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Activity: Create Your Own Sketchbook

Learn about Mary Cassatt’s The Reader, then make your very own sketchbook! Mary Cassatt was an American artist that always had a sketchbook with her. This project is great for all artists on the move.

Look Closer:  

  • Mary Cassatt was the only American artist to join the French Impressionists. This was a group of artists that focused on the effects of color and used fast brushstrokes to capture any particular moment. Can you see the brushstrokes on the painting? What colors do you see? 
  • The Reader represents Cassatt’s main focuses: indoor spaces and women. How does the woman look? What is the mood of this painting? 
  • Cassatt was an early feminist activist and lifelong learner, spending her whole life promoting women’s education. Do you see anything that makes you think of learning in this painting? How would you draw something like that?

Activity: Create your own sketchbook!


  • Magazine paper with fun text or images
  • Drawing paper
  • Chipboard or any thin cardboard from a cereal box
  • Scissors
  • Gluestick
  • Pencil
  • Stickers (optional)
  • Gems, googly eyes, sequins, collage material (optional)
  • Tacky glue (optional)


Step 1: Take a sheet of drawing paper and fold it in half lengthwise, creating a long, skinny shape. Then fold that piece of paper to create four panels that look like an “M.”

Step 2: Open up your folded paper and cut along the middle, making two accordion-shaped strips. Repeat steps 1 and 2 a couple of times to create your sketchbook pages!

Step 3: Line up two strips of paper, continuing your accordion fold. Attach these pieces by applying an even coat of glue on one page, lining up the page of the other strip, and using gentle pressure to smooth the sheets together. Continue until all your pages are attached!

Step 4: Fold your pages together and trace two shapes on a piece of thin cardboard. Cut out these cardboard pieces. This will become the front and back cover of your sketchbook!

Step 5: Find images or text from a magazine that you can use to decorate your cover! Cut out two rectangles from the magazine with a height and width about an inch bigger than your cardboard cover. Glue your cardboard cover to the backside of this image, leaving about a half-inch on all sides.

Step 6: When the glue has dried, cut off a square from each of the corners of your magazine paper. Then glue down the flaps of paper. Cutting off these corners makes sure your folds are creased and beautiful.

Step 7: Attach your new covers to the front and back of your pages. Apply an even coat of glue on the end page, line it up with the cover, and use a gentle pressure to join them together. Repeat to attach the front cover!

Step 8: Now it’s time to decorate! If you’d like to add a bit of personality to your sketchbook, try covering it with stickers or using tacky glue to attach gems, googly eyes, and other collage material. When you’ve finished, let your sketchbook dry, and then take it with you to record artistic inspiration!

Have fun exploring! Share your sketchbook with us on social media – tag #crystalbridges on Instagram.


Written by Marie Hofer and Stephanie Antonijuan, museum educators.