Shay’s Art

Shay’s 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 is the deeply moving and sometimes visionary work that results after complex trauma strips away all but the most tenacious aspects of a person.

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 for four years. Disabled by Complex PTSD since 2014, Seaborne experienced a cascade of psychiatric, medical, and pharmaceutical trauma and abuse after she asked mainstream medicine for help with Developmental Trauma in 2018. In response, Seaborne took up watercolors and became a Trauma Awareness Activist-Artist. Trauma drives their art.

Influenced by her study of the neurobiology of fear and their appreciation for various comics art forms, such as Lynda Barry’s, her brother’s childhood “Cigar Guy” characters, Art Spiegelman’s “MAUS” graphic novels, and the animated film “Bambi Meets Godzilla,” Shay creates outsider/underground art. This helps them and others heal, informs providers, 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.

As her self-taught watercolors progressed, Shay learned she can paint a pretty portrait or lovely landscape, but the horrors and cruelties of her 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 providers and social media encouraged Shay to embrace her artist’s identity in early 2020. Ms. Seaborne came out as an artist-activist on her blog, public Facebook page and other social media, and interviewed on podcasts, Facebook Live events, and a radio program.

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

As part of her activism, Shay painted illustrations for an “Intro to Trauma Awareness” webinar she presented to healthcare professionals; developed a “Bad Psychologist” cartoon character and a series of pieces with him in the story of her psychology abuse; and created her 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 her 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.”
Ms. Seaborne has painted approximately 200 pieces. She is currently creating a series that depicts her history of standing up to abusive power from an early age.



Complex PTSD viewpoints

Complex PTSD Pyramid

IPNB Trauma Recovery Pyramid

Flow Chart - PTSD is Optional