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.

Part Open Date Close Date
Writing Contest 12/1/2018 1/22/2019
Illustration Contest 3/12/2019 4/12/2019

Part 1: Creative Writing Contest is now closed

2019 Writing Contest Prompt: The Big Surprise

Students were asked to write a story about an adventure getting lost in a national park, what they experienced, what they saw, how their family members reacted, and the resolution to the unexpected situation

Part 2: Illustration Contest

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 the 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. You can find the first-place stories are posted on the winners page. 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, and pastel drawings must be fixed (sprayed with a covering that keeps the artwork from smearing)
    • to avoid copyright violations, collage elements may not include images found on the Internet, in print media, or elsewhere—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. Students are allowed 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 April 12, 2019.
  • 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:

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 cash prizes:

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

All winners are highlighted in Navigator, the 4th–6th Grade Talent Search's online magazine, and first-place entries are posted to our website at the conclusion of each part of the contest.

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 (Permanent Resident Card or Resident Alien Card), also known as a green card.

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 can only submit one entry for each part of the contest each academic year. Due to the large number of entries received, Duke TIP is unable to provide feedback or return individual submissions. However, we will provide a confirmation of receipt by email.