“Babe” means many things to many people. To me, it signifies femme strength, yet to some, the word is sexualized, deflated, and negatively stigmatized. Regardless, “babe” challenges notions of femininity. It’s a playful term that even subverts versions of old-school feminism.
And the word, “stoner”? Even with recent efforts towards legalization, culturally, it’s still one of those loaded, messy, complicated words. Thousands of Americans— especially people of color—are incarcerated for nonviolent charges of marijuana possession. Let’s be real, 4:20 ain’t no celebration yet. And, to further complicate the usage of the term, “stoner,” many still associate those “in the industry” with Phish Heads. Nag champa. Legions of dull, white men.
So, when I cracked the spine of “The Stoner Babes Coloring Book” I had no idea that I was in for a read about resistance. Some sass with that grass, from the mouths of babes.
In “The Stoner Babes Coloring Book,” Portland, Oregon author and illustrator Katie Guinn asked women and non-binary people the simple, yet thought-provoking question: What does empowerment mean to you?
“Babes”— they responded. Guinn listened. And drew…
Because Guinn is a multidisciplinary creative, she was uniquely prepared to execute her project. As a writer, visual artist, fashion designer, and educator, Guinn is on-the-pulse and in good company with some seriously righteous babes. She explains the roots of her inspiration: “I created the idea of ‘Stoner Babes’ as a group of women. I imagined all the women I knew who are bad-ass babes who make shit happen in the world and also partake in the transcendental qualities of marijuana.”
What once was a small vision grew. In 2016, Portland indie giant Microcosm Publishing accepted her proposal for an adult coloring book based on her “Stoner Babes” vision. Suddenly Guinn had a full-blown project on her hands.
In selecting the participants of “The Stoner Babes Coloring Book,” Guinn explained that “It was important to me to be as diverse as possible to represent all the babes I could convince to participate. I knew I wanted to keep it women- or female-identifying, and gender non-conforming or fluid.”
Guinn utilized social media, “I asked many people I already knew and went deep into searching for people on instagram using hashtags like, #stonerbabe (there weren’t many people using this then) #womenstoners #melaninstoners #ganjababe and others… I spread the word to as many humans as possible.”
And, on the page? It is a thrill to color beyond “the lines” so fluidly! Guinn’s babes are multidimensional. Pleasingly, gender expressions vary and are celebrated alongside different ethnicities and body types.
Guinn worked mostly from source photos she took herself in creating the drawings. Participants from far away also sent her images, which she manipulated. “Some of them I had to mix and mash together, study their bodies to make them in a different pose that made more sense than what they sent me. I’ve studied drawing people’s likenesses since I can remember, so it’s really easy for me to transfer what I see to the page.” The skill in Guinn’s artistry is apparent in these mash-ups. Wild stars emanate from a woman’s hair like brazen, bold thoughts.
Art-making is visceral and spiritual for Guinn. “I must tell a story and get it out of my body,” she says. This imperative is obvious in her work. The collection is excellent, and while a simple coloring book— white paper, line art— it’s vivid. The art moves across the page in psychedelic swells. Definitions take it further, and everyone defines it differently. Babes tempt the eye. It’s intimate. Empowerment, in those stars.
Coloring this book is a meditation and exploration in multitudes that also asks: ‘How many ways must we say free? And, how may we empower others to heal the wounds that must be addressed in order to achieve this freedom?’
Collected visions found in “The Stoner Babes Coloring Book” are a product of creativity. And creativity, after all— is a product of thought.
Katie Guinn thrives in possibility. In the state of process, of progress. She is, after all, an Aquarius—motivated by many directions, including family and motherhood. Still, she focuses on the larger picture. “Being hungry for justice, equality, and equity motivates me,” Guinn says, and it is easy to see evidence of her applied beliefs.
Motivation, for Guinn: “It comes in waves. Some days I’m not motivated at all, but I remind myself that I’m extremely lucky to have this gift, and therefore, have a duty to attempt to make the world a more beautiful place in all the ways I’m capable of. I’m constantly working on growth and evolution because I want my art to say something… I have a deep passion to be heard and help others feel heard.” Passion is something that she nurtures. And, The Babes are bodacious.
Am I a Stoner Babe?
Well, maybe I was a convert from the start, as anyone who chases the zeitgeist like Katie pulls me right in, like a moth to a flame. And, after coloring her book? Yes. I proudly call myself a stoner babe. Totally, 100%.
Julia Laxer lives for the stories and writes in the afternoons from a messy desk in a rose-lit room in Portland, Oregon. She is obsessed with rose and oud perfumes, Lana Del Rey, and wants to eat all the peaches. She uses performance art and spiritual practice to explore archetype and ritual, and writes poems, essays, erotica, and memoir.