge that some people may only have a pencil and paper at home.

To combat a lack of supplies, the Palmer is partnering with Uncle Eli’s — a crafts store in downtown State College — to provide art materials to the community.

Breslin said the partnership was made possible because of event cancellations in March that left the museum with extra funding. Anyone can register to pick up a kit with art supplies purchased by the Palmer before the end of July, which Breslin said is “great” for supporting the local business amid the pandemic.

Participants may receive one kit per email address and two per household, according to a press release from the Palmer.

While eight to nine videos are currently planned for the series, Thornton said they may extend the project into August if they create more prompt ideas and continue seeing participation from community members.

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