Europe18: Three flight sketches

June 20, 2018 | 10 Comments

Have you sketched in a plane? Is it something that you do every time you fly? Do you enjoy these sketches?

I started recording the view from my seat on every flight in the early days of Urban Sketching. I don’t really enjoy doing them that much, but I do miss it if I don’t. However I’ve reached the point now that I like the challenge! I want them to be different every time.

Here are three flight sketches from last week.

On Wednesday I spent all day – 8am to 10pm – getting from Perugia in Umbria to Glasgow in Scotland.

Here is my sketch on the first flight, while everything was more or less going to plane. Ok, it was Ryanair so the flight was 30 minutes late. Though I must say, that I love having a colourful interior. I chickened out of getting my paints out, so used watercolour pencils instead.

It was only 3.5 hrs flight time in total for the day (two flights) but I spent more time standing in long lines during the day especially at Stansted. I was in line for nearly two hours to get through passport control and then check-in and security was a nightmare as well. I know I know it’s Ryanair but honestly Stansted was worse.

I had plenty of time so it was all fine. Not at all stressed that I would miss my flight and I made three friends at various stages on my journey – my passport control buddy from Albania, Leor my Ryanair bag drop and Stansted security buddy from Perth, and my Glasgow flight friend – Patrick from Singapore

This sketch is from the second flight when I was obviously tired (flight an hour late) and wanting to get to my destination. But I was in a more reckless mode and so got the paints out. Patrick was helping hold things for me and didn’t mind my sketchbook on his side.

A bit different from my morning sketch, hey? Also for both flights I was sitting in 6C.

The next day I flew Loganair Glasgow to Stornoway, Isle of Lewis. What a breeze – the flight was early! I also like the re-branding and the tartan dress.

Loganair gets a gold star because of the Tunnocks Caramel Wafer they give you with your tea. (A Scottish speciality) Nice paper cups too!

Oh! and here is my sketch.

I would love to hear your thoughts on sketching in planes.



  • One sure has to work hard to find anything interesting to sketch on a plane but I like your idea of trying out new styles.
    I may even interject some fantasy next time I fly….on my way to Porto in July for example… I can pretend the passenger
    that is sitting adjacent from me is examining keys to a magic kingdom which is inside a hatch on the back of a seat.
    Or maybe that candy wrapper has a message inside directing me to a course of action. I am sure I will have lots of time to invent something 🙂

  • Tina Koyama says:

    I used to do it routinely because I felt like it was something urban sketchers “must” do when they fly. But I really got bored by the backs of the seats (I’m so short I can hardly see anything else!), so I stopped. If I get an aisle seat, I enjoy doing profile portraits of other passengers, which I also do on buses. It’s interesting seeing all your in-flight sketches together here. It just goes to show that even if you’ve sketched something many times, it’s always different because YOU are different with each one.

  • Angela Williams says:

    These certainly keep perspective skills honed don’t they! One of the times I wished I had my sketchbook handy (even my phone/camera) was last time I flew over Australia to Singapore. I just had gone for a stroll along the aisle and looked out to see the glorious aquamarine sea of the west coast contrasting with the red earth. I think that sketching landscape patterns when they are visible, or cloudscapes can be another option on board a long flight.

  • Barbara Halsall says:

    I recognised Ryanair because I did just the same when we came from Malaga into Liverpool earlier in the year. Love your enthusiasm Liz, xx

  • I flew into Glasgow today, a week after you! If I had passed you in the airport, I would have simply muttered to myself, “no, you’re just overtired, it can’t be Liz Steel…”
    I intended to sketch/paint on the plane but much to my dismay my humble waterbrush had been christened with shampoo/ handcream/ whoknowswhat on a prior leg of the flight here, so I settled for Bic pen and thought of Andrea Joseph. (There are no bad art supplies.) I sketched the different plane bodies I was traveling in from the WestJet monthly magazine graphics (my trip was 3 flights), and kept a running log of snippets of conversations I was overhearing. People can be very self-revealing with total strangers while on public transportation! I enjoy it. I took pix of my sketchbook but no idea how to share here, so that’s all. And thanks for having such a great blog!

  • Jo Christy Brown says:

    I sketch and paint on flights to distract myself from the fact I’m flying….which I do not enjoy ! I’m so short I can’t see anything but the back of my seat, so I’ve had to get a bit creative ..focusing on micro items like the magazines in the pocket…etc. I love the color and verve in your paintings, Liz..

    As always, I’m an admirer and appreciate your in pirating.

    Thank you for sharing.

  • Judy Kistler-Robinson says:

    Yes, I always sketch a bit with pen and occasionally pull out the water brush. But I usually am in a window seat, and as several others mentioned I am short, so don’t see much. I’m trying to improve on the perspective of the jet body. So difficult! I recognized the backs of the RyanAir seat instructions right away. My next long flight I’ll try aisle and pull out the full watercolor kit. I do sketch often on public transport, such as the train from Chicago O’Hare to downtown the last couple of weeks.

  • Gerda Wolzak-van Hummel says:

    I always sketch on the plane and at the airport; time goes by much faster; people are sitting, reading, talking, don’t notice you and if they do I let them see what I’m sketching. Never got a negative reaction, most of the time they show interest and tell they sketched as a child and would like to do it again. But in public….oh, NO! By the way I like your posts and see how you use the only-watercolour techique. It motivated me to try and sketch with it.
    Wish you a nice time in Europe!

  • Never thought to do it! maybe an idea to try with the next flight! Love your sketches, specially the last one, so essential!
    robert, absolute beginner

Leave a Reply