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This happens when someone with poor or minimalistic drawing skill has drawn something and another person misidentifies it. It does not necessarily mean the drawing sucks though, often the drawing is so simple that anyone could have mistaken it.
This isn't tied to drawings. Clay arts, handcrafted gifts, needlework or any handicrafts can also be classified into this trope.
Compare Terrible Artist
Anime & Manga
- The "What a horrible ugly monster! It's a picture of mommy..." variant is used in Le Chat, a Belgian comic.
- In The Little Prince, the narrator explains how he once drew a picture of a snake that had swallowed an elephant, and all the adults told him it was a very nice hat.
- In The Baby-Sitters Club, it is suggested that one say something along the lines of "What a nice picture! Can you tell me about it?" when confronted with a child's drawing, because "you don't want to say 'what a lovely elephant!' and have it turn out to be a picture of their grandmother."
- In Just So Stories "How The First Letter Was Written", written language was invented to avoid this sort of confusion, after a picture intended to convey "Daddy has broken his spear, he needs his spare one, and this man who doesn't speak our language will bring it back" was interpreted as meaning "Daddy is being attacked from all sides by men with spears".
- In the Eighth Doctor Adventures novel Camera Obscura, everyone who sees the Doctor's attempted map of a London neighborhood wonders about the round shapes he's drawn. Fitz tries to guess what they might be ("trees", "gardens", or "duck ponds") until Anji gets annoyed and sarcastically suggests they're "gigantic pools of jam". Oddly, Fitz and Sabbath both describe them as "puffy". It's never explained what they were actually meant to be.
- In Nation, Daphne/Ermintrude sends Mau an invitation to join her for dinner. She writes it out, then, in case he can't read, draws a picture of a stick figure with an arrow pointing towards the boat. Mau interprets it as meaning that, when the sun is at a certain angle in the sky, he's supposed to throw a spear at the boat.
Live Action TV
- A For Better or for Worse comic has a young Elizabeth showing her father a painting after a day of preschool. Her dad starts to comment on what a nice face it is, until Elizabeth interrupts to tell him that it's just a pizza.
- Played with in Stargate SG-1. Daniel and Sam are presented with a thermal image of the symbiote inside of Teal'c, and they play dumb:
Daniel: Oh, that's very good! Did you draw that yourself?
Sam: What is it?
Daniel: That... That's a duck, isn't it?
- From Criminal Minds. Morgan looks at a picture drawn by an autistic kid and can't figure out what it is. Hotch makes a glance, says "It's obviously a dog" and keeps on with what he's doing, leaving Morgan absolutely befuddled.
- The game show Win Lose Or Draw revolves around avoiding having your teammates misinterpret your drawings.
- Pictionary is played in Community episode Basic Genealogy and the game devolves into a fist fight when an attempt to draw a windmill looks more like a swastika.
- In one episode of Neds Declassified School Survival Guide, Ned tries to paint abstract art and the entire school thinks it's a naked lady. At the end of the episode, he tries again and people see it as a fire truck.
- In one episode of Engine Sentai Go-onger, the heroes are stumped, trying to think of a way to defeat the Monster of the Week. When it's Gunpei's turn to offer an idea, he starts his explanation with a drawing of... something.
Sosuke: What's that?
Saki: A koinobori? note
Hant: Nope, it's a log.
Renn: I'm sure it's UMA.note [gets stared at] UMA is...
Gunpei: (exasperated) It's a PENGUIN!
The others: No way! This is a penguin?
- One episode of The Bill Engvall Show has Paul with a sculpture of himself, only for it to be mistaken for one of Don Cheadle.
- The Friends good-naturedly mock Monica for the horrifying "Pictionary Incident," wherein she threw a plate in a moment of frustration at one of her buddies' poor drawing. She insists she was just gesticulating forcefully and the plate slipped out of her hand.
- The Chapel Chronicles, in a reversal of the usual trope, Chapel draws an photo-realistic Mona Lisa, but her opponent Fred can't identify it.
- In Homestuck, Jade Harley owns a Pictionary Modus. It misidentifies an advanced bass for a mecha, the Tangle Buddies for a pair of gloves with some coins and the Magic Cue Ball for the Magic 8 Ball.
- A skit from The Whitest Kids U Know has a child showing a picture he drew to his parents. While it appears to be something rather inappropriate (read: penis), he explains to his parents after they fail to recognize that it is actually an elephant. Subverted moments later, when the child shows them a drawing that looks exactly what it meant to be.
- Family Guy
Peter: Stewie, uh, how long you been all messed up and evil like this?
Stewie: Oh, so now you're interested in Stewie. Last week when I made that macaroni picture of an owl, you didn't give a damn!
Peter: That was an owl?
- Another episode features a flashback gag where Stewie is actually playing pictionary with a complete stranger. The stranger keeps asking "Is it a jackal? Jackal! It's a jackal!" no matter how many non-jackal details Stewie adds.
Stewie: If it wasn't right the first time, why the hell would it be right the next ten times?!
- In Avatar: The Last Airbender , this happens to Sokka several times.
- The Simpsons
- In "A Milhouse Divided," the Simpsons host a dinner party with a game of Pictionary. Maude Flanders guesses "cornstarch" from three dots drawn by Ned, while Kirk Van Houten is unable to draw "dignity," though Luanne is. Homer thinks that Kirk is also unable to draw "a door".
- In "You Kent Always Say What You Want", Maggie and Marge play some amazing rounds of Pictionary against Selma and Patty, but despite Maggie's drawings being incomprehensible, Marge always knows what they are.
- The Penguins of Madagascar: Julien and Marlene are missing and Kowalski shows a picture he drew of them to Fred the squirrel.
Fred: Which one's the otter?
Kowalski: This one, obviously. Note the whiskers?
Fred: Oh, I thought that was a cat.
Kowalski: Did I ask "have you seen this lemur and cat?"
Fred: No, that's why I thought it was odd that you drew a cat.
Kowalski: It's not a cat.
Fred: Then why does it have whiskers?
Kowalski: You know what? Forget the otter.
- Happened in The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy in a episode in which Dracula's pictionary drawing of Abraham Lincoln is mistaken for successively more absurd things.
- A variation in the Phineas and Ferb episode "Put That Putter Away": Candace apparently has such poor handwriting that when she writes the word "busted" on a piece of paper, both Stacy and Phineas mistake it for a drawing of dancing weasels.
- Parodied in the Rocko's Modern Life episode "Cabin Fever". Bev Bighead invites Ed to try hand shadow puppetry with Rocko and Heffer, and despite Ed being able to create the unmistakable shapes of "The Thinker", the Eiffel Tower, and a prancing deer, none of the other three can get anywhere close to the right answers. This raises Ed's temper to the point that he causes the Hair-Trigger Avalanche driving the remainder of the episode's plot.
- In Animaniacs, the Warners play Pictionary with Pablo Picasso. The Warners are unable to decipher his realistic drawings, while their weird-looking doodles leave him flummoxed. When an art dealer arrives and sees the Warner's drawings, he mistakes them for Picasso's and praises his new "Cubist" style.
- O'Farrell's attempt at assembling a sketch of the serial shredder in Fillmore!:
Tehama: Okay. What the heck is that?
Fillmore: Uh, no offence, Danny, but that kinda looks like Tiger Woods on a very bad morning.
Ingrid: (squinting) Oh yeah, and that's his elbow...at least, I hope that's his elbow...