Fern Pelt of the Frontenac

"Fern Pelt of the Frontenac" (oil on canvas 10 x 12 in.)
14 October 2013 is a scene I'm returning to, for a closer look at the pelt of mosses, lichens, and ferns on the "Frontenac Rock Face With Rock Tripe" that I painted on that day along the Fishing Lake Road north of Battersea, Ontario.

With a snowy scene outside my window and a fire in the wood stove, I'm revisiting through my photographs the diversity of textures and colours in which I feel most at home. There is just enough detail to draw me in. It seems that the closer I look, the more real it becomes to me, and I can almost smell the sharp, earthy wetness of the moss, and feel the soft, leathery fronds of the evergreen Polypody ferns. They will still be there now, green under ice and snow.

In the title of this piece I play on the name of the purple palm-shaped lichen Peltigera, turning up the ruffled margins of its flat
"thalli" in pale finger-tip-like fruiting bodies that turn orange when ripe with spores. Welcome to my world. This is my natural distance from things - close enough to paint them life-size. I have been so happy and contented, stroking with my brush the surfaces of fronds and trailing the wispy moss leaves and ruffling the edges of lichens and dotting the crumbly white lichen that grows with it all.... perhaps I love painting moss and lichens as much as I love painting waterfalls!

From my reference photos I can explore the shapes and colours, the depths and the textures of the ferny pelt of the Frontenac granite in my winter studio, but I'm keenly aware of my separation from the real thing. This exploration is limited to the images I captured photographically. I cannot reach out to lift that frond, or to peel back that lichen, to look for Springtails, shiny millipedes, and tiny snails. We must just imagine them from here. I'm sure they were there.

While doing a watercolour painting of a different species of Peltigera lichen in a handful of moss, collected in New Brunswick in 2012, a Springtail hopped out and landed on my hand. The specimen is now in the collection of the New Brunswick Museum and may be a species new to science. I wonder what kind of Springtails are living in the mossy, ferny, licheny pelt on the granite of the Frontenac Arch? I must return this spring to find out!

Dear supporters and patrons of my art,

This 10 x 12 inch oil painting is available, framed, for $450. For more information, contact Aleta 

Sales of my paintings support our research and conservation work,



  1. Wonderful! Such a familiar scene. Don and I used to encounter just such tiny scenes of ferns, mosses and lichens while hiking at Charleston Lake, Frontenac Park, Murphy's Point, and other places in the region. Miss those places, but do find similar along some of the trails in Nova Scotia.

  2. Does Grace Hall have regular open hours between Feb 1- April 29?


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