I would be very happy to be of assistance, if i can. This project is near and dear, and you do have the artistic talent, to take on this map. I am a big fan of your watercolors. I too love to work in that medium. I look forward to trading pointers with you, on technique and style, of watercolor painting.
Before I delve into the critique of this map, I feel that there are a couple of issues that first need to be addressed. The matter of the shape again. Something was bothering me, but I overlooked it. -While I was downloading some maps for you, I immediately saw just what it was that was bothering me. The shape is not quite right. Yours looks like a freehand drawing, made by some long ago cartographer, that did not have the advanced measuring and mapping tools that we have today. I will post a side by side, to show what I mean-
It may not seem like such a big deal to you, but if you are going to make the theme of this map, about the current (modern) day and age, with all of the current counties and cities, then, I think that it might be more proper to use the actual shape of the State. Here is a shot of the correct Counties-
If you were to do your watercolor thing with this shape, It would look beautiful, I am sure.
Here are some more maps that you can use as textures or whatever-
here is a map showing all of those different climate zones- I love the watercolor that you have got going now.
Even with the incorrect shape, It still has a certain charm. It looks like it was painted yesterday, by a cartographer that lived 300 years ago. Who says that an Antique "looking" map, needs to be all faded and yellowed out ? Why not a representation of the map as it would have looked when it was made. Before the ravages of time steal away its color and clarity.
So, Why not continue with the current watercolor, but change up the theme to match some long ago era. Here is an era that I think would fit the map- You could work these Original Tribes theme in pretty well, I imagine.
My vote is to keep on with the current graphics, but pick a different era that you think this style would fit. Anyways, something to ponder on I guess.
Almost forgot. Did a take off on a possible way to do that inset. The blowup needs to be redrawn but it gives you the idea.