Heather Charnley’s personal method of artistic expression is to explore the nature of other realms, by sensing and portraying the form and nature of energies that she sees clairvoyantly, either by perceiving them directly at a sacred site, or etched in light on her sketchbook. Heather believes that many strange and wonderful energies exist outside of our mortal view: speedy vortices, others delicate and intricate, some smooth and soothing, others like visual music, Indian carpets or living Celtic designs, they are many and various and all have great healing properties. Heather creates her art in the hope that it will help expand awareness, and offers an exploration within nature to reveal her secrets.
“My interest and concern is that my paintings are of a healing and inspiring nature, for I have always been just as interested in healing as I have in art. I would like to think that I am focusing harmony and healing through the paintings as an offering of service and pleasure to others. When I go to a sacred site I can see and feel the energy present like a shining presence coming through or near me, and I can also pick up this quality from a site through a photograph too.”
Indeed, from a young age, Heather had already explored various places in Britain, sketching nature and ancient sites. Informed by her BA Hons degree in Industrial Design Furniture, and her subsequent work as a textile designer, Heather naturally found lovely patterns in everything around her, which she often drew on as inspiration for her designs.
Yet it was after a visit to Findhorn, the spiritual community near Inverness, Scotland in 1985 that Heather discovered a range of spiritual books, largely unseen in the sequestered areas to the north of England where she lived. The new age movement became known to her, and she began to study many complementary healing methods, which she felt complemented her spiritual quest through art, and felt that self-development via the healing and the art was of the greatest value to her, and linking the two together brought greater depth to her work.
It was in 1986 that she felt inspired by the planets in our solar system. She’d found The Planets Suite by Holst very inspiring, and she wished to do a visually artistic equivalent. So, she meditated on the subject and began to get some images towards this, and the first one she painted was the Sun. She focussed on symbology, astrology and ancient culture, as well as her own impressions, to give the atmosphere and healing potential of the planet she was depicting, rather than just a rotating rock that happens to share our Solar System.
In the same year she had her first exhibition at Wetheriggs Pottery, which included this first painting of the Planets Series, Apollo’s Realm in the exhibition, which received much interest. Painting the Planets Series took seven years, and Heather felt she could identify with the spiritual and energetic nature of the Solar System personally.
Her first encounter with a stone circle where people actually tuned into it to find things out was on a weekend course in 1988, at Nunnery House conference centre, not far from Penrith. We all went out to Long Meg Stone Circle one afternoon, and someone said to her, why not meditate at one of the stones, shut your eyes and see what you get? This was the wakeup call for Heather to begin to interact with the stones. She saw an image of a shining altar within Long Meg when she meditated with the outlier.
After that, Heather travelled over many parts of the country sketching stone circles and ancient sites, and it wasn’t until she went to America, visiting the inspiring Sedona with its buttes and red rock countryside, prayer grounds of the natives, and the earth energies at all these and other sites over there. In 1994 after her American trip, she returned to the north, she decided to make a book using all of the images, which became ‘Sacred Sites and Places of Power, the Meditation Handbook’. This book concentrates on forty sites, showing each site with a clairvoyant images describing the energy field seen there, giving a meditation per site, directions, and includes some local lore or relevant information and some of Heather’s poetry.
Since then she moved to Northumberland and began another Sacred Sites book, based on about 80 sites she’d visited there. She weaved a story around them, about a young woman who became an apprentice to a wise woman, and the story is set earlier in time, after the Roman period. She takes a journey, travelling past all the sites mentioned, and experiences their energies and wisdom.
After that book, Heather went on to write a trilogy about Atlantis, drawing in inspiration to portray some of the wisdom one could have experienced in their culture during a golden age period.
She also has a third Sacred Sites topic, which is the Scottish Oracle Cards, as seen on her website, based on 5 stone circles, where you arrange the individual cards represent each stone per stone circle, and hold them up to your third eye and meditate on them. This came during the time she was writing the Atlantean Trilogy.
She has shared her life with crystals and their help with healing work and inspiration, when doing both art and healing. She’d often take one or two crystals with her when going out to ancient sites or other places of interest, because, as well as soul work, the crystals help in finding Heather’s inspiration at these places in nature.
The main setback was that all Heather wanted to do was to paint her work for a living, and it hasn’t happened so far, she always had to get another job, some she liked, and some that weren’t so inspiring! She did a number of complementary therapy courses with the intention of setting up and making a living that way, but she was so tired with the soul work which kept her awake through a chunk of each night, and that really didn’t help one to being all alert and energetic as a healer!! She felt that nothing that she wanted to happen was working as a result.
In the 1980’s she wrote extensively to many publishers, organisations, galleries and all sorts, to try and get her work known. She did have some replies, and some said they liked the work but couldn’t break away from their set routine. So it looked like her work was so different at that time, it didn’t really fit into anything that was saleable for the general run of the mill. She would say that despite the drawbacks of not getting the art noticed by any gallery or organisation all these years up to now, the sheer inspiration of doing this work is a great reward and fills her with great joy and wonderment, which made up for any disappointment! Heather is positive that all her effort, and other peoples’ who do this work, won’t go unrewarded, and in time it will be held to be valuable.
At some time in our lives we all need some sense of wonder and space for imagination to grow, and in order to do that really well, ideally, Heather feels that disengagement from personal states of mind allows one free reign to do that. To stop thinking about the world’s problems or that pile of bills, and so on. In disengaging, you aren’t turning your back on problems, but by reaching a meditative and peaceful state where you can see the wonder in life, you are at a better vantage point to be inspired to do more constructive activities in the world to create world peace collectively. For the ‘crow’s nest’ vantage point has enabled you to see with a wider vision, and therefore an inner calmness.
One thing Heather would do if she couldn’t figure something out, was to go on a visionquest, where you can go into retreat, either camp somewhere or just a short walk about for a mini-visionquest. This is a lovely thing to do for any reason besides art too!
The main principle of intent is to focus on something you wish to know about, and then walk mindfully around a suitable route or place that feels right for you. Be observant of signs at ground level or in the clouds, as something will come to you of relevance.
Heather used to have a place of retreat she’d go to for retreat type top ups. She called it Cadair Circle as when she discovered it, there was a group of stones arranged like the ancient Celtic style circle, with stones at the four directions plus one at the south east, and to the north east were some fir trees she would link to. Cadair, meaning a seat, was placed at due east. She received a lot of inspiration there, which helped her a lot over the years while living nearby to the site. Finding a sacred space you resonate strongly with really helps in linking with nature and life itself.
Heather sees the need for spiritual art to provide what is seriously lacking in the world today, of beauty, love, soul, spiritual vision and inspiration, which doesn’t always come from the contemporary scene. Although I’ve heard that contemporary artists are embracing spirituality, but Heather hasn’t seen enough of it to see if it really is the case or just a trendy fashion statement!! For quite some time art has been making statements of a reactionary nature to shock, provoke, and debate on reactions to life, so maybe this might be a part of this trending trend, but Heather hopes it might have something genuine in it, as it may familiarise what our spiritual arts group are doing.