How to sketch on planes

July 30, 2018 | 10 Comments

As I expected, the last few weeks here in Portugal have been extremely hectic and I haven’t had a chance to put together an updates for you. When this article goes live, I should be on a plane going home. Yes, finally heading home about 11 weeks in Europe. So I thought I would share a plane sketch from earlier in my trip, where I added notes to explain my approach.

While there is some perspective, the majority of the sketch relies on the intersections and relationships between edges, and looking for some shapes. In regard to perspective, I sit up so that my eye height line is on the top on the seat backs and this makes it much easier.

For those of you who have done my SketchingNow Foundations online course this is an example of how I use all three ways of visual thinking:

  • Feeling Edges – looking carefully at the scene on edge at a time
  • Abstracting Shapes – looking for negative shapes
  • Constructing Volumes – using perspective lines to create the volume of the cabin.

I hope this helps!

Thanks also to everyone who left a message the other week about plane sketching.

If you do like sketching on planes, I would love to hear if you have any tips to add to mine.



  • Tina Koyama says:

    To tell you the truth, I don’t enjoy sketching on planes because I’m so short that all I see are the boring seat backs! Occasionally I sketch a profile of someone across the aisle. 😉 But it’s still fascinating to see that you’ve worked out a process for the perspective. Everything is interesting if you study it closely!

    • Liz Steel says:

      Hi Tina, this year I sat in some middle seats (such as on this occasion) and found it more boring. I’m normally in an aisle seat. Not being high enough to see the top of the seat in front would make a difference.

  • Jeanette Gillings says:

    thank you for the tips Liz. Hubby and I flying o/seas in a few months… I’ve never sketched on the plane before but I’m going to give it a try this time. I will revisit my SketchingNow Foundations class. Can I please ask if you had any issues taking your water colour palette on board plane? I’m tossing up just taking water colour pencils but would prefer my palette. cheers!

  • Sandra de says:

    Thanks Liz for simplifying something I always struggle with …. the big Perspective. Keeping this handy little pic in my travel art kit.:)

    • Liz Steel says:

      Glad it is helpful Sandra!

      • Cindy Guy says:

        Liz, I am just beginning to travel sketch and will be taking your online course. I have been watching your Vlog and love your approach to sketching. I know you like a new travel journal and want to know which Stillman and Birn it is. I think I want landscape so I can write and sketch and I don’t want one too big as I’m afraid I can’t fill up the page. Thanks.

      • Liz Steel says:

        Hi Cindy when I travel I use Moleskine sketchbook landscape a4 watercolour

  • Liz, I try to do one plane sketch on my travels too…but not one for each flight like you do. Since I am short I don’t see much of anything but the seat tops. This time I was lucky and caught the flight attendants with their beverage cart and I was on the aisle so I had a good view.

  • Stephan Aal says:

    It’s interesting to have this at this time, Liz. I’m doing the foundations course at the moment and about to go on a mega train trip around Spain. Looks like this approach could be useful on trains too.

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