I hold my sketchbooks near and dear as they’ve always been a safe and solitary place to play, like the swing set in a nearby park when no one else is there.

Nikki Schumann, Tears and Spills, fine line marker, 14h x 11w

Nikki Schumann, Toby Drawing, fine line marker, 14w x 11h

These images are from two sketchbooks filled more than thirty years apart. The black and white thumbnail sketches date back to when our three boys were very young. I had scarce time to paint or work but I would find a moment here or there to honor a little scene from family life, a small event that at the time seemed big.

Nikki Schumann, Wishes, fine line marker, 14h x 11w

Nikki Schumann, Gifts, fine line marker, 14h x 22w

I rarely did anything more with these small abbreviated sketches. Just making them felt like enough.

Nikki Schumann, Laundry, fine line marker, 14h x 11w

Nikki Schumann, Toby’s Lines, (detail) fine line marker, 14h x 11h

These days I have more time to make an observation and to freely follow wherever it leads.

Nikki Schumann, Hands, watercolor, 9h x 12w

I use my sketchbook to study an idea or a technique, to practice and play with it.

Nikki Schumann, Spring, acrylic, 9h x 12w

As an example, I’ve long admired the artistry and whimsy found in Kantha embroidery. Referring to small and indistinct images found on the web, I’ve filled pages with animals, people, flowers, and festive train cars, all the while knowing that my colored pencil stitches, however obsessive, can’t touch what had originally been stitched with endless patience in another time and place.

Similarly, while taking in the fantastical strokes and dabs of Vincent Van Gogh, I’ve practiced my own versions of similar mark making. My current sketchbooks have provided a place to explore art and artistry all around me, and then to spend time alone on the swing set.