Protecting Nature’s Heart: The Dream of the Green Lady by Katherine McDaniel

Our planet is a complex and beautiful incubator for life. How can we experience our connection to her more fully?


photo 13
The Dream of the Green Lady © Katherine McDaniel, 2014


I bought a set of acrylic paints by Liquitex recently, and I’ve been enjoying the effects I get with these paints. Craft paint doesn’t really hold brushstrokes very well and impasto, the technique of building layers upon layers, isn’t as effective either. The first of my Liquitex paintings is this one, The Dream of the Green Lady. The camera doesn’t capture everything, but it does give a pretty decent image of the work.

I began painting in the center, with the red and blue interlaced object. As I worked on it, it took the form of a heart. Embedded in the heart, or at least resting upon it, is a colorful butterfly, while seedpods and what might be large versions of micro organisms are arranged near it. Zones of color surrounding the heart symbolize air and/or water, night, day, and sunset, earth and green growing things. There is a bright yellow field that emerges from the heart near the butterfly, and standing in that brilliance is a green, nude female figure with greenery for hair. This figure gave me a great deal of grief. I painted her over and over again, to get her proportions and her facial expression correct. This created a delightful bit of impasto which pleases me very much. The first pieces of visual art I produced were pencil drawings with a great deal of texture, and these paints give me the opportunity to play with texture again in a new way. The green-black body of the butterfly also features the impasto technique.

detail of Green Lady and butterfly
detail of Green Lady and butterfly

Green Men are extremely popular in mythology, often representing nature spirits or deities that protect the earth. They grace the door of many a pub. Green Ladies are much rarer and also darker in character, appearing chiefly in Scotland, where they were ghostly figures that haunted and protected wild areas, often drawing men to their deaths. Sometimes they had the lower body of a goat and were called glaistig. We can’t see her lower half, so we’ll never know if this lady is a glaistig or not, but her face is decidedly impish.

Modern humanity is more familiar with the Green Lady in the form of a much stronger archetype, that of Mother Earth. She is not devilish like the glaistig, but she retains a certain ambivalence to the needs of humankind, alternately helping and hurting human efforts at civilization. She births life, but she also takes it away.

For me this picture is about the ability of Mother Earth to  protect and nurture the heart of herself. She is constantly creative, bringing forth life, terrible and beautiful. Science has given us the ability to prove true what many ancient cultures took on faith: there is energy all around us that is much too small for human eyes to perceive and that energy, that life, is vital to the survival of this planet. We are intimately connected to nature, to the butterflies, bees, animals and plants around us, to invisible forms of life within our own bodies and moving through the air we breathe, the water we drink. If we interfere with the pulse of nature, we are curtailing, perhaps even aborting, that life. We have no idea how the planet will react to protect herself. My question is, does the Green Lady dream of life, or does life dream of the Green Lady?

detail of nature's heart
detail of nature’s heart

As always, I practice automatic painting, which means I do not plan before I begin applying color. That means my subconscious is very deeply involved in what appears on the canvas and that I frequently miss things that it is trying to manifest. So, if you see something that speaks to you or recognize a symbol I may have missed, please let me know about it.

3 thoughts on “Protecting Nature’s Heart: The Dream of the Green Lady by Katherine McDaniel

  1. Pingback: We Were There: Synkroniciti’s Open Mic: Exploring Earth | synkroniciti

  2. cheyennepaints Reply

    Well, there is the right facing profile in the outline of the nature’s heart. A ribbon coming down along her ear and tying under her chin leads up to the 3 pronged crown atop her head. She is contemplative and quite assured. Nature most natural.

  3. katmcdaniel Reply

    Thank you! Some folks have remarked on the profile, but no one has mentioned the crown. Interesting.

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