Patricia part 2 – The Painting and The Metaphor

by Kate Shaffer


The process for painting Patricia’s story begins with finding the imagery that I will use for the metaphors. Since Patricia is a Christian, there are many things that have symbolic meaning in her story.

The Water

Water symbolizes cleansing and forgiveness. That part of her story had to do with Patricia realizing God’s love for her. Seeing herself as forgiven, cleansed and purified allowed her to heal from her self-hatred. I knew that water had to be a part of her painting.

The Ground

The ground is a combination of browns and greens. The swampy area is a metaphor for the abuse and cancer that was part of Patricia’s past. The green in the swampy area represents the cancer that allowed Patricia to see the need to get away from the abusive relationship. Many times the things that we see as trouble in the moment, can turn into something that becomes a positive. The foreground is more solid ground, but still holds the color of brown since our lives will always have troubles that we need to rise above.

The Sky

Patricia mentioned in her story that she had not been frightened when she got cancer. She said “I’m just along for the ride, and I know who is driving.” She also mentioned that she felt God reveal himself to her, bringing her a sense of peace. The Christian faith sees God coming in the clouds. It sees Jesus coming to earth for His people. I wanted the sky to show an opening up with the clouds pointing to and rolling away from the center. Seeing the sky a bright blue with fluffy white clouds is a universal symbol of joy and relief. The passing of the storm and the dawn of a brighter day.

The Bird

Patricia told me she had visits with her therapist who had her imagine a safe place she could go when her mind would go back into the past. All of us who have traumatic events struggle with those times when the mind drags us back into the event. Part of the fight is staying focused on the progress we have made. We fight to stay in the present and not be haunted by the voices and actions that harmed us.

Patricia told her therapist that she felt safest outside. Being inside made her feel trapped and vulnerable. Patricia imagined a world with water, grass and a cliff that she could stand and look out and imagine herself flying away. I knew immediately that I had to draw her as a bird. Patricia has a grace and elegance about her in spite of her very down to earth personality. I decided on the Great White Heron to symbolize the purity she feels in God’s love and grace.

How You Can Be Part of The Project

Would you like me to tell your story? Email me at I will mail you a list of 6 questions that I use to help me tell your story of recovery and victory. The questions also allow me to define the metaphors that, I hope, will help you see yourself as the strong person you are. Everyone that becomes a part of this process, will receive a free art print of the painting for your story. The prints will also be for sale to be an encouragement to others. I want survivors to see themselves with strength.

If you have not been abused you can still help. Go to and donate, volunteer and get involved. This is an issue that has hidden in the dark too long. It is time to expose it. It is time to end it.

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