Painting on planes: Stunning sketches of airplane life

CNN  — 

What did you do on your last plane journey? Fall asleep, watch a movie, draft some emails?

Not architect John Gardner. A frequent business traveler, he’s found a way to turn these journeys into an artistic outlet.

The Bermuda-based executive passes time on planes by sketching the sights and scenes he spies on board.

“Sketching is a nice alternative to taking pictures, as it is making something by hand – and encourages really seeing and remembering and interpreting,” Gardner tells CNN Travel.

Cabin creative

John Gardner sketches scenes from his airplane seat.

Gardner – who trained at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) – has a busy schedule that’ll sound familiar to many business travelers.

“Right now, I’m teaching advanced architecture at the Rhode Island School of Design, and I’m going up every weekend to Boston from Bermuda,” the 58-year-old explains.

“I’m doing two flights and two drawings a week,” he says. “I’m in an intense phase right now, which is kind of fun.”

Gardner’s on-board artistic endeavors overlap with his day job, but they also allow the architect to experiment with a different medium.

“In my architectural job I’m imagining things, usually they’re buildings and spaces,” says Gardner. “In this instance I’m drawing what I see.”

Gardner captures both intricate details and abstract scenes.

What Gardner sees includes profiles of other passengers, antics of the air stewards, stained coffee cups and crumbling pretzels, intricate detail of curtains and time spent in the terminal.

The results are eye-catching sketches, popping with color from his paints that capture life through the business traveler lens. Sometimes the sketches are abstract, evoking a general sense of the on-board experience with overlapping snapshots of air stewards’ uniforms, laptops and fellow passengers.

Other times they’re more detailed studies of intricate airline scenes.

“It’s a creative release,” Gardner says. “I find the time on the plane is really very valuable because there’s nothing else taking me away from where I am.”

Drawing inspiration

Gardner is particularly interested in the antics of the air stewards.