Drawing on life in fiction: art I talked about in SCARS

You may know, if you follow my blog or have read interviews with me, that I drew on a lot of my own life experience to write SCARS. Like Kendra, I’m a sexual abuse survivor, I used self-harm to cope, and I’m queer–and I used my insider perspective to bring realism to the work. And also like Kendra, I had a great therapist, and I used art (and writing) to cope in a healthy way with the abuse. Unlike Kendra, I am also a ritual abuse survivor, and my experience of torture comes out in my art and writing.

Some of the art that I talk about in SCARS I actually created as a teen. If you read SCARS, you may remember Kendra talking about this drawing. I drew it first in pencil, then in ink, using a paint brush and India ink in the background, and washes of ink over the figure, as well as a fine-tipped marker over some of the pencil. I was trying to show the pain of sexual abuse, the way it hurts not just physically but emotionally for years afterward. (Although it does get better.) When I drew it I was in so much emotional pain–it felt like the pain would never end, even though I was in therapy. The bandaids were symbolic for me–things were a tiny bit better because I was talking about the abuse, but it was so hard and the pain felt pretty unbearable at times. I’m so grateful that it got better!


(You may have seen some of this artwork before in my Dear Teen Me letter.)

I liked a lot of the same mediums that Kendra did in SCARS–I especially like pencil and colored pencil, though I’ve also used clay, wire, and wax for sculptures; acrylic, watercolor, and tempura for paintings; and ink for drawings.

I didn’t mention Kendra creating a self-portrait, but I imagined her doing that. I made Kendra vulnerable, the way I was, the way I painted my own self-portrait as a teen:


And, like Kendra, I found greater happiness over time, and that began to show in my art (and my writing):


Have you used art to try to get out emotion or make things better? How about writing, or another creative outlet? For me, using writing and art to get out emotion has been very helpful.


12 Responses to “Drawing on life in fiction: art I talked about in SCARS”

  1. Wendy Orr Says:

    That first image, especially, is amazingly powerful and deep. The self-portrait is haunting… I’m very glad to see the proof of things getting better in the flying girl. Thanks for being brave enough to share this.

  2. Cheryl Rainfield Says:

    Thank you, Wendy! (hugging you) I so appreciate your comments.

  3. Cheryl Rainfield Says:

    I’m glad you felt the self-portrait was haunting–I put my fear and pain into it. Glad you think the first image is powerful and deep. I wanted it to touch others. And I’m glad things have gotten better, too. 🙂

  4. Josh Says:

    Wow, Cheryl. You make it so very clear that art, whether it is drawing, painting or writing can be such a powerful way for people to cope -or even just temporarily escape from the horrors of their reality.

  5. Cheryl Rainfield Says:

    Thank you, Josh! I’m glad you hear that from me; I really believe it. Creative outlets can help us so much. They’ve definitely helped me.

  6. Emily Says:

    No one can possibly tell you truthfully that those paintings aren’t from the heart. And you are right that if you do anything creative when in hard times or just feeling sad, I write stories or poems when I’m sad.

  7. Emily Says:

    Opps! I forgot to write You feel better after I wrote sad.

  8. Cheryl Rainfield Says:

    Thank you, Emily (smiling at you). I definitely put my heart and emotions into my art. And I’m so glad to hear that you write stories or poems when you’re sad! It does help.

  9. Eve Richardson Says:

    Hi Cheryl, Your pictures are very strong. The first one is particularly haunting. I used to love drawing and painting – spent five happy years at art college and then working on my own. So it was natural that art (with writing) was a medium through which I recovered my memories of being sexually abused as a child. Although I’m thankful that I was able to tap into the memories through art, I’m very sad that I’ve never again been able to paint for pleasure – I found that if I tried to work freely, figuratively and abstractly as I used to, everything returned to images of abuse. So I’ve lost the joy of painting. But that is, I suppose, partly why I now write.

  10. Cheryl Rainfield Says:

    Thanks, Eve; I’m glad you found my artwork strong. (smiling) I did a LOT of art like the first one, only much more graphic. And while I can still draw it if i want to, I also now can draw happy art, which I’m grateful for! I’m glad you found art a good way to heal and work through some memories. I’m sorry you’ve lost your joy in art. I wonder if you consciously try to create art with good feeling if you could, or if you’re just not in that place? Art and writing are both wonderful outlets and ways to heal.

  11. Victoria Says:

    Hello Cheryl, I’m in my last year of high school and in my art class I chose you as one of my inspirational artists for my artwork. I think that you are an amazing artist, the two artworks I chose were the Girl with Bandages and the Happy Pencil. they are both so amazing. thank you for sharing your art with every one. I still have yet to read one of your books, and I’m looking forward to it. thank you again.

  12. Cheryl Rainfield Says:

    Aw, thank you Victoria (smiling at you). That’s really lovely to hear! I’m honored.

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