Art Competition for Schools | Secondary 1–3

Theme: Drip, Pour, Splash, Freeze

Welcome to the National Galleries of Scotland Art Competition for Schools 2019. The aim of this competition is to encourage school children to interact with, and be inspired by, artworks in the National Galleries of Scotland Collection.

Here you will find three key artworks to look at and discuss as a class, with some additional images included below. There are suggestions of things to think about, instructions on what to make, examples of materials that can be used and how the artwork will be judged.

Is this a posed photograph or one that captures a fleeting moment? Rain is visible on the umbrella yet we see no rain falling. Could they be under a shelter or waiting at a bus stop? The composition fits perfectly into the square format. The boy is animated, his fingers wave about as if illustrating a story he is telling. The adult, afraid the child will get wet, has opened his coat and placed it over the child’s head. We cannot see the adult’s face but can feel the gentle caring relationship between these two.

The maker of this work is unknown. How did it get into the collection? Was it found in a shoebox when someone was clearing out a house? It is not obvious from the photograph if the adult is a man or woman so was something written on the back of the photograph to tell us? What fun it would be to do detective work and find some answers.

Stark, abstract, dramatic, this looks more like a painting than a photograph. With strange lighting and snowy shapes scattered with grit or dirt, this is not the usual image we have of snow. It seems to be seeping and pouring in from the edges. Is this how the artist saw the scene or has it been altered and changed into this final image? You can sense the silence of this place where even a snapping twig might make you jump.

Patricia Macdonald studied biological science in Edinburgh and worked in the publishing department of the National Museums Scotland. Her work involves taking aerial photographs with the help of her husband who acts as pilot, enabling her to produce beautiful close-ups of cloud formations and jewel-like visions of the surface of the earth. She is interested in environmental sustainability and the impact of people on landscape.

The thick, rough style of brushwork suits the subject matter very well. We can almost hear the waves crashing repeatedly against the rocks and the cry of distant seagulls. Was this one of many paintings made quickly on the spot that afternoon trying to capture the changing light? Or was it created later in the studio from sketches made outside? You can feel the thrill and excitement, wind-blown hair and holding tight lest the canvas be whipped out of your hand and hurled into the sea.

This work was indeed produced on the spot. Samuel was one of four artists known as the Scottish Colourists. He studied and painted in France using bold colours inspired by the bright sunlight there. Samuel enjoyed painting on the Isle of Iona because of the same intensity of lighting. French painting had a huge influence on his work.  

Things to consider

Here are a few questions to help spark the imagination.

  • Puddles, streams, canals, rivers, seas waterfalls: who are they home to?
  • Jugs, buckets, watering cans, hoses: what do we use to contain or transport water about?
  • David Hockney is famous for his paintings of swimming pools. What other well-known artists, musicians and authors have been inspired by water?
  • How do we protect ourselves from water when doing things like diving, fishing or just walking about in the rain?
  • Sinks, baths, pools, clothes horses: where do people wash and dry their bodies and their clothes?
  • Can you think of famous stories or adventures that have taken place in snowy, icy landscapes?


A picture of something connected with water. It could be an object, a scene or a design for something used to protect us.


Any materials, techniques or processes (for example drawing, painting, printmaking, textiles, photography, computer aided design, collage, montage) to make your piece, as long as each entry is two-dimensional. It can be A4 or A3 in size.

Entries will be judged on:

  • Originality and creativity
  • Confident handling of materials
  • Boldness and impact


Curriculum for Excellence

Entering this competition contribute to your teaching of Curriculum for Excellence and interdisciplinary learning. Here are some examples of what the children will be able to do in working towards their entries:

Expressive Arts: Art and Design

I can use and combine the visual elements and concepts to convey ideas, thoughts and feelings in expressive and design work. EXA 3-03

I can respond to the work of artists and designers by discussing my thoughts and feelings. EXA 3-07a

Expressive Arts: Music

I have listened to a range of music and can identify features and concepts. I can give constructive comments on my own and other’s work including professionals. EXA 3 18a

Literacy and English

When I engage with others, I can make a relevant contribution, encourage others to contribute and acknowledge that they have the right to hold a different opinion. LIT 3 02a

For the Secondary 1-3 category we have partnered with Scottish Ballet to jointly select the ten winning artworks. As well as helping to select our own ten winning artworks, Scottish Ballet will choose some further pieces in celebration of their 50th birthday with a fantastic 2019 Christmas production, in which lots of extraordinary adventures take place in a landscape of ice and snow. Scottish Ballet will have special treats for the winning young artists’ schools.

Prefer to submit a group entry?

Groups of two or more pupils in any age group can choose from any of the themes in this year's competition and submit a group entry. 

Make a picture inspired by any of the five themes. 

Use any materials, techniques or processes (for example drawing, painting, printmaking, textiles, photography, computer aided design, collage, montage) to make your piece as long as each entry is two-dimensional. As frames have been specially made, work entered must be either A2 in size or measure 120 x 150 centimetres.

View all themes

Download group activity


National Galleries of Scotland Art Competition contact details

+44 (0)131 624 6534

[email protected]

The National Galleries of Scotland Art Competition is proud to be supported by Players of People’s Postcode Lottery