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Journey through Mexico's folk art: Drawing an Alebrije

Hello Life of Colour community, I'm Selene from @lettering_our_world and today I bring to you a story about a very colourful tradition we have here in México.

They are called Alebrijes, I decided to talk about this because these mythical creatures are super colourful and funny.

Alebrijes at the Pochote Market in the city of Oaxaca

Why they are so funny? well first because they are in our imagination, you decide how your Alebrije is going to be, you will see that my Alebrije is the body of a goat, with a tail of a lizard and the wings of a bat, I put some other little details from some other animals.

Large alebrije outside a shop in San Martin Tilcajete

But why we do this, why we draw these kind of creatures and why they are so important in my culture?

Well in 1930 there was this guy called Pedro Linares, he got sick and he fell into a deep sleep. After many days when he woke up he said to his family that he saw this creature in a really strange place resembling a forest, he saw some strange things like rocks, clouds and trees and after a few moments they changed in to a creature, some kind of animals, but definitely unknown. He saw a donkey with butterfly wings, a rooster with bull horns, a lion with an eagle head, all of them where shouting a word “ALEBRIJES”.

Upon recovery, he began to recreate these creatures with cardboard and papier-mâché and started calling them alebrijes painting them with loads of colours and different patterns.

Pedro Linares making an alebrije

In some states in México they say these creatures are the ones that help us go through our way to heaven when we die (in the movie called Coco from Disney you can see some of these Alebrijes that help the little boy go through to heaven), some others say they are our protectors, what do you think was the message of this guy in his dream? 

Screencap of one of Disney's "Coco" alebrijes 


Pedro Linares started creating these artistic creatures from cardboard and papier-mâché, but today we can draw them too. You decide which type of Alebrije is your protector, you can play around with your favourite animals and mix them.

I will leave a video of how I made mine and I will explain what is the most important part of an Alebrije.

3 keys to making your own Alebrije

1) You need to bring out all your imagination and draw a magical creature with different parts of animals, you can combine wings, legs, horns, gills, eyes, tails, etc. Start with an animal you know, and start adding elements from other animals who live in different environments, for example an elephant with wings, beak and gills!

2) You need to colour it with many many colours.

3) For me the most important part and what brings an Alebrije to be what it is, is PATTERNS, you need to doodle all over the body, these make it look really cool and crazy.

How to make your own Alebrije

Well now that you know what is an Alebrije, I want you to do yours, show me how it would be your protector. Remember that this kind of drawing you can use your acrylic pens too on top of the watercolour once it’s dry.

Material I used 

  • watercolour pens
  • watercolour paper or mix media so you can use your watercolour brush pens, you can see how nice they blend and this make a different effect.
  • the watercolour brush or just a brush.
  • fineliner pen or your acrylic paint pens.

I can’t wait to see what you can make, this is so much fun.

And remember to show us your work by tagging @lifeofcolour.pens and @lettering_our_world, we would love to see what you have created!

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