Every culture has its own distinctive mythological
beasts. In Brazil, there’s the Headless Mule, a cursed creature whose
decapitated head hovers above a fire-spewing neck as it gallops across the
country. From Japan, the Kotobuki is a Zodiac Frankenstein’s monster: it
consists of all 12 signs, from the nose of the rat to the tail of the snake.
Peru has the Huayramama, which looks like a vast snake plus the billowing hair
and face of an old woman.
With such rich and broad source material to draw from,
the artist Iman Joy El Shami-Mader has lately been pursuing one very particular
goal: she wants to illustrate as many mythical beasts as she can find. Since
October 2017, El Shami-Mader has been illustrating one such creature a day,
which she then features on her Instagram account. To keep
up a steady supply of beasts to draw, El Shami-Mader initially worked from books.
“It all started with the book Phantasmagoria—which is great—but
there are many creatures that are only mentioned in passing or without any
description at all,” she says. So she ordered more books, researched online,
and tried her local library. “I’m from a tiny town in the Alps, so other than
local creatures, there was little to be found.”