Soñé con un Alebrije- a Halloween theme photoshoot

Posted on Nov 1, 2020
Soñé con un Alebrije- a Halloween theme photoshoot

Part of doing a yearly Passion Project is knowing that it, like many of our collective plans this year, could easily be sidetracked or otherwise postponed.
The term “hindsight 2020” will take on a whole different meaning for all of us.

This year has indeed been brutal with a global pandemic, a deeply divided political climate and a long overdue spotlight on social justice. On a personal note, the loss of our compass–our beloved Canis Major, has proven to be a period of deep depression.

All of these things and countless more, could have easily given us an “easy out” of our yearly commitment to this project.

But, here’s the thing about passion projects: they exist to reignite that creative flame, the same one that inspires doing something for the fun of it. We sure needed help remembering what fun was.

Year 8 has actually been waiting in our idea book for years. It seemed a perfect fit for this year, in particular for two reasons:
– our world felt deeply devoid of color and fantasy with the events of this year
– we are desperately homesick for our beloved Mexico, and our family there

Soñé con un Alebrije (I dreamt of an Alebrije)

Though I deeply love Pixar’s Coco and their depiction of the mythical alebrijes as animal guides between the world of the living and the departed; in truth, alebrijes have little to do with Día de los Muertos. They are in fact, a type of folk art that first began dreamt up by an artist named Pedro Linares and made famous by enthusiastic patrons, among them Frida Kahlo, who loved to adorn her home with Mexican folk art. This art form has been passed down for generations of families. If you are ever fortunate to gaze upon a piece made by artist Julia Fuentes, you will come to know the real magic behind alebrijes.

Finding a corner of Mexico in Sonoma, California

Nothing would have been cooler than shooting this on location in Mexico, but since that was impossible, we had to find a little nook of Northern California that still held some of that flavor. We found it in a tiny alley in the town of Sonoma, ironically right by a quaint Mexican restaurant (thank you to the very kind manager, by the way, for allowing us to shoot there ❤️).

We shot late at night, after the restaurant closed for the day. We wanted to avoid foot traffic, not just for feasibility of shooting, but to give Willow the space and safety she would need to feel comfortable to perform. We had a few hours before the alley market lights would turn off.

While Willow was cozy in the car, we set up the shot with the camera on a tripod. We brought water to wet the floor and used a small fog machine to add ambiance, reflect light and add a little soft mist. Once we had our background photographed, we brought our model in to work her magic.
Though we tried a few static poses, we found that the ones with lots of movement, in particular her “high 10” trick fit the mood best, as if she were about to take flight.

“Painting” our Alebrije to life

Throughout the process of painting over a photograph of Willow and turning her into an alebrije (with an iPad Pro and an Apple Pencil) it was never lost on me that there are people who do this for real, on a wooden sculpture, with a real paintbrush and no “undo” button. They are exceptionally skilled artisans.
You will see me make a lot of mistakes on this time-lapse, in part because I’m still getting to know this new tool and playing with my new favorite things: Procreate software and Retro Supply Co. brushes.

Our Alebrije takes flight

Full disclosure, we were stretched thin to finish this, and it cost me three very introverty days, a lack of showers, probably way too much couch and screen time. It pushed my comfort level with new tools and it pushed me to continue when all I really wanted was to crawl under the covers for the rest of the year. Seeing this come together makes everything worthwhile in the end.

We hope year 8 brings some much needed color and fantasy to your world and thank you for sticking with us for these past 8 years.

Want to see previous years of our Halloween theme photoshoots?
Year 1
Year 2
Year 3
Year 4
Year 5
Year 6
Year 7

This photograph is ©The Labs & Co. All rights reserved. Thank you for sharing our work! But please be kind and give credit.

1 Comment

  1. Mamma Linda
    November 1, 2020

    When can I buy a copy? A mosaic tile would be FABULOUS but a print is ok too. You AGAIN have outdone yourselves and I’m SO proud of you! I think your Canis Major is present in the stars on Ms Bee