Malibu High School student receives prestigious awards for writing and digital art

Thomas Drummond poses with Congressman Ted Lieu at the Center of Media & Design at Santa Monica College during the Congressional Art Competition Award Ceremony on Feb 4. Courtesy of Jo Drummond.

The Scholastic Art and Writing Awards is the nation’s longest-running and most prestigious program for creative teens, dating back to 1923. The contest is judged based on the program’s core values: originality, skill, and the emergence of a personal voice or vision.

Malibu High School junior Thomas Drummond received five awards from this year’s Scholastic Art and Writing Awards.

Thomas received two Gold Key awards, two Silver Key awards and an honorable mention for his digital art. 

He received a Gold Key for each of his two pieces, “geometric Tanager” and “Seabirds on my mind.” “Shape Kestrel” and “Like Father Like Son” each received a Silver Key, while “Chickadee” earned an honorable mention. 

Among over 260,000 works submitted, Thomas’ work was within the 2,000 to earn awards.

These awards are the latest recognitions of Drummond’s work, following an honorable mention in the 2022 Congressional Art Competition for his digital art piece titled “Head in the Mountains,” and a 2022 PTA Reflection Award within Malibu High for his piece “My True Colors.” 

“Head in the Mountains” also received an award from the 2021 PTA Reflection Awards. 

Thomas said it was a special feeling to receive these latest recognitions for his work. 

“I feel pretty honored, honestly. I’m proud of a lot of those pieces I’ve made,” Drummond said. “Especially the one of the tanager, the one that won the Gold Key, that one I was very proud of.”

He said he’s proud to represent Malibu High and have his awards also shine a spotlight on the school. 

“I’m really happy that I, just as a high school student, can represent the school in this way,” he said. 

Thomas’ work has primarily focused on birds, drawing on inspiration from his parent’s fascination with birds and their bird-watching hobby. 

He said he hopes to create a unique perspective on things around him.

“In my creative process I want to replicate what is there in this unique way or create something that will stand out and pop in someone’s eyes,” he said.

He earned his awards as a student of Carla Bowman-Smith, a photography and digital design teacher with Malibu High’s visual and performing arts program. 

He said she has helped guide him through his artistic journey and when he felt lost, she’d be the one to help him find his way.

“She got me where I am today, definitely,” he said.

Thomas’ award-winning art pieces were created with Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop. 

His pieces “geometric Tanager,” “Shape Kestrel,” and “Chickadee” were made on Illustrator, where he used a process of assembling polygons to create an original bird image. 

His two other award-winning pieces, “Seabirds on my mind,” and “Like Father Like Son” were created on Photoshop, where Drummond used a process called double tessellation, where he would merge two images to make one overlapping image. 

These two digital designs were inspired by his father and his father’s love for birds.

Thomas’ mother, Jo Drummond, said it is obvious in his work that he has been influenced by his family and their interest in birds. 

“He admires his dad, and is interested in what we’re interested in, but makes it his own thing with his art,” she said. 

Jo Drummond, who is co-president of Malibu High’s Art Angels, said she believes Thomas’ artistic ability is tied to his strong mathematical ability. She said that even from a young age, Thomas excelled in math and enjoyed challenging himself.

She said she finds his work to be interesting and original.

“I’m amazed by the detail, and the amount of hours he must put into his work,” Jo said. “His artistic eye is quite amazing, it’s really great.” 

Thomas plans to continue creating his signature art, but said his focus will be split with his studies as he enters his senior year at Malibu High. He aspires to get accepted into a top California university and plans to build on his strong mathematical ability by majoring in engineering. 

He said he believes art will continue to be a source of entertainment and expression for him, and even sees himself possibly pursuing a minor in art.

“I want to keep doing it; I don’t want to just stop,” he said. “I want to continue to do this, but I do want to pursue other things at the same time.”