Naughty trickster cinnamon fern

This is a painting of a large cinnamon fern in the woods. Cinnamon Fern, 9X12, oil on archival canvasboard, $869 framed includes shipping and handling in continental US.
Cinnamon Fern, 9X12, oil on archival canvasboard, $869 framed includes shipping and handling in continental US.

Cinnamon Fern was painted along the Boreal Life Trail at the Paul Smiths’ VIC in the High Peaks of the Adirondacks. It used to be called Bracken Fern, because there was a signposted stand of said ferns along the walk there. However, my friend Steve Johnson told me, “That’s either interrupted fern or cinnamon fern, but it’s not bracken fern.” Then my friend Heather’s father took me on a fern walk on the Round the Mountain Trail in Camden, ME. By the time we were done I could identify a half-dozen or more types of ferns, and I had to grudgingly agree with Steve. Bracken fronds branch out from a single stem. Here in the northeast, where ferns die back in winter, bracken doesn’t have the height or deep sweep of their Scottish kin. Either these were cinnamon ferns, or I can’t draw. The latter is simply ridiculous so I’ve renamed the painting.

Some of my little fronds along the Round the Mountain Trail.

I walk and paint the Boreal Life Trail every time I’m in the ADK. It combines many things I love: a distant mountain peak, balsam firs, tamaracks, and carnivorous plants. This stand of ferns waxes and wanes, but takes up at least a quarter acre, just where the bog touches the woods.

In the fall, ferns are clothed in a wide variety of colors.

While it’s always cool and green at that point, I felt the need to introduce some hot colors. It’s amazing how many colors you can throw at a monochromatic subject and still not lose the gist of it. Obviously, even cinnamon ferns are uniformly green, but I’ve made them an abstract riot of greens and peaches and pinks and teals. By raising the key and dropping the chroma in the background, I have tried to convey the steamy air of a bog in midsummer.

Ferns reproduce asexually, which seems like a really bad idea to me.

The only other thing I know about ferns is that a fiddlehead is just a furled young fern of any type. There are fiddleheads you can eat, and then there are fiddleheads you ought not, because they can be toxic. Cinnamon ferns are edible, bracken ferns are not… unless I have that backwards. As I’ve demonstrated my inability to tell ferns apart, I think I’ll stick with salad mix from Hannaford. Anyways, ferns are perennials; they need their frond-noses more than I do.

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