If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you may know that I’ve worked on two previous illustrated map commissions for canal boat hire company, Le Boat.

They are maps of the Thames and the Canal du Midi, depicting the course of the river, the locks and the attractions which can be found close by. They feature in the company’s guide books which are full of information on things to do on your boating trip. I am now delighted to have been asked to illustrate a third map, this time of the Rideau Canal in Canada.

Canal du Midi Illustrated Map by Clare Willcocks

Click on the image below to see a larger version – it’s not at full resolution so there is some pixellation!

I painted the last two maps ‘in one go’ – that’s to say that only the text was added on digitally, everything else was all on one big piece of paper (well, two stuck together, actually). This time I’ve decided to illustrate the attractions separately from the river and use Photoshop to put together the final piece. This gives me the advantage of being able to maintain a steady flow when I paint the river and surrounding countryside, as painting around hundreds of little attractions and icons is a challenge when working in watercolour and trying to avoid it drying.

Thames Illustrated Map by Clare Willcocks

Above is a section of the River Thames map, there’s more river to the left on the final version.

This time I thought it might be nice to share my map-making journey, to give you an idea of what goes on behind the scenes to produce the type of map you may see when you’re visiting somewhere new. You can read about how I created the Thames map on my blog post from February 2015 (was it really that long ago?!).

Planning an illustrated map of the Rideau

My first task was to plan out the course of the river; Le Boat kindly provided a very detailed sketch to help this process. You may be wondering why I can’t simply copy out the course of the river from a map, but it all gets rather complicated!

Firstly, the river needs to be skewed slightly to fit on the six panels allocated to it in the brochure, and secondly it needs to be widened in order for me to be able to fit in all the necessary illustrations. Thirdly, it needs to accommodate all the attractions, so if there is a glut in one area, I need to use some artistic licence to make the river fit around them.

The Rideau Canal comes with the additional challenge of including a lot of lakes, which are difficult to represent as I have to find a way to keep width in the river while still showing the lakes as large expanses of water.

After about a day’s work which involved a lot of rubbing out, zooming in to Google maps, and tearing up several drafts, I hope that I’ve come up with something fit for purpose.

Illustrated map: Attractions on the Rideau Canal

To give myself a break from the headaches of plotting the river, I’ve started to draw and paint each of the attractions. This is the part I really love! I use the images supplied by Le Boat and I try to position them as much as possible in the orientation they are in relation to the river, so Google Earth comes in handy!

Illustrated map: Attractions on the Rideau Canal

As with all my watercolours, I sketch them out with coloured pencil first and then outline with dip pen and black koh-i-noor ink. For the previous maps I have used Pigma Micron pens, but since then I have been experimenting and love the varied line width and blackness of proper pen and ink.

Illustrated map: Attractions on the Rideau Canal

Illustrated map: Attractions on the Rideau Canal

That’s about as far as I’ve got! I’ll try to keep you updated as I make progress. It’s going to take up most of my free time for the next month or so, but I am going to try to squeeze in some personal projects too, for my own sanity!

I’m sharing this post on the following blogs: Handmade Harbour.


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