Writing and Illustration Contest

The Duke TIP Writing and Illustration Contest invites all 4th–6th Grade Talent Search participants to submit a creative short story, an illustration, or both!

The writing component takes place first, and the illustrations are based on writing contest winners.

Duke TIP is extending the deadline for Illustration Contest submission to June 1. As student submissions often require a trip to the post office and many communities are under at stay-at-home mandate, we have decided to extend this deadline to help keep our students and their families safe. Winners will be announced later this summer.

Part Open Date Close Date
Writing Contest December 1 January 21
Illustration Contest March 12 June 1

Illustration Contest begins March 12, 2020

Duke TIP 4th–6th Grade Talent Search participants are invited to create and submit an original two-dimensional artwork that effectively illustrates a scene and emotions expressed in the first-place story from the student’s same grade level. For example, if you are a fourth grader, your illustration should depict a scene or event from the fourth-grade first-place story. The first-place stories are posted at www.tip.duke.edu/storywinners. Be sure to read the story before you start your artwork!


The submissions will be judged on four primary artistic elements.

  1. Concept: how the work depicts or interprets an event in the winning story.
  2. Composition: how the elements of the artwork draw the attention of the viewer.
  3. Color: how the artist’s use of color enhances the illustration.
  4. Expression: how the work conveys the emotions expressed in the story.

Subject matter and language depicted in the artwork should be suitable for an audience comprised of fourth, fifth, and sixth graders.


  1. Contest participants must create and submit their artistic entry on an 8.5 x 11-inch sheet of unlined, white paper.
  2. Artwork may be vertical or horizontal, but may only be two-dimensional (i.e., flat).
  3. Artwork should be hand-drawn and must be an original image. We will accept artwork done in:
    • crayon, ink, tempera, poster, acrylics, pastels, watercolor, colored pencils, color marker, chalk pastels, or paper collage—we discourage artwork done in plain black pencil or weak colored pencil. Pastel drawings must be fixed (sprayed with a covering that keeps the artwork from smearing).
    • collage elements may not include images found on the Internet, in print media, or elsewhere—to avoid copyright violations. All images used in a collage must be original images or the property of the artist.
  4. Students should focus on their own artistic interpretation of the action, characters and emotions from their grade’s winning story.
  5. Artwork should not have the artist’s signature, initials, or name on the front. Any artwork with such identifiable or visible characteristics will be disqualified and eliminated from the competition.
  6. One entry per person. Once an entry has been submitted, no edits or replacements will be accepted.
  7. Artwork will not be returned; if you want a copy of your artwork, be sure to make one before you submit the original to TIP.
  8. By signing the cover page, parents grant permission for their children’s artwork, first name, grade level, and school name to be used on the Duke TIP website or printed in our online Navigator magazine. Parents also grant permission for the artwork to potentially be used in marketing materials for Duke TIP.

Submitting your artwork


  • The student must be currently in fourth, fifth, or sixth grade, and enrolled in the Duke TIP 4th—6th Talent Search.
  • Artwork submissions must be postmarked by June 1, 2020.
  • The artwork should not be folded for mailing.
  • The artwork should not be mounted or framed. Only submit the illustration as created on an 8.5 x 11-inch sheet of paper.
  • Students should write their name, grade level, and TIP ID on the back of the artwork lightly in pencil. Do not use pen or marker, as it may bleed through to the front of the page.
  • Duke TIP advocates strongly for artistic and academic integrity. Each entry must be the entrant’s original, unpublished work and must not violate US copyright laws. A Google image search will be conducted on all winning entries to ensure the work is original. Any entry that has been copied from an existing photo or image (including a painting, graphic, or advertisement) that was created by someone other than the student is a violation of the competition rules and will not be accepted.
  • All artwork must be accompanied by the official contest submission cover sheet (PDF).

Mail your artwork to the following address:

Duke TIP
Attn: Illustration Contest
300 Fuller Street
Durham, NC 27701

Awards and prizes

First-, second-, and third-place winners are selected for each grade for both parts of the contest. All winners and their enrolling schools receive the following cash prizes:

  • $200 for first-place
  • $100 for second-place
  • $50 for third-place

To be eligible to receive a cash prize, the student must be a US citizen or a US permanent resident with a Form I-551, I-151, or I-551C (Permanent Resident Card, Resident Alien Card, or Alien Registration Receipt Card), also known as a "green card.”

Winners from both parts of the contest will be highlighted in Navigator, the 4th–6th Grade Talent Search's online magazine, and first-place entries will be posted to our website. Writing Contest winners will be posted in the spring and Illustration Contest winners in the early summer.

Additional contest details

  • The Duke TIP Writing and Illustration Contest is a benefit of participation in the 4th–6th Grade Talent Search and is open to current participants only.
  • Students may submit only one entry in each part of the contest each academic year.
  • Due to the large number of entries received each year, Duke TIP is unable to provide feedback or return individual contest entries.We will provide a confirmation of receipt by email.
  • Once winners have been contacted, first-place writing entries will be posted on our website in the spring and first-place illustration entries will be posted in early summer.