Alebrijes are fantastical creatures that inspire the imagination.
These colorful animals are a Mexican folk art tradition that combine the features of multiple creatures with bright colors. Celebrate Hispanic Heritage month by learning more about this unique art form and doodle an alebrije with your 3D pen!
The Origin of Alebrijes
Pedro Linares Lopez, a Mexican artist born in Mexico City, began his career making sculptures out of carton or paper-mache and created figurines for Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, and other artists from Academia de San Carlos.
At the age of 30, Linares fell ill and dreamed of a strange forest where he saw very bright landscapes and whimsical animals. The creatures he imagined had the features of multiple animals. He saw a mule with butterfly wings, a rooster with antlers, and a lion with the head of an eagle. As he woke from this dreamlike state, he could still hear the animals shouting one word — alebrijes, alebrijes, alebrijes!
It was after this experience that Linares went on to create alebrijes as an art form that is now recognized around the world. In 1990, Linares was honored with the first Mexican National Prize in Arts and Sciences in the category of Popular Art and Traditions.
The Art Form
Linares was a cartonero, or an artist who works with paper, so naturally his knowledge led him to design alebrijes using this method. Cartoneria or papier-mache sculptures were introduced in Mexico during the colonial period to make items for church. The craft developed in the 20th century with artists in Mexico City, namely Linares and Carmen Caballo Sevilla who reinvented the traditional forms and created new ones.
To create a 3D papier-mache sculpture, artists use leftover paper scraps, newspaper, and cardboard from discarded boxes and adhere them using a type of paste. Linares used engrudo, a glue made of wheat flour and water. As the sculpture takes its shape and sets, artists add paste and eventually paint the sculpture with very bright and vibrant colors.
Last year, Pedro Linares Lopez was recognized on what would have been his 115 birthday as a Google Doodle. Emily Barrara, who created the Doodle, shared her process of creating the sculpture. The alebrije art form is also featured prominently in Coco, a Disney Pixar movie about a young boy’s journey to the magical land of his ancestors.
Doodle a custom alejibre with an easy to follow stencil and tutorial. And the creativity doesn’t have to end here. Once you have the process for creating the shape, expand your thinking and develop a new fantastical alejibre using different animal shapes!