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Sketching the Florida Intracoastal: Part One – the Moleskine Sketchbook

March 16, 2015


We’re just back from Florida, travelling by boat down the Intracoastal Waterway. Which is one of many things in this world I had no idea existed.

The Intracoastal is a continuous water course combining natural rivers and man made canals to make a 4800 km protected passage along the Eastern Seaboard. We traveled from West Palm Beach to Key West, taking about three days each way.


This massive landscaping project was probably constructed for cargo and military traffic, but today it’s a watery highway for sporting craft, party barges and the yachts of the rich and famous. Great sections of the canals are lined with beautiful houses and private docks. Not to mention hotels, marinas, and all the infrastructure to support vacation cruises (did I mention bars?).

Sketching from the stern as we cruised at 10 knots past palm trees, palatial mansions and mangrove islands – for me, it’s the ideal way to discover this unique coastal lifestyle – so different from my own western Canadian experience.


The first day found us passing under a series of drawbridges. The boat captains are in constant radio communication with the bridge crews, trying to time our approach to cross below when they’ve stopped traffic. It must be a daily annoyance to the  locals. Having to wait at raised bridges while gleaming pleasure craft glide by.


Being a son of the prairies, this was by far the longest I’ve spent on and around water and boats. I still haven’t recovered days later – I can still feel the boat moving, despite begin on dry land. But the sheltered inland waterway gives you flat water, protected from the ocean’s wave action, so it wasn’t so bad sketching while underway. These were all painted rapidly in a 5 x 8.5″ Moleskine Watercolor Notebook. The panoramic spread is perfect for the low profile of South Florida’s mangrove swampland.


The Florida cloudscape is also something new to me. Skies over water are amazing. Towering clouds form and reform in minutes, making an ever changing subject. A real change from the flat grey of Montreal’s winter.

I had planned ahead, and brought a couple of new colors, which you can see prominently in this sketch. DS Cobalt Teal Blue and DS Moonglow. The teal is an ideal color for tropical water. I was glad to have it throughout this trip.  Moonglow is kind of  a gimmick. It’s a convenience mix of Viridian, Ultramarine Blue, and Anthraquinoid Red – (for which you could substitute Perlyne Maroon) – so I actually have all the required colors in the 24 pan kit I was using. I *could* mix this shadowy purple as I go. But on the other hand, Daniel Smith is bottling it for you, so when you’re painting a storm coming in this fast, you don’t have to faff about.

More about skies and water next time when I’ll show the larger paintings from this cruise.




13 Comments leave one →
  1. March 16, 2015 2:06 PM

    I really like the Moleskin watercolor journal. It works great for line work and takes washes very nicely as well.

    • March 17, 2015 6:55 PM

      agree, I love their paper. I really wish though they also had a portrait format.

  2. Carmela permalink
    March 16, 2015 3:00 PM

    Marc–Thanks for sharing your trip along this unique waterway. Your impressionistic paintings captured the color and movement of sky and water. I notice that you used the ‘straight to paint’ technique–perfect for this type of landscape, imho.

  3. March 16, 2015 4:10 PM

    Looks like you had an awesome time, love the spontaneous look of these watercolour sketches. Those skies are brilliant!

  4. Gayle permalink
    March 16, 2015 4:15 PM

    After recovering from yet another storm here in New Brunswick, it’s a real treat to view your amazing sketches that so vividly render the southern climate – so much more telling than photographs! Enjoy.

  5. March 16, 2015 4:49 PM

    Hi Marc
    Did you receive my previous email about doing the demo for Aletier de Peinture de Lachine?
    We changed the dates and are wondering if Monday, May 11 would be okay for you.


  6. March 16, 2015 6:59 PM

    Lovely post. Noticed your mention of Montreal. We’re headed there over Easter holidays. Can you suggest any galleries? (am into contemporary art)

    • March 16, 2015 7:08 PM

      Unfortunately I’m sadly uninformed on local galleries. I know it’s terrible to say. I will ask around!

    • March 16, 2015 7:21 PM

      Ok – two ideas – There was a great show at last year (Jake and Dinos Chapman) so might check what they have on now – and I have seen good catalogs come out of Galerie de Bellefeuille. Will get back if I hear anything. Also the Orientalism show at the Beaux Arts is the opposite of contemporary – but I thought quite good!

      • March 17, 2015 10:33 AM

        Thanks for the suggestions. They look very interesting. Very excited at the prospect of checking out the art scene (first visit to Montreal for us).

        If you hear of any smaller exhibitions or can suggest any local web info, please post a message. Great to have some inside info.

        Many thanks again.

  7. March 16, 2015 8:02 PM

    Luv this, a feeling of freedom.

  8. monica permalink
    March 17, 2015 3:45 AM

    love it


  1. Sketching the Florida Intracoastal: Part Two – the Paintings | Citizen Sketcher

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