alebrijes acuarela watercolor Doodlewash

How to Draw And Paint Alebrijes

This is how the story goes. In 1936, Paul Linares lay ill and fevered.  Strange and beautiful animals visited him in his dreams.  Later, when he recovered, he tried to recreate these creatures and Alebrijes were born.  Some doubt this story, but how can you look upon Alebrijes and fail to believe it?

Alpacamunk Zebra Zensation Technical pen Watercolor

Traditionally, alebrijes are papier-mâché or wood carvings, but they’re too wonderful to be limited to that! Alebrijes have bright, bold colors and beautiful patterns.  They can be a single animal or a combination of two or more.  Sometimes, they don’t look like anything that every existed.

Today, I’m going to show you how to draw and paint the Alpacamunk, an alebrije with the head of an alpaca and the body of a chipmunk!

I’ve included a video so you can see the steps in action, but the written tutorial has more detail and gives you longer to think about what you need to do.

My Tools

Daniel Smith Ultimate Mixing Set Interior Shot

Drawing Alebrijes – The Alpacamunk

Step 1 Drawing - alebrijes acuarela watercolor alpacamunk

First, I look through reference photos, roughing out my ideas in a cheap journal I use for this purpose.  I don’t want to ruin good paper by erasing and redrawing.  Once I’m happy, I do a final pencil drawing on the good paper. 

I’m using my final pencil drawing as the tutorial reference photo, and recreating the above process on acetate. 

Shapes and Proportions

When you first start to pencil in your drawing, don’t worry about the smaller details.  You want to make sure your subject fits the paper, and that you have the proportions correct.

Many artists use a trick with a pencil to eyeball proportions. I like to have a second pencil on hand so I can use one to measure and one to draw, but you can do it with just one pencil.

Drawing Shapes Proportions - alebrijes acuarela watercolor alpacamunk

We’ll look at the head first, using it to compare widths/lengths around the rest of the body.

Pick up the pencil so you have the head-width marked off and …

Drawing Head - alebrijes acuarela watercolor alpacamunk

… place it around the body to compare the width/length of the other body parts.

The width between head and back leg AND the width of the back are each a head-width, so the body is twice as wide as the head.

Drawing Body Back Legs - alebrijes acuarela watercolor alpacamunk

The length of the back leg is the same length as the tail.  The length of the front leg is also a head-width!

Drawing Animal Body Proportions Example

The body is about 2/3 as tall as it is long.  Sorry, I forgot to mark that.

Once you’ve got the main shapes and a good idea of the proportions you can do the finished pencil drawing.  My preference is to keep it simple, and add detail when I do the pen drawing.  Others prefer to make the pencil drawing exact and just trace over it with pen.

Note that if you are drawing outdoors, you can use this pencil trick, but it works a little differently. That’s out of the scope for this tutorial, so I’ll save it for another time.

Pen Drawing

Since I use my pencil drawing as a guide for shape and proportion, this is where I add detail.

Pen Drawing - alebrijes acuarela watercolor alpacamunk

I add the texture of fur, the eye, the nose, the mouth and all the detail around it.  I draw the body, indicating the changing texture of fur and a little texture inside.

Once I’m happy with the animal, then I start adding patterns.  Patterns are a feature of alebrijes, but it’s your choice whether to add them or not.


Working on a postcard gives me limited space, so I usually keep my patterns simple (ever notice what a simple person I am?).

I wanted something that conveyed the curly hair that you find on an alpaca’s head …

Drawing Patterns Step - alebrijes acuarela watercolor alpacamunk

…so, I went with a curly pattern.

Drawing Curly Patterns

For the chipmunk body, I went with stripes and spots sort of echoing those found on chipmunks.

Drawing Detail - alebrijes acuarela watercolor alpacamunk

Painting Alebrijes – The Alpacamunk

The colors I used are Hansa Yellow Medium, Quinacridone Gold, Quinacridone Rose, Pyrrol Scarlet, Cerulean Blue Chromium, Jane’s Grey, and Phthalo Green.  Jane’s Grey is exclusive to the Daniel Smith Ultimate Mixing Set, but a neutral tint or Payne’s Grey would work as well.

I added enough water to my paint to get a creamy mix.  Easy to spread, but medium dark in color.  At times, when I had very little paint left on my brush, I used it for shading.

I chose bright circus-like colors, but feel free to choose your own.  Have fun and use the colors that make you want to sing!

Painting Hansa Yellow Medium - alebrijes acuarela watercolor alpacamunk

Hansa Yellow Medium.  I let this dry before adding the next color so they won’t run together.

Painting Quinacridone Gold - alebrijes acuarela watercolor alpacamunk

Quinacridone Gold.  I let this dry before adding the next color .

Painting Quinacridone Rose - alebrijes acuarela watercolor alpacamunk

Quinacridone Rose.  I had a little too much water in my brush for what I intended.

Painting Pyrrol Scarlet - alebrijes acuarela watercolor alpacamunk

Pyrrol Scarlet.  I let some of it run into the hooves so they’d be darker.  Then, I let this dry before adding the next color.

Painting cerelean blue chromium - alebrijes acuarela watercolor alpacamunk

Cerulean Blue Chromium.  Notice the fine point on the brush. If you intend to work at this size, a brush that holds a point like this is the best.

When I only had a little bit of paint left on the brush, I used it to add a little shading where I had drawn texture for fur.

Painting Fur Texture Example 1

For the shadow on the ground, I used Jane’s Grey first, and then immediately added Phthalo Green so the colors would blend.

alebrijes acuarela watercolor alpaca Final Image - Doodlewash

I used a watery mix of Jane’s Grey to add shading along the back of the legs, tail, head and body, as well as cast shadow behind the head, the curve of the tail, and around the front legs.

As a last touch, I wanted to lighten the color of the hooves, so I lifted a little bit of color, by wetting with the brush and blotting with a tissue.

Here’s a video version of the process:

I hope you’ve enjoyed this tutorial.  Let me know if you are interested in further tutorials for more alebrijes.

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20 thoughts on “How to Draw And Paint Alebrijes

  1. It’s sort of like a Disney mashup sketch. We sketch a character in another characters costume. I would have never thought to do this with real animals. It could get pretty interesting. Thanks for sharing!

  2. when I first opened your email an saw this very funny animal, I’m sorry but it made me laugh there is something about this little guy, think its the eyes. Although one can’t can’t help but fall in love with Alpacamunk. This one I certainly will give it a try to draw an it most likely turn out quite different than yours but Im sure I’ll have fun. Yes please do more, interested in further tutorials for more alebrijes.

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