CLAY GARGOYLE – Form, Proportion, Exaggeration

Students create a gargoyle using air dry clay. Once the clay gargoyle is dry they paint it with acrylic paint.

Required Time

180 Minutes

Grade Level

Grade 7 to Grade 10


Social Studies
Visual Arts


air dry clay deconstruct detail exaggeration form gothic negative space positive space proportion shape slip


Crayola Acrylic Paint Slip Paper Clips Masking Tape Pencils Air Dry Clay Paint Brushes


CLAY GARGOYLE – Form, Proportion, Exaggeration - Step One

Step One

Make several thumbnail sketches focusing on exaggeration and proportions. Choose your best drawing to work with. Draw each part of the gargoyle separately. 

CLAY GARGOYLE – Form, Proportion, Exaggeration - Step Two

Step Two

Make all the parts of the gargoyle separately based on the drawings. Make a pin tool by taping an open paperclip to a pencil or pen. Use it to cut details into the clay.

CLAY GARGOYLE – Form, Proportion, Exaggeration - Step Three

Step Three

Before joining clay pieces be sure to score the ends of the clay using a toothbrush or the pin tool and then apply slip for a secure bond.

CLAY GARGOYLE – Form, Proportion, Exaggeration - Step Four

Step Four

Continue to join all the parts of the gargoyle using the score and slip technique.

CLAY GARGOYLE – Form, Proportion, Exaggeration - Step Five

Step Five

Allow the clay to dry for about a week. If there are any parts that need to be supported during the drying time use some newspaper or cardboard to prop them up.

CLAY GARGOYLE – Form, Proportion, Exaggeration - Step Six

Step Six

Once the clay is dry paint the entire gargoyle with black acrylic paint. Allow it to dry for about 15 minutes.

CLAY GARGOYLE – Form, Proportion, Exaggeration - Step Seven

Step Seven

Dry brush light gray acrylic paint over the black allowing some of the black to show through. This will give the gargoyle the look of stone or concrete.

Learning Goals

      Students will be able to:

  1. Use hand building techniques to create a clay sculpture of a gargoyle;
  2. Use a variey of images to create an original gargoyle sculpture;
  3. Add details to communicate the gargoyle's personality;
  4. Demonstrate technical accomplishment and creative thinking; and
  5. Support their ideas with evidence found in the works.


  1. Have students research gargoyles and their purpose.
  2. Have students study the Gothic period in art history.
  3. Create a word wall with characteristics of the Gothic period.
  4. Have students work in groups to create a graphic story about their gargoyles. Once stories are complete have them create a display of the gargoyles along with their stories.



  1. Download images from the Internet, or find images in books or magazines of a variety of gargoyles. For example,
    Big Gargoyle
    Pennsylvania Gargoyle
    Notre Dame Gargoyle
    Lots of Gargoyles


  1. Have students view images of gargoyles to find some common characteristics. 
  2. Discuss the exaggerated features and proportions of the gargoyles.
  3. Notice how several animals may be morphed together to create one gargoyle.
  4. Make a list of animals that would work well as gargoyles.
  5. Introduce the challenge. 


The Challenge

  1. Create a clay sculpture of a gargoyle using a variety of handbuilding techniques.
  2. Add details to communicate your gargoyle's personality.
  3. Use drawings to help visualize the size and shape of your gargoyle.
  4. Demonstrate technical accomplishment and creativity.
  5. Support your ideas with evidence found in the works.

The Process

  1. Have students create a number of sketches showing several gargoyles.
  2. Instruct them to choose their favorite drawing to work with. Ask them to draw it in detail.
  3. Draw a side view, back view and front view of the chosen gargoyle.
  4. Deconstruct the gargoyle by drawing each body part separately – the body shape, arm shape, leg shape, tail and head details.
  5. Discuss why appendages must be supported while the clay is drying. (It is too heavy while wet to support itself. Once dry it will be strong and light.)
  6. Discuss the importance of using slip when attaching clay to clay.
  7. Demonstrate the process of first scoring the clay and then adding slip.
  8. Begin with the body shape, make the arms, legs, head and tail. 
  9. Remind students to score the edges and add slip each time they join pieces of clay. 
  10. Demonstrate how to prop up appendages that need to be supported during the drying process using newspaper or cardboard. 
  11. Remind students to show the personality of their gargoyle by adding details and textures.
  12. Guide students through the steps outlined in this lesson plan.
  13. Observe students as they work. 
  14. Provide individual assistance and encouragement.


  1. Once all the gargoyles are complete display them for a group discussion. Remind students of the challenge.
    Look closely at the gargoyles.
    - Choose one that interests you for some reason.
    - Share thoughts about the work.
  2. During the discussion include references to:
    exaggeration - how it has been used to create the gargoyle's personality
    - proportions - how size relationships create emphasis
    - technique – how craftsmanship and care in joining and finishing the work contributes to its effectiveness
  3. Discuss the animals that inspired each gargoyle.
  4. Discuss how the figures are the same and how they are different.


  1. Observe students as they work  – thoughtful focus, discriminating, seeking more information, elaborating, experimenting
  2. Observe students as they discuss the art works – active listening, insightful contributions, supporting ideas with evidence found in the artwork and from personal experience.
  3. Use a checklist to track progress. (Download - GARGOYLE_tracking.pdf)
  4. Have students use the self-assessment form to evaluate their work. (Download - GARGOYLE_self-assessment.pdf)