Shay’s Art


“Reality vs. the Psychiatric View” Watercolors, permanent marker, psychiatric hospital pencil, 12×9. $100

Former tall ship sailor turned activist-artist Shay Seaborne was born in Washington DC, lived mostly in the Northern Virginia suburbs and has resided in Wilmington DE since 2018. Disabled by Complex PTSD since 2014, Seaborne experienced a years-long cascade of psychiatric, medical, and pharmaceutical trauma and abuse after they asked mainstream medicine for help with Developmental Trauma in 2018. In response to their medical trauma, Seaborne took up watercolors and became a Trauma Awareness Activist-Artist and Relational Neuroscience (also known as Interpersonal Neurobiology) educator.

Although Shay painted well earlier in life, the psychiatric abuse they endured as “standard treatment” at Rockford Center for Behavioral Health caused such a severe disruption to their nervous system it was like being sent back to preschool. They couldn’t even hold a brush, only splatter, drip, blow and smear the paint.

“Views of Trauma” 12×9, watercolors, permanent marker, psychiatric hospital pencil, $100

Influenced by their study of the neurobiology of fear and their appreciation for diverse comics art forms, such as Lynda Barry, Oliphant, their own brother’s childhood “Cigar Guy” character, Archie™ comic books, MAD™ magazine, Art Spiegelman’s “Maus” graphic novels, and the animated film “Bambi Meets Godzilla,” Shay creates outsider/underground art. Their original and relevant watercolors are primitive and cartoonish because those qualities soften the incomprehensibly brutal experiences that can cause Complex PTSD as well as the dismal typical trajectory of constant and lifelong struggle created by Adverse Childhood Experiences.  This helps them and others heal, informs providers and the public, and empowers survivors. Shay’s distinctive images are the deeply moving and sometimes visionary work that results after complex trauma strips away all but the most tenacious aspects of a person.

Scrutinized by the Lens of Psychiatry

“Scrutinized by the Lens of Psychiatry” watercolors, permanent marker, psychiatric hospital pencil, 12×9, $100

As their self-taught watercolors progressed, Shay learned they can paint a pretty portrait or lovely landscape, but the horrors and cruelties of their Extreme ACE Score Survivor’s lived experience are best expressed through an underground style. Comics or cartoons can more safely illustrate wrenching subjects like child abuse.

Feedback from healthcare practitioners and social media encouraged Shay to embrace their artist’s identity in early 2020. Mx. Seaborne came out as an artist-activist on their blog, public Facebook page, YouTube channel and other social media, and interviewed on podcasts, Facebook Live events, and two interviews (First, Second) on WIWV radio, 89.5 KOPN

Lacking exhibition space and opportunity, Shay created highly portable Lapbook Galleries. These picture-book-like exhibitions tell a trauma story or demonstrate a neurobiology concept, generally in 10 or fewer paintings. Mx. Seaborne developed their galleries with inspiration from the PechaKucha. Shay appreciates the idea of selecting pieces that best tell the visual story with a limited number of images. They use this as a kind of container to avoid overwhelming the viewer.

Complex PTSD Pyramid

As part of their activism, Shay painted illustrations for an “Intro to Trauma Awareness” webinar they presented to healthcare professionals; developed a “Bad Psychologist” cartoon character and a series of pieces with him in the story of their psychology abuse; and created their first exhibition, “Defiant Bitch, or ‘The Significance of the Father on the Destiny of the Individual,” presented in a Lapbook Gallery. Two subsequent Lapbook Galleries are titled “How I Developed Medical PTSD and How You Can Help Resolve It,” aimed at healthcare providers, and “Without Informed Consent,” a hard-hitting series about their recent experience of surgical abuse.

Shay’s original watercolor, “The Effect of Pandemic Stress on Complex PTSD,” appeared in Mad in America’s 2021 online exhibition, “Transforming Trauma: Art-making and the Pandemic.”

Since their release from the Cuckoo’s Nest in 2018, Mx. Seaborne has painted over 300 pieces. They are currently creating a series that depict the powerful healing Interpersonal Neurobiology of the integrated doctor-patient relationship.

IPNB Trauma Recovery Pyramid


Flow Chart - PTSD is Optional