Oaxacan Animals


This is by far one of my favorite lessons that I teach! I love the beautiful, finished product and the mixture of clay and painting… My two favorites! Not to mention the vibrant art history makes this lesson so fun and cultural.



What you need:

Let’s get started!

Step One:

We begin the lesson by watching a short youtube video that shows the people of Oaxaca (pronounced wa-ha-ka), Mexico carving and painting the stunning Alebrijes that their city is known for. I highly suggest doing a little research about Oaxacan animals so that you can tell your students the fun story about their history!

Step Two:

After the video we spend an entire hour long art class drawing and planning our animal. I put a slideshow of different alebrijes on my smart board and the kids look on in awe! I point out that the alebrijes are quite abstract and by no means need to be anatomically correct. Once the outline of the animal is drawn we look specifically at the details painted on alebrijes and using colored pencils my students design their animal.



Step Three:

During the next class I provide each student with a handful of clay. We begin by making the clay into either a ball of clay or an oval shape based on the shape of their animal.  I show them how to pull/pinch body parts out of the clay rather than attaching them which is much safer for their sculptures as kids have been known to be less than perfect at scoring and slipping! Once the body parts have been pulled into shape they use clay tools to carve more specific details.

I really stress that we want to finish clay-building in one class period so that the next time I see them their creatures will be fired and ready to paint!



Step Four:

During the painting class I set out bottles of tempera paint and my brush holder with multiple different sized brushes. I like for my students to be as self-sufficient as possible and also try to save paint so I instruct each table to send a representative to get the paint for the table… on ONE pallet.


First we paint the base colors on each body part. Then (usually in the next class) we begin the details. I always do a demo in which I show how to steady your hand, hold the paintbrush close to the tip, and slowly and carefully paint our details. My students are always very proud of their Alebrijes and it’s a nice long project that will keep every child contently working for a few weeks! Have Fun!

Student Examples: