• Personal Importance of a Sketchbook or Two - Part One

    For as long as I can remember, I've drawn, but it only started in high school, when my art teacher, Mrs. Hilsden (below), would give points for sketchbook pages. To this day, she claims I earned a record amount of points for all the drawings I did. The act of drawing in a sketchbook became a habit after that.

    ↓ I was able to pay a visit to my former high school art teacher in 2023 and show her a recent sketchbook.

    During my first couple years of college, my year in Europe, I kept fairly small books that I experimented with materials and drawing manners. I have sketchbooks from before this time but don't feel like showing that early work, at least for now.

    ↓ Pages from my European sketchbooks. I completed two books over the period of a year. I should have been drawing more, but I also should have taken more photos than I did. I guess it was the nature of limited resources and shooting film. 

    After my year-long trip around Europe, I began what is now the format that I've stuck with of using 8.5 x 11 bound sketchbooks. I started to number them but have stopped keeping close track to how many have been completed.

    ↓ A few pages from Sketchbook 10, just as I was heading back to school at NSCAD University in Halifax, NS. 

    Once back at school for a few years, the flow of adding to a sketchbook became an almost daily occurance.

    ↓ Sketchbook 14 covered the tail end of my second year at NSCAD University working on my BFA up to the mid point of summer when I was in Campbell River working landscaping at the pulp and paper mill. 

    There are time-lapse views of some of my sketchbooks on YouTube.
    Sketchbook 15
    Sketchbook 20
    Sketchbook 23
    Sketchbook 24
    Sketchbook 26
    Sketchbook 27

    ↓ A few select images from Sketchbook 15

    ↓ A few drawings and paintings from Sketchbook 23 and 24 that covered my first couple years living and working in Southern California. The freeways, traffic and office parks started to have an influence on the form and content of the images.

    ↓ A variety of drawings from Sketchbook 26.

    ↓ A larger view of some of my favorites from Sketchbook 27.

    I have many more years of sketchbooks and there will be more posts to come.

    As I go through each sketchbook, I can remember certain days and places. My process of drawing and recording my life adjusted as I grew into my mannerisms and motifs. The images that relate to an exact location tend to be the ones that bring back memories of the time. Viewing the work has helped remind me of some ways of making, and I will revisit various themes in my current sketchbook. More to come!


  • Sketchcards

    Back when I started a website that was coded by hand, I had a section called This Day or So, where I would add a drawing for almost every day of the week. I wouldn't post one a day, but once a week I'd usually add seven new images.

    Lookforwardtothepast.com as it looked in 2013.


    My resource of drawings was almost starting to run a little dry, so I began sketching on notepads next to me while working. I'd scan these drawings and post them. Sometimes I'd add colour or other textures. 

    Here are a few of the very early ones.

    As time progressed, I'd experiment with mixing the sketches and how colour was added. The majority of the time, the base source of the drawing was the sketch that I'd do on a card. I had come up with a system for cutting card stock, primarily Neenah Classic Crest (Solar White), from 8.5 x 11 to a quarter size. It was easy to have on hand while watching TV or sitting somewhere. I would always have a stack of cut cards ready to be drawn on. 


    Some of the early drawings.

    At one point, while living in Montreal, I had a carton shipped up from the States so I wouldn't run out for a few years. It was a good idea. The paper has been the primary stock that I've done drawings on due to how the pen and ink I use don't bleed when watercolour is added.

    I have drawn with a number of different mediums through the years. Sometimes I'll just use a 4B pencil; other times it's ink with a brush. Most times, I go for a Pilot parellel pen at 1.5 or 2.4 mm.

    The content of the cards is very random at times and definitely stream-of-consciousness. Each card is high-res scanned and I've used the images for a variety of projects.


    Sometimes, while I'm painting other pieces, I'll use the sketchcards as testers. Then I will like how they turned out and scan them again.


    Or I'll just do some paint on a blank sketchcard. 

    The cards can pile up at times before I scan them. And they pile up more before they get used for other things.


    I have boxes of past sketchcards and keep making more and more of them.


    Take a look at a few.


    There have been times when the drawings are inspiration for others to do their own versions.


    I share the sketchcards on social media, but there are so many I can't even show a small percentage. 

    When walking around I have been posting cards up with other posters. 

    I'm sure the cards don't stay up for more than a couple days. It is good to share a bit of what I do and hopefully spread art and drawing around.


    I've turned the scanned art into vectors, coloured them, then animated them. Once turned into gifs and posted on my GIPHY, they become available for Instagram stories as stickers and other social media, such as Tik Tok.

    I have so many gifs that I have to use over 10 different hashtags to find the stickers.
    #forwardpast #forwardlook #laybourner #pastlook #pastforward #randylaybourne are just a few of them.


    The sketchcards have been used in shows, and seeing a large group of cards together is fun and insightful way to view my drawings and thinking process.

    I'm sure to keep making more cards, and if you want to have a couple just send me an email.



  • Lead Balloon

    Recently, the Calgary-based singer, songwriter, and producer, Troy Kokol, commissioned me to revisit something we worked on a few years ago. For his album Lonely Ghost, I did the art and type for his release. This time around, for the track "Lead Balloon", I wanted to be able to give life to the illustration. So I drew it in pieces so that it could be animated. This is just a small portion of the song, but it was fun to realise what I had initially envisioned.

    Lead Balloon was a song from the initial album that Troy rerecorded recently. The song was a "throwaway acoustic track," but Troy gave it a new life.

    The full artwork for the Lonely Ghost album.

    The CD cover for Lonely Ghost.

    The images for the project were drawn by hand and watercolored. Each piece was planned to be a layer that would move. We wanted to retain the same look and feel of the Lonely Ghost album.

    The final artwork was delivered to Troy. It was way bigger of a scene than I'm sure he was expecting. The crop for the track was fairly tight on the character and balloon. I was thinking of animation from the start.

    Here is now the song cover looks in Apple Music.

    Troy was able to load a portion of the animation to his Spotify track as a Clip.


    To support social media marketing, I created a gif of the character and loaded him on my GIPHY. Using Troy's name and "#leadballoon," it is able to be a sticker for Instagram stories.

    This is the horizontal format for the short clip I animated. To see the vertical format, head over to Instagram or view on YouTube. It captures the idea of the city going to the forest better than the standard view.

    Troy is working on a full-length animation, so be sure to check out his Instagram for updates.





  • Safety Series Lithograph Prints

    For my final year of my BFA, I undertook an 8 month project that related to my summer job at a pulp mill.

    Inspired by WPA images from USA in the 1930s, I put a twist on posters that are hung as safety reminders. My regular work at the mill was to take care of all the landscaping. The times I was tasked with doing other roles, they tended to be mainly doing "hole watch" where you make sure carbon monoxide and other gasses don't get too high. During those days, I was able to sketch my surroundings inside the machines for processing pulp and paper.

    The first image of the series was "Use Eye Protection".

    The location was an exact spot that I had sketched during a hole watch session. Safety equipment was key to the job even when just sitting watching nothing. For some of the prints a real location was used but others I relied on memory, photographs and sketches. 

    Pulp Mill photographs

    Elk Falls Pulp and Paper Mill was closed in 2010 but provided over fifty years of employment for summer students. 

    I needed to come up with eight images, one a month, for my final year of my BFA. The first image promoting eye protection came the easiest. The hand-drawn and printed lithograph process is time- and energy-consuming. The preparation of a stone is a task in itself. Take a look at the process.

    Sketches, that I'll dig up at some point, were done to get the composition. Then I drew the key line on semi-transparent vellum. This would be the guide to all the layers of color. I wanted to have very defined areas without any cross-over of tones. 

    The lettering had to be drawn in reverse on the stone so that it would print onto the paper properly. One mistake in any area of the drawing and printing could put a whole month's work in the trash. 

    Being too graphic was a concern. The gas for "Wear Proper Respiratory Gear" was a green that was close to neon. 

    The wording of the statement had to be clear but, at the same time, not repetitious to the series.

    When there wasn't a tool or piece of safety equipment to mitigate the risk, another way to show the "fix" had to be envisioned.

    I also had to attempt not to repeat the background colors. As I neared the seventh and eighth prints, it got harder.

    Once the year was over and all the images were printed, I went back to the pulp mill and gave some images to the workshops and the tourist center. I kick myself that I didn't get any photos of the prints being shown in the context that they were most related to.

    While doing my internship at a publishing group in Southern California, somehow an editor at Powder magazine saw the series and wanted to publish one a month. The problem was that they had ten issues in a volume, but I had only eight available. So I came up with two more, but they were done with ink and watercolor. Since they were being printed at a fairly small size, how they were made didn't have a big effect.

    Once I find the magazines in storage, I'll post them.

    When I see the images, I can be transported to both my time at the mill and the hours spent creating the lithography.

    I'll be putting the work up on society6 piece by piece.

    Link to the print
    Link to the tee