Coloring is a fast growing trend among over-stressed adults. “Soothing coloring pages” are a top Google search item. There are coloring books featuring mandalas, garden scenes, inspirational quotes, and even curse words written in fancy calligraphy sprouting branches, flowers, and swirls eager to be illuminated with colored pencils toted by hipsters, young professionals, retirees, clergy, and other adults searching for artistic ways to tap their creative spirit and sooth their jangled nerves. Articles—popular and academic—whose authors range from psychologist to spiritual director purport the power of coloring to calm anxiety, relieve stress, and provide a creative and spiritual outlet. Is this a feminist issue? I’d say so.
There are, indeed, feminist coloring books and goddess coloring books, though I’ve seen very little that fuses together both feminism and religion. In order to fill this gap, while also seeking to expand my own creative expression, I have finally completed the drawings for my forthcoming Holy Women Icons Contemplative Coloring Book.
Each month, I write a post about one of my Holy Women Icons with a folk feminist twist. I lift up the story of a revolutionary woman who is too often overlooked in society or in religious spheres. I draw inspiration from the lives of these women as I canonize them into the sainthood of Holy Women Icons because it is important for women to see themselves as holy, to see icons who reflect their identity. In painting their images, I give iconography a folk feminist twist.
For years I have researched and painted these women. In 2014 I compiled my research and paintings into a book: Holy Women Icons. Soon after came greeting cards and prints. Currently, several of the paintings are on “tour” throughout the United States. Now I am thrilled that you can join me in the creative process by coloring these myriad holy women! 38 drawings are complete, ready for proofing, editing, and the watchful eye of my publisher. Before that, though, I’d like to hear from you. What would be most meaningful for you in a Holy Women Icons Contemplative Coloring Book?
Would you like to simply have the coloring pages with the name of the woman listed at the top? Or would you like a brief description of the woman at the bottom of the page to better aid you in coloring?
Should a small image of my painting of each woman accompany the coloring page for reference or would this hamper your creative spirit? Would you like a reference guide at the back of the coloring book with brief descriptions of each woman?
Could an opening page with a guided meditation at the beginning of the book prove meaningful?
Be a part of this process with me, bold religious feminists!
To give you a closer glimpse, below is a sample. It is the coloring page of the Our Lady of Regla, in this instance syncretized with Yemanya. Regla is a black Madonna venerated by many, but particularly in Cuba. And Yemanya is themother of all Orishas in Yoruba. Syncretized together they embody empathy, nurture, and compassion. As you color this page, allow each dot to function like a prayer or meditation bead. In the same way you might utter a prayer or mantra as you hold each bead, utter a prayer or mantra as you color each dot. Perhaps you could say the names of those you wish to show empathy. Or you may want to simply repeat the word, “empathy,” each time you fill in a dot. As you color the rest of the page, contemplate how you may also love endlessly. Invite love to guide your creative process.
Now, let me hear from you. As these 38 coloring pages make their way through the editing process and become an official coloring book, I’d like to know how to create a finished product that will provide the most inspiration and empowerment possible! So, tell me what would be meaningful for you and your communities. And, together, I think we may be able to make this world more peaceful and beautiful…one coloring page at a time. Be bold. Be creative. Join me in creating revolutionary, justice-centered beauty!
Rev. Dr. Angela Yarber has a PhD in Art and Religion from the Graduate Theological Union at UC Berkeley and is author of Embodying the Feminine in the Dances of the World’s Religions, The Gendered Pulpit: Sex, Body, and Desire in Preaching and Worship, Dance in Scripture: How Biblical Dancers can Revolutionize Worship Today, Holy Women Icons, Tearing Open the Heavens: Selected Sermons from Year B, and Microaggressions in Ministry: Confronting the Violence of Everyday Church. She has been a clergywoman and professional dancer and artist since 1999. For more on her research, ministry, dance, or to purchase one of her icons, visit: www.angelayarber.com
23 thoughts on “Coloring Holy Women by Angela Yarber”
I think this is very important and interesting feminism and religion. I admire cultures like the mosuo who are matriarchal and there violence and wars don` t exist . They do not even have a word for war. Unfortunately these societies are disappearing nowadays. We should do something to protect them and protect feminine values in our society.
Brief descriptions at the bottom of the page is good and enough, let them color with their own colors, don’t intimidate them with yours. xxx One of your paintings on the cover, maybe.
Yes, that is my opinion too. I can hardly wait for the book to be published!
Just want to first comment a d say that i did some adult colouring last year and absolutely koved it! Really got me in touch with my creative side and one of my favourite childhood pastimes. It was relaxing, too.
On the religious iconography book, I’d say the name of the woman, which religion she’s revered in and why she’s important should be sufficient.
I like a brief description and name at the bottom of the page. I am already planning to buy the book for a couple of friends! And make it easy to remove the pages, because some people like putting the pages they’ve colored up on their desks.
I would appreciate a reference at the back, rather than on the same page as the Goddess to color. Too many words with the coloring takes me out of my meditative place. Your sample colored Goddess with the reference material at the back would be fun, I think. People could look at it or not, as they choose. Thank you for asking!
I like Ann Marie’s idea! A little chart with your original painting plus a paragraph about each at the back of the book would be great. Just each name at the top and the coloring page in the body of the book for the coloring pages.
I’ll buy one! :)
I agree with Ann Marie and Molly. Having that reference material would not interfere with our creativity, but would enhance our knowledge. Can’t wait to buy it!
Dear Dr. Yarber: I think the coloring book would be a wonderful educational and centering tool for a women’s retreat. I am always eager to learn, and appreciate Classical art. It would be interesting to have a Chapter with the historical and religious importance of the women portrayed paired with a representative piece of art.
I would prefer goddess description in the back of the book. I agree with Anne Marie about the distraction of printed words on the coloring page. I would most likely read her story before coloring her. A sense of who she is will affect my connection to her and how I choose color.
Hi Angela, great idea. I can’t make out all the drawings on your photo, but it would be nice to also see women as complete bodies with hands and feet…
My favorite coloring book as a child was “Infamous Women” (Bellerophon Books). It is actually a paper doll book. I colored the images but never cut out the dolls because that would have obliterated the historical information. The book was set up so you would have left hand page prose, right hand page image of woman + extra outfit, then historical information would continue (if need be) on the following left page (= the back side of the paper doll page) and sometimes an additional page. It took a long time to explain how ‘bad’ some of these women were. The book is discontinued, but you can find the coloring pages if you Google Image search it.
I’d like to think this coloring book was my first exposure to feminism (3rd grade)- it was a clear defintion of what patriarchal society considered bad behavior for women. Women included Messalina, Agrippina, Empress Theodora, Roxelana, Isabelle of Bavaria, Lucrezia Borgia, Catherine the Great, Frances Howard,Charlotte Corday, George Sand, Mata Hari and others.
Even though I do not enjoy coloring at all, I am contemplating purchasing a goddess coloring book from the UK in part because across from each page to color is a detailed description of the goddess, her origin, characteristics, etc. Not sure you would need all that but does everyone really know who Ruth is or other characters? I teach where nearly everyone claims to be Christian but they know nothing about their own religion or the ancient female followers of Jesus.
This is exciting, Angela! Thank you for including us in the planning.
I’d find it helpful to have a short description of the woman, maybe a very short one on the page for focus, with a fuller story in the back of the book.
I’m wondering about the lettering inside her heart. Will it be visible after colouring? It might be enough of a description or beginning a meditation so no other words are needed on the page except maybe a name. I think that a guided meditation might be intrusive, I’d just want to know the woman.
and yes, hands, feet included.
Angela, What a wonderful option! Just last month I presented a “coloring meditation” to our Women’s Experiential Meditation group. I used mandalas because I couldn’t find Goddesses, and played soft meditative music while we all colored. It was a lovely experience. And the next time I do this, I can present your Goddesses! I can hardly wait. And I, too, would prefer the “words” separated from the images, preferably in the back of the book. Having a bit of a guided meditation, like you have done above, is also very nice. And print the Goddesses on only one side of the page — when the pages are pulled apart for coloring, it is nice to keep each image by itself.
This is incredibly synchronistic for me: this evening my women’s new moon group is meeting to colour Goddesses! This is something new for us. I wish your book was already available — but we will just have to have another colouring session when it comes out.
To answer your questions: I would very much value having quite a bit of information about the women portrayed, but agree that having that in the back is best. I really like the idea of a guided meditation but would feel better reading that this is an option, not a necessity. I really like the suggested meditation in this post; it serves as an invitation (and how-to technique) for using colouring as spiritual practice.
Yes also to removable pages.
Yes to NOT including your coloured versions. I would find this inhibiting to my own creative/instinctive flow. I like the idea of showing us one, just one, of your coloured versions.
Awesome project. A brief bio at the bottom of the page or that could be looked up in the back of the book is my vote. I agree with Carol, one of your paintings on the cover but leave the coloring pages black and white. I know that orishas in the Yoruba religion have colors associated with them. May be true of other goddesses as well. As a colorer, I might like to know about the colors associated with a goddess, but perhaps by looking up the icon in the back of the book not on the page itself.
I personally would not like guided meditations or suggestions of what words to contemplate, so wouldn’t want that on the page itself. But some people might really like a focus for meditation, so perhaps such suggestions could be included with the write-up about the icon.
All the best to you!
The name with the brief description at the bottom would be great! Very exciting.
Wow, everyone, thank you for this helpful feedback! Pardon my delayed and group response as I am traveling without my internet in Hawai’i and in a different time zone than many of you. Much gratitude!
Great idea – brief on each woman at end of book – and an index at the front?
I too would purchase several of these and agree with many of the suggestions. Leave the goddess sketch for us to color and mediate upon, then put goddess references at end of book.
I like the idea of a clean pull away sheet like we see in some notebooks.