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Art Initiates Life

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A common power for many one-shot villains and examples of Monster of the Week, Art Initiates Life is where a character can quite literally change their artworks into real versions of whatever they depict. Usually using some rare MacGuffin or Advanced Phlebotinum, this most often happens with a character bringing their paintings or drawings from canvas to reality, possibly using some form of a magic crayon, but can also cover various other forms of art, such as sculptors bringing various statues to life.

This is also not always a wanted side effect of these drawings, as in some series there have been instances where a character with this ability was not aware that there was actually an effect. A villainous character whose method is this may well be a Mad Artist or in games, a Mook Maker for a level or area.


Naturally results in a Living Drawing. Compare with Rewriting Reality, the written version of this trope. Can result in Pygmalion Plot. See also Portal Picture, Art Attacker.


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  • The first bumper for The WB featured Chuck Jones creating a sketch of Michigan J. Frog, who then hopped off the easel and flipped the switch to officially launch the network.

    Anime and Manga 
  • Nagu from Arata: The Legend has a hayagami that brings anything drawn with it to life. Including his dead little sister.
  • In As the Gods Will, Mei's knack for drawing ends up becoming her greatest strength in the Demon Extermination portion of the Kamiculum, as her Tomfoolery can bring to life anything she draws of something/someone she likes.
  • In Descendants of Darkness, the genki scientist Watari can do this. The only problem? He draws with the talent of a 5-year-old...
  • Guilmon of Digimon Tamers was brought to life when his tamer's fanart of him got scanned through a digivice.
  • This is a major plot point in D.N.Angel: A man named Hikari sold his soul to the devil to gain the ability to give life to his artwork. The power drove him insane, but gave birth to the cursed objects Dark steals in the series,as well as Dark himself. Satoshi is the descendant of the original Hikari, and has these powers as well.
  • The Elder Sister-like One: In one of the later chapters while Yuu is doing his summer schoolwork, Chiyo passes the time practicing writing and drawing. Her drawings end up coming to life and running/crawling/slithering away, prompting Chiyo to try to catch them before Yuu notices. However, since Chiyo is Shub-Niggurath, her creations are a bit more Eldritch Abomination than most of the entries here.
  • Reedus from Fairy Tail can use "picto magic" to bring anything he draws (usually on his body, which has quite a lot of surface) into reality. So can the members of a dark guild "Red Hood", even using multiple images at once for greater effect, but they use notebooks to sketch on, and pencils instead of paint.
  • In Flint the Time Detective, there was a bird shifter named Artie. Said shifter could bring drawings to life by tapping them with his beak.
  • In Hozuki's Coolheadedness, Hakutaku have the power to bring his drawings to life, but since he is a Terrible Artist the only thing he can draw is a really weird-looking cat.
  • An early episode of Inuyasha had an artist who used magical sumi ink, made with human livers and powered by a jewel shard, to create paintings of demons that came to life.
  • In Magic Knight Rayearth, Aska's magic revolves around bringing her drawings to life.
  • In Magical Idol Pastel Yumi, Yumi is given a magic wand and locket as a reward for rescuing a flower. If she draws something in mid-air with her wand and recites the phrase, "Pastel Poppuru Poppin-pa!", whatever she drew will become real.
  • In the Magical Girl show Magical Stage Fancy Lala, Lala has a magical pen and sketchbook that she mostly uses to create new clothes for her disguises. In one episode, her experimenting with it creates a very small cat. It ends up being a Tear Jerker.
  • Haruna in Mahou Sensei Negima! has this in the form of a special notepad, pen, and inkwell. Her creations start out looking incredibly over-the-top and goofy, but later along the line start looking like something you'd see in Final Fantasy.
  • The first episode of Mushishi involves drawings coming to life.
  • Sai from Naruto specializes in this. Most of his combat techniques involve drawing fantastical creatures with ink on his artbook and bringing them to life to do his bidding. He hands down this very same skillset to his son, Inojin.
  • The Devil Fruit of the One Piece character Kanjuro grants him the ability to bring into reality anything he draws. The humorous twist is that he's also a dreadful artist and as a result can't fully utilize his ability. Until it was reveled that he faked his lack of talent and is in fact capable of drawing a perfect copy of himself that pretty much fooled everyone.
  • A Chinese artist in Ranma ½, whose clan is famous for paintings that can trap spirits on the canvas... until some jerk comes by and releases them. And this particular artist is terrible at his work.
  • Ikkyu, the leader of the I-Jin in Read or Die, has this ability.
  • One of the Daimons in Sailor Moon, Chokokka, had this ability and created two statues out of sand to fight Sailor Uranus and Sailor Neptune.
  • There's a very cruel inversion in Saint Seiya: The Lost Canvas-everything the Big Bad Alone paints dies, as he found out when he painted his orphanage. Currently in the series, he's painting the entire world-he's almost done with it, too!
  • Mutsumi from Sgt. Frog has a "Reality Pen", given to him by his buddy Kululu, that lets him bring drawings to life.
  • A major plot twist in Sola revolves around Yorito learning he's a paper golem copy of someone who died hundreds of years ago, created by his sister's magic.

    Asian Animation 
  • Season 8 episode 12 of Happy Heroes has Careful S. purchase a magic pen that brings anything drawn with it to life as long as the drawing is realistic enough. He tries to draw his dead friend Kalo when Huo Haha's owl takes the pen from him and gives it to Big M. to use... unfortunately, Big M. is a Terrible Artist and Little M. has to hire an art teacher to give him lessons on how to draw.
  • In Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf: Joys of Seasons episode 78, a drawing of Wolnie comes to life and chases after Wolffy.

    Comic Books 
  • The Bunty story "Framed!" revolves around the characters of a rejected comic book story coming to life to get revenge on the creator's daughter (she was the reason the story was rejected).
  • Played with in the Chalky strip from Buster - his drawings don't come to life, but they do appear indistinguishable from reality to anyone who sees them.
  • Creepy:
    • In "Gargoyle" in Creepy #6 an alchemist believes that a local sculptor can turn stone into gold. The gold is actually an ingredient in the formula the sculptor uses to bring the title gargoyles to life.
    • In "The Sands That Change" in Creepy #16 anything drawn in the Mojave Desert which wasn't already there appears out of thin air. When the main character tries crumpling a sketch to get rid of a monster he drew it ends up looking like something by Picasso.
  • Several times in the Douwe Dabbert comics. There are living books, whose contents will spill out of them if you're not careful (And if the book happened to be about monsters - good luck!), paintings that come to life and a huge dragon that escapes the kimono it was painted on.
  • A one-off villain in a Fantastic Four spin-off story centered on the Human Torch was a painter who could bring whatever he painted into existence.
  • The first book of Górsky & Butch starts with a SWAT team trying to arrest the authors (after it turned out the comic makes no sense). They succeed but get re-drawn into anthropomorphic black ducks in the process. Except for Maciek, who is turned into a girl.
  • Green Lantern:
    • The Tattooed Man, originally a Green Lantern villain, can (you guessed it) make his tattoos come to life. There have been three so far, but the third one, Mark Richards, is the only one whose tattoos developed minds of their own.
    • Feena Sik of the Sinestro Corps brought her paintings to life in a magic ritual involving her husband's death, but her works all took on the nature of the deed and butchered their viewers. Law enforcement agents blacklisted all of her published work out of fear that any reprints would spontaneously come to life and kill again.
  • "The Double Life of Sad Sarah" in Mandy revolved around the heroine of a fictional comic story coming to life, and being far less pleasant in real life.
  • In Monsters Unleashed, the protagonist, Kei Kawade, has the power to summon monsters by drawing them in his notebook. When that fails, he created six original monsters, Fireclaw, Slizzik, Hi-Vo, Aegis, Mekara, and Scragg, to do battle against the Leviathon Queen. Later stories in the same series bring this into doubt, as they remember times before being summoned by Kei.
  • "Molded in Evil" in Plop! #5 features a sculptor who, using a "magic liquid" can bring his clay models to life.
  • Daerick Gross' Reiki Force comic books involved a series of statues made from magical clay, which in turn fell to earth in a meteor. (Why the stuff stayed pliable is never adequately explained.) A master sculptor used it to fabricate bones, musculature, neural networks, etc. into the forms of various mythological creatures. His evil wizard patron then let the statue suck the artist dry of life-force, which animated the statue. The villain "Citation", in the form of a surprisingly agile centaur, is an example.
  • The Golden Age Superman villain Funny Face had a machine that could bring Newspaper Comics characters to life. Decades later, he reappeared in an issue of All-Star Squadron, and after his defeat, the heroes marvel that he was stupid enough to use his miraculous invention for something as petty as pulling robberies.
  • In the Suske en Wiske stories "De Dulle Griet", "Het Rijmende Paard" and "De Raap van Rubens" (The Warrior Waif, The Rhyming Horse and The Apprentice of Rubens), characters from paintings are brought to life.
  • An early issue of the Mirage Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comic featured comic book artist Kirby King, who found a crystal that would allow everything he drew come to life before disappearing to an alternate world. The story was later adapted to a picture book and the second cartoon. Much later on it is revealed that the crystal had been previously used by April's father and that she was, in fact, one of the things he'd created with it.
  • "Polly's Magic Paintbox" from the British comic Twinkle was pretty much Exactly What It Says on the Tin - whatever Polly painted with the paints came to life.
  • In Usagi Yojimbo, Usagi's run-in with an artist with an evil paint set that could bring its paintings to life was used for Shout Outs to various Kaiju, such as Mothra, Daimajin, and Godzilla.

    Comic Strips 
  • Calvin and Hobbes had to fight Calvin's Deranged Mutant Killer Monster Snow Goons.
  • In this Garfield strip, Garfield uses a pencil to draw a cupboard door, which he then opens to retrieve a pie.

    Eastern Animation 
  • This is the entire premise of the Polish series Zaczarowany Ołówek (The Enchanted Pencil) — the protagonist is a boy who solves problems by drawing various objects with, well, an enchanted pencil.

    Fairy Tales 
  • The Boy Who Drew Cats is about a boy who... well... draws cats all over the walls of an abandoned temple which, unbeknownst to him, is home to a monster. When the monster tries to attack him, the cat drawings come to life and defeat it.
  • In Pintosmalto, the heroine brings a statue of a man to life by praying to the goddess of love.

    Fan Works 
  • In The Two Sides of Daring Do, the Chisel of Pygmalion, an artifact that AK Yearling/Daring Do found, has this ability. However, the catch is that in order for it to work the creator must be present and there must be a genuine desire for the work to come to life, thus Ahuizotl's attempt to use it on a statue failed. Since Yearling is present with the Chisel at a book signing, her fan's collective desire for Daring Do to exist sets off the plot by activating it and creating a Daring Do clone based off Yearling's exaggerated accounts depicted in her books.
  • In the alternative universe of the TV series Gravity Falls called Transcendence AU, Acacia Pines (daughter of Mabel Pines and OC Henry Pines, neé Corduroy) zigzags this, since she can only make living art out of sculptures — and she's rubbish at making them.
  • In the Cuphead fanfic Cuphead: Meddling with Magic, Original Character Cassie receives a magical pencil which brings anything she draws to life. After gypping the Devil out of a deal, she is forced to go on the run and use her newfound powers to help Cuphead and Mugman save their souls.

    Film — Animated 
  • In Allegro non Troppo some of the Artist's characters come to life and attack the Director and the Conductor.
  • Barbie as Rapunzel Rapunzel's magic paintbrush helps her.
  • The protagonist of the 1986 Cult Classic The Elm-Chanted Forest is a painter who awakens with these sorts of powers, along with the ability to communicate with the local wildlife.
  • Rise of the Guardians: Jack demonstrates the ability to bring doodles in frosted windows to life. The results look like ghostly, but otherwise realistic, animals made of ice.
  • Brendan in The Secret of Kells defeats Crom Cruach with a purple crayon piece of chalk with which to redraw the animation.
  • In Wreck-It Ralph, all the characters in the film are characters in arcade video games.

    Film — Live Action 
  • Cool World tells the story of a cartoonist who finds himself in the animated world he thinks he created.
  • The painting of Vigo the Carpathian in Ghostbusters II.
  • In Heavenly Creatures, the clay figurines created by the two girls become the people of the Fourth World.
  • The snowman in the Michael Keaton film Jack Frost (1998), based on the Frosty myth below, in which the snowman (made by the son) is possessed by the spirit of the main character.
  • In Disney's Mary Poppins, the title character makes Bert's sidewalk drawing something she and the kids can visit.
  • In Matinee, a woolly mammoth drawn on the side of a building comes to life.
  • Night at the Museum: Everything in the museum comes to life at night, including mannequins, statues, and paintings.
  • The Peanut Butter Solution includes magical paintbrushes that bring whatever the user is thinking about to life. Unfortunately, they're made from the hair of a child!
  • Woody Allen's The Purple Rose of Cairo.
  • This is how Floop's Fooglies are made in Spy Kids.
  • Vault of Horror: In "Drawn and Quartered", Hollywood Voodoo gives Moore the ability to affect reality with his art. By creating a painting of an object, anything done to that painting occurs to the real object. For example, when he rips up a painting of a jug, the jug shatters. Moore uses this power to take revenge on the three men who wronged him.
  • Used extensively in the interpretation of Heaven in What Dreams May Come.

  • David McPhail's picture book Andrew Draws is about a young boy who first learns to draw and then finds a magic crayon. He uses it to help solve world problems like hunger, and then when it wears down to just a nub, he draws a puppy for himself.
  • Book of Imaginary Beings: A painter named Chang Seng-yu once made a wall painting depicting four dragons, but left out the eyes. When people complained about this, the annoyed Chang completed two of the figures, which turned into real dragons with a thunderclap and ascended to Heaven while the two eyeless ones remained paintings.
  • The last book of The Dark Tower series had Patrick, who could create or destroy anything by sketching it. Roland convinces him to use this power to defeat the Crimson King. Oddly enough, Roland doesn't think to use it to restore the lost fingers of his right hand.
  • Charles de Lint has a character in one of his books, Isabel, whose paintings come to life on their own.
  • Dragon: In "A Brush with Life", a short story by Tim Emswiler, a young D&D player paints two miniature figures so realistically that they come to life when he adds reflections to their eyes. He finds this to be a pain, and when one of them kills the other, he squashes the survivor with a book.
  • Dying Earth: One character encounters an old man who never ceases playing a flute, and a young woman who claims to be his daughter, whose movements and moods always correspond to the music he plays. It's never stated outright, but it's strongly implied that she is the music of the flute, manifested in physical form, and he doesn't stop playing because she would die if he did.
  • In Salman Rushdie's The Enchantress of Florence, emperor Akhbar the Great imagines an ideal queen and orders painter Daswant to portrait her, hence making her real. In the same book, the musician Tansen sees his body covered in flames when he sings the Fire Song. But Rushdie inverts the trope when he makes Daswant disappear from the real world by portraiting himself in a picture.
  • The second Franny K. Stein book, Attack of the 50-Ft. Cupid, had Franny invent a machine called the Manifester, which could bring pictures to life. A mishap results in her dog Igor accidentally zapping a Valentine depicting Cupid with both the Manifester and a growth ray Franny built called the Biggerizer, resulting in a gigantic winged Cherub rampaging through the city shooting arrows everywhere.
  • In Aaron Allston's Galatea in 2-D, the central power of both the hero and the villain.
  • In The Golden Key, a clan of artists secretly practices this kind of magic. The story deals with what happens when one of them diverges wildly from the bounds of acceptable behavior.
  • Harold and the Purple Crayon is probably the original "paint your own world" type.
  • This is the main plot of the short story How Wang-Fo was saved (published in the book Oriental Tales) by French author Marguerite Yourcenar. Wang-Fo is so talented that almost any creature he paints comes to life. Unfortunately, this is what allows the servants of the Chinese emperor (who wants him to be executed for a very personal reason) to identify him.
  • The Inkworld Trilogy has an interesting version of this trope. Very rarely, someone is born who is able to read anything, animal or human, out of books and into the real world, or vice versa. Much of the books' plots come from the machinations of fictional characters brought into reality, who either scheme to take advantage of their new position or to return to their stories.
  • In I Shall Wear Midnight, the Cunning Man tries to attack Tiffany by emerging from an illustration of himself in an ancient copy of The Bonfire Of The Witches. A variant, in that it's known that he wrote the book, but unclear if he also drew the illustrations.
  • In The Kane Chronicles, Shelby, one of the youngest magicians, is briefly mentioned as having this power in The Serpent's Shadow.
  • In The Last Days Of New Paris, the bizarre event known as the S-Blast has brought art to life in Paris. Now surrealists are helping the resistance against the Nazis by creating art to help them fight.
  • Magic: The Gathering: Ixidor created his own paradise with paint from his own blood, as well as building an angel from his arm.
  • Malazan Book of the Fallen: A variant occurs in Toll the Hounds. Mad Artist Kadaspala has spent the millennium or so he's been imprisoned in a pocket dimension tattooing an intricate pattern on those who are too weak or too damaged to haul the giant wagon they are chained to and thus are adding to said wagon's weight. By doing this, Kadaspala intends to create a god for the entire purpose of taking revenge on Anomander Rake for allegedly being involved in his sister's death. He actually succeeds in bringing the Child God to life. However, it does not live long enough to do much damage.
  • The premise of Marianne Dreams by Catherine Storr, complete with horror when Marianne decides she doesn't quite like her drawing.
  • The title character of Minerva Wakes by Holly Lisle discovers she'd acquired this ability, while her husband Darryl had gained Rewriting Reality. Learning to use their powers together was about all that saved them, because the powers had been intended for somebody else, and now could only be passed to their "rightful" users by the death of Minerva and Darryl.
  • The children's book Mouse's Magic Paints revolves around the titular Mouse receiving a magic paintbox for his birthday, which brings the things he paints to life. It turns out to be All Just a Dream.
  • In The New Humans, Mabel's "tridimensional enhancement" allows her to do this, even if she isn't the one who drew the object. It doesn't work with photographs, however.
  • The Oval Portrait, a short story by Edgar Allan Poe, inverts this: the narrator, an artist, is absolutely focused on creating the most perfect and beautiful portrait of his beloved. He pours so much time, attention, and skill into it that he neglects to notice his beloved is wasting away sitting for the portrait. By the time he finishes, it does indeed look so perfect, so enchanting, that it seems to have captured life — which is actually true, for his beloved collapses to the floor, dead, all her strength and life having been drained from her to now live on in the portrait forever.
  • In The Picture of Dorian Gray, the titular character has a portrait painted of him, and he realizes that he would age, and the painting wouldn't. So he makes a Deal with the Devil, making the painting age rather than him.
  • In Lloyd Alexander's The Remarkable Journey of Prince Jen, a tiger leaps in and out of a watercolor painting.
  • In Renegades, Adrian/Sketch has the ability to take his drawings off the page as working items, as long as he can imagine how they would work. He can't create life with it, but he can create complex electronics and creatures that act as though they were alive.
  • In Stephen King's Rose Madder the heroine finds a strange and compelling painting that leads into a pagan world that is both beautiful and terrifying. This comes in handy — though, as in all King, not without a price — when the heroine's abusive cop husband hunts her down.
  • In Ruler of the Magical Keys, there are several examples.
    • The wizard Alyosha can bring pictures to life with the help of his magical chalk.
    • A picture of a ship becomes real by itself in the second book and turns out to be The Flying Dutchman.
  • Susan Green's Self Portrait With Wings is based on this. Using some "special" pencils, a young figure skater draws a whimsical sketch of herself with huge gossamer wings. The next morning, the picture is wingless and she's got the wings. They're invisible to everyone else, but an awful inconvenience to her except when she's skating.
  • The Silmarillion: Much like how God speaks creation into being in Genesis, Eru Ilúvatar is said to have created the universe by singing and harmonizing with his Valar. The dark side of this form of creation is that when some of the Valar deliberately disharmonize, it introduces evil into the symphony of creation.
  • In Terra Ignota, Bridger's powers include this, coupled with a large dose of all around reality warping. Not only can he bring toys to sentience or sapience, but with some exceptions for physics, he can make real anything he draws. This even includes creating a panacea by drawing a tube of medicine and designating it as such (and hypothetically being able to wipe out all life by doing the opposite).
  • The Thieves' World universe had a painter who was granted the ability to create life with his drawings, although he didn't realize that this ability was real, for some time. He also got the ability, much earlier on, to paint an image of the soul of the person sitting for him. This made life more awkward than it sounds since the majority of the wealthy patrons who wanted him to paint them did * not* like him painting the real them (especially since it rarely matched the outside).
  • In Roald Dahl's The Witches, the grandmother tells a story about a girl she knew as a child who was targeted by witches and trapped in a painting of a farmhouse. Her image was never seen moving, but appeared in different locations and positions in the painting, and aged at a normal human rate. Finally, she grew old and apparently died (her image disappeared), still trapped in the painting.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Used in two episodes of Amazing Stories:
    • One involved magic paint that will bring a picture of anything to life. Naturally, the kid uses it to try and bring a pinup girl to life. Unfortunately, he spills it all over his monster magazines instead.
    • In another episode, titled "The Mission," an aspiring cartoonist is trapped inside the ball-turret on the bottom of a B-17 bomber, and the plane's landing gear won't extend. Low on fuel, they're coming in for a gear-up landing, knowing that it will crush the cartoonist to death. In desperation, the cartoonist draws a picture of the B-17 and gives it a giant pair of wheels, whereupon giant cartoon wheels miraculously appear beneath the aircraft and save him from certain doom. (This episode was based on a real-life incident in World War 2, where a B-17 ball turret gunner was trapped and the landing gear didn't extend. It didn't end as well for him as it did in the show.)
  • In the almost legendary Czech TV series Arabela, all the well-known stories created by humans come to life in a sort of parallel world, where genres are represented by kingdoms.
  • Inverted in the Are You Afraid of the Dark? Season 6 episode "The Tale of Oblivion". A boy has some charcoal and an eraser, nothing happens when he draws something, but when he erases it, it goes to a pocket dimension called "Oblivion". It even works if he just writes the name of something and then erases it. For example, to prove it to his sister Shelly, he writes "Shelly's Underpants", then erases those words. The boy travels to Oblivion to retrieve something important, and finds out his magic writing tools were once used as weapons against those who sought to abuse their power.
  • This forms the basis of Beetleborgs, magic bringing comic book characters to life. Eventually, the artist of the comic books begins designing weapons for the heroes, while his brother, an insane artist, draws new monsters for the villains (ending the Beetleborgs' practice of going to the comics to see how the monster was defeated.)
  • The Charmed episode "Witches in Tights" featured a teenage boy with this power.
    • Although this case was explained as a product of the boy's power of projection; later users demonstrate that the drawings weren't strictly necessary.
  • Doctor Who features an inversion in the episode "Fear Her": A character who drew various people and caused them to disappear. Reversing the process caused the trope to be played straight with a demonic picture of her father.
    • And remember: An image of a Weeping Angel becomes an Angel.
  • Eerie, Indiana had the episode "Who's Who," where guest character Sara Bob had this power due to an Eerie brand pencil. She first demonstrates this by drawing a picture of main character Marshall's missing bike (for a "lost" poster), but it instead creates a new bike. To escape her terrible home life, she first draws Marshall's mother as her own long lost mom, then a picture of herself with her mother, teleporting to her.
  • One episode of Friday the 13th: The Series focuses on tattoos which come to life and kill whomever they are drawn upon.
  • In one episode of Get Smart, a villain uses a magical paint called "dorian grey" (ha ha) which can be used to retouch portraits of real people and cause them to age. He gets his comeuppance when Max and 99 get a vial of the paint and start retouching a portrait of the villain.
    • Another episode involved a potion that, when injected into them, allowed wax figures to come to life.
  • Haven:
    • In "Sketchy", a girl's first drawing of any subject holds power over that subject - bring on the man crumpled like a ball of paper and the boy whose face was erased.
    • In "Double Jeopardy", a painting of Lady Justice is brought to life.
  • In an episode of Misfits, Simon attempts his first present-day rescue by trying to save a guy from a bully. The next day at Community Service, the boy recognized Simon by Simon's injury. He wants to befriend him but Simon declines. Little does Simon know that the boy has the power to make his drawings come to life. He draws Simon and him becoming friends. Of course, he takes it too far and messes up Simon's life. Buuuut, let's just say it gets fixed.
  • Power Rangers has this trope come up multiple times:
  • Emulated for illustrative purposes in Prehistoric Monsters Revealed, in which hand-drawn and painted images of ancient animals appear to animate and emerge from the paper as CGI representations.
  • The Sarah Jane Adventures both inverts this and plays it straight as well: the Mona Lisa, whose paint was made from materials from a space rock, can both bring painted objects (including herself, naturally) into the real world and trap people in paintings.
  • Tales from the Crypt had an episode about a comic book cover artist who was taking weird fertility drugs because his harpy of a wife wanted kids. His covers started being re-enacted in real life — and since the comic book he was drawing for was Tales from the Crypt, mayhem ensued.
  • An episode of Ultraman featured a child's drawing of a kaiju coming to life, thanks to a strange type of cosmic radiation affecting Earth. Fortunately, Gabadon was a Gentle Giant who only wanted to sleep, but his presence unnerved Tokyo badly enough that Science Patrol still needed to dispose of the monster.
  • One of the later episodes of The Worst Witch reveals that protagonist Mildred Hubble has the ability to turn her drawings to life. This previously unknown talent earns her a place in the prestigious Weirdsister College. Even Ms. Hardbroom is impressed.
  • In the The X-Files miniseries episode "Home Again", the Trash Man's creations are able to manifest as living things.

  • Mister Jewel Box by Fake Type is a based-on-reality story about an artist's character earning them fame and fortune, only to surpass their creator in popularity and literally take control over them.
  • Frosty the Snowman, from the song of the same name.

    Religion and Mythology 
  • Pygmalion in Classical Mythology created a statue of a beautiful woman and promptly fell in love with it. He prayed to the goddess Aphrodite, and the statue became an actual human woman.
  • There's the Chinese folktale of a famous artist who drew dragons without dotting in their pupils; one day a prankster bumped into him, causing him to spill ink onto the scroll...cue one dragon rising out of the painting and into the sky.
    • A variation of that tale, or possibly a similar one, involves the Emperor asking him why he never completes his paintings (by putting in the pupils). When the painter explains that he doesn't want them to come to life, the Emperor tells him to finish them anyway. Cue the dragons.
  • Many religions have this as part of their creation story. God (or a god) sculpts humans and imbues it with "the breath of life," from clay, dust, or cloth. In Jewish tradition, this led to the legend of the Golem, where a mystic does the same thing using a word of power, but with only enough intelligence to follow orders. In Aztec Mythology, an early experiment with corn sheaves resulted in monkeys instead of people. Usually, the material used for... let's call them "undesirables" is dung.
  • In another Chinese folktale a virtuous young boy is rewarded with a magic paintbrush which can create anything and uses it for the good of his community. After the evil emperor forces the kid to paint a ship, he waits until the emperor is out at sea and then paints a storm.
  • Quite a few religions state that the creation was based on a creator using a word or speech to create. Examples:
    • The Memphite Egyptian creation story says Ptah, the craftsman, made the world by envisioning it through the word and his mind. By naming what was in his imagination, he created the world.
    • Genesis tells two similar versions of the creation, with God speaking as He shapes the cosmos. This is later echoed in John 1:1. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. - NIV In the second chapter of Genesis, God sculpts Adam out of dust and Eve from Adam's rib (or side, the Hebrew word could mean either).
    • The Mayans of Guatemala had the Winged Serpent and the Maker speak their words and thoughts and discuss what should be created.

    Tabletop RPG 
  • Dungeons & Dragons. Nolzur's Marvelous Pigments could be used to create any normal object by painting a picture of it. And no, it can only make COUNTERFEIT coins.
  • Mutants & Masterminds allows this as one of the variants of its Animate Objects power.
    • Within the META-4 universe (the default universe of 1E), Burner of the Tag Team (empowered graffiti artists) possesses this power, being able to animate his graffiti.

    Theme Parks 
  • This occurs in the pre-show of the former Universal Studios attraction, The Funtastic World of Hanna-Barbera. When Joseph Barbera draws Elroy Jetson on a piece of paper, he comes to life and interacts with him and Bill Hannah. The same thing happens when Dick Dastardly comes to life after being animated by a computer.
  • On a more meta note, botanists studied the soil and plants of Disneyland's Jungle Cruise ride in 2010 and declared that 55 years of careful maintenance of the flora had actually resulted in a real jungle ecosystem! Complete with the sorts of microbes typically found in wild jungles!

    Video Games 
  • The GameCube game Amazing Island was a romp of mini-games where you made your own monsters to play them. By drawing them, and then sticking funny antenna and googly eyes on them. (Which somehow made them smarter...)
  • This is the ability of Eko from Arcana Heart 3 as she drew her big brother figure, Kazu.
  • Every problem and fight-able enemy in Bendy and the Ink Machine comes from the Ink Machine that was used to bring Joey Drew Studios' cartoon creations, such as Bendy, to life. However, the art rarely comes to life looking how it's supposed to, and deformed monstrous versions are created instead.
  • One of the last bosses of Castle Crashers is a crazy painter with a treasure-chest for a head... and bunny-ears... whose painting-style was equal parts dadaistic and explosive.
  • In Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin, not only is a major part of the game exploring worlds inside paintings, but the Big Bad, Brauner, uses paintings to attack you. One of his attacks is becoming a painting and flying around the room to dive-bomb you. And you interrupt him in the middle of his plan to create a "piece" capable of destroying the world.
  • Much of the back story in Charleston: The Witches' Legacy is provided by a child's torn-up drawings, which become animated as soon as you find all the pieces of one.
  • A variation occurs in Comix Zone. A comic artist's villain comes to life as a living drawing and traps the artist in comic book. Several times during the game, you'll see his hand come onto the screen and draw an enemy onto the panel to fight. If you lose, the villain is replaced with a flesh-and-blood version and goes off to Take Over the World. If you win, you escape from the comic. If you earn the best ending, you can bring your fictional love interest with you.
  • Dark Chronicle had the artist Pan who, after getting gold paint, was able to bring to life one of his paintings to be his wife.
  • Drawn: The Painted Tower and its sequels have this as their premise.
  • This is the whole point of Drawn to Life: the player draws the playable character and a ton of various objects in the game, like the weapons.
  • A quest in The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion involved an artifact called the Brush of True Paint that made the things drawn in the canvas come to life. It helped an artist's incredible realism in his works, but it also led to him being trapped in one of his paintings along with a small horde of "paint trolls".
  • This is basis of the Paint and Thinner of Epic Mickey, and is also how the titular mouse accidentally created the Big Bad Eldritch Abomination. Nice Job Breaking It, Hero! indeed.
  • Variation: Relm from Final Fantasy VI has an ability called "Sketch", which copies a target and randomly uses one of its attacks.
    • At one point, you enter into an art collector's home, and get attacked by monsters hiding inside several paintings, including one ironically named "Still Life." (Also aptly named, what with its main attacks being poison attacks and death spells) Later, you discover that the monsters are due to a demon possessing the art collector's painting of an Esper, as the demon has fallen in love with "the girl in the picture."
  • In Ib, the titular character unwittingly enters a parallel world while visiting a gallery of paintings by a Mad Artist where said paintings come to life. To kill her.
  • Illusion of Gaia features an odd - and creepy - inversion of this with the painter Ishtar. If he makes a portrait of someone, the person becomes trapped in the painting. It happens to Kara, but Will manages to bring her back with some magic dust and a True Love's Kiss. At the end of the sequence, Ishtar paints his own portrait.
  • One of the spells Alexander can cast in King's Quest VI is a Magic Paint spell which brings to life/reality anything you paint. He ends up using it to paint a door to sneak into a castle to rescue his Love Interest imprisoned within.
  • Ado, Adeleine, and Paint Roller from the Kirby games attack by drawing monsters and bringing them to life. After being freed of her Demonic Possession, Adeleine joins your team, and uses her ability to help Kirby by painting powerups that become real... and at one point, saving the group from starvation and/or being eaten by Big Eater Extreme Omnivore Kirby while they're lost in the desert.
  • Vincent Van Gore from Luigi's Mansion was a ghost artist that created the minor ghosts that were found in the mansion, and attacked by bringing 21 more of them to life from the paintings in his studio.
  • Magic Pengel and its sequel, Graffiti Kingdom, revolved around the player drawing monsters to win fights and save the land. A third game, Ragugaki Kingdom, is a mobile RPG with similar monster-drawing mechanics and story to the previous entries.
  • The artist dolls in Mendel Palace are capable of scribbling on panels and using them to animate stick figures in some levels. During their Boss Battle, they make clones of themselves. You can trick them into drawing on all of the panels to render them useless, and doing so nets you an extra life and a huge score bonus.
  • In Ōkami and Ōkamiden, art is the primary gameplay mechanic. Lilly pads, bombs and the sun spring to life from the strokes of your celestial paintbrush.
  • One of the early bosses in Our Darker Purpose is "Some Harmless Markings", a living chalk drawing that attacks Cordy with clouds of chalk dust and other projectiles.
  • In Pac-Pix on the DS, the player must draw Pac Men which come to life and eat ghosts.
  • Occurs in a later level of The Simpsons Game where Matt Groening quickly pens sketches of Futurama characters Bender and Zoidberg to attack the Simpsons.
  • Rakugaki Showtime tells the story of a few doodles drawn to life for the purpose of defeating a group of evil doodles.
  • One of the informational videos in Soviet Strike implies that this is the reasoning behind the super helicopter the player flies. Specifically, the chief engineer of the project says that the reactive, adaptive armor was designed based on video games he'd played as a kid. He then specifically invokes the trope as an explanation.
  • Shadow Mario who is actually Bowser Jr. and his magic paintbrush in Super Mario Sunshine.
  • Thief: Deadly Shadows features a witch who can animate statues, creating foes who are harder to sneak past and definitely too hard to fight in this "First Person Sneaker" game.
  • Hoggus from Wario Land 4 is a ghostly pig-like creature that draws one of two different types of pig monster on a notepad at a time and sends them to attack Wario.

    Web Comics 
  • The Artist is Dead!! uses this as backstory.
  • Axe Cop once bought a giant magic pencil that actually created anything drawn with it... even though he wasn't good at drawing, so the things and creatures created ended up a bit wonky.
  • Minor character Reco Lord God of recolors in L's Empire, although he has no more control than anyone else over his creations.
  • Maliki is a self-created webcomics character. One day, she decided to draw herself and tell us her strange life.

    Web Original 
  • In the Colour My Series, clicking on things to color them can make flowers and plants bloom, light lightbulbs, make water flow, and defeat robots.
  • The Creepypasta The Art of Jacob Emory is about a man who goes on a trip and returns with magic chalk that creates living drawings.
  • Very easy to do in Fenspace, either on purpose or by accident, crossing over with "Instant A.I.: Just Add Water!"... or in this case Handwavium. This has led to some interesting civil rights questions that are only just being explored.
  • The events of Life Sketch are brought about by Koneko Tachimachi's use of a magic sketchbook which she uses to bring anime characters to life.
    • In fact, it appears that even characters who were created using the sketchbook are able to use it for their own purposes.
  • In Sanctum OCT, Santi can bring any form of art to life, regardless of whether it's a painting, a statue, a book or origami.
  • Played for Laughs in The Science of Powerups: Metal Gear Box, with a pin-up girl poster growing disgusted at an onlooker and moving out of view.
  • SCP-237, the Modern-Day Pygmalion, is a hikikomori who can create homunculi from handmade miniature figures. He may or may not be a spy...
  • In the very short tale "Vividness", the trope is inverted, since the painter dies when he draws himself on the picture.
  • We Are Our Avatars: Kris's painting was painted by Guertena. The painting is his true home, and he was born from it
  • ''This'' image.

    Western Animation 
  • Clyde Crashcup, a regular on the original The Alvin Show, was an inventor who 'invented' common things that have been around forever, using a Magic Crayon to create them.
  • Animaniacs: This is how Yakko, Wakko, and Dot came to life.
  • One episode of Atomic Puppet sees Joey and AP battle Mr. Inkwood, a retired comic book artist and eccentric genius (he used a live octopus for ink) who goes mad with power after his octopus' ink gains the ability to create life, which he uses to remake Mega City into a surreal wasteland full of nightmarish monsters.
  • In the Betty Boop cartoon Ha! Ha! Ha! when Koko the clown gets a toothache, Betty draws a dentist's office complete with a tank of laughing gas. When they get high on the gas and forget to turn off the nozzle it starts flowing out into the real world.
  • ChalkZone is about magic chalk that brings the art to life, and gives it its own dimension, the Chalk Zone.
  • Courage the Cowardly Dog: Courage, Muriel, and Eustace are visiting the Louvre during a planetary alignment, that brings bring the artworks to life. Mona Lisa leaves her painting and switches places with Muriel, while the Thinker steals Eustace's clothes and he and Mona Lisa go on a date.
  • The (barely) recurring Darkwing Duck villain Splatter Phoenix had this as her schtick. She had some kind of Applied Phlebotinum that could both bring her paintings to life and insert living people (including herself) into paintings, where they could then move from one painting to another. She also used it to steal the smile right off the Mona Lisa.
  • The Davincibles: Big Bad Quaba’s spray alive paint can bring any statue, painting, etc. to life. He frequently uses this to get new allies, though it backfires as well.
  • The entire plot of Didou is that every episode Didou/Louie's drawings come to life.
  • The early 90s Jim Henson Company show Dog City, features the Muppet cartoonist Eliot Shagg who draws the animated adventures of Ace Hart. Ace frequently breaks the fourth wall and talks to Eliot as he draws the stories.
  • Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends has a variant with Duchess, an Imaginary Friend who seems to have been designed as a Cubist painting come to life (but still flat, as seen whenever she turns around).
  • On Frankenstein Jr. and The Impossibles, one of the Impossibles' foes was the Diabolical Dauber (voiced by Paul Winchell), who used his paintbrush and canvas to create a giraffe and a laughing hyena.
  • This is Michael's power in Fisher-Price's Little People.
  • This is the plot of the celebrated Looney Tunes animations "Duck Amuck" and "Rabbit Rampage".
  • The Magic Trolls and the Troll Warriors has Smokey the artist, who can paint a picture of a door that becomes a real door.
  • McGee and Me! is about a boy's sketches of a cartoon man coming to life in order to teach him valuable life lessons.
  • Miraculous Ladybug featured one of these in the Evillustrator, who can make anything he draws come to life.
  • On Pablo, anything drawn in Pablo's animated world turn into real objects.
  • Penny Crayon was a British cartoon which had this as the entire premise. Penny Crayon can draw anything she wishes, and it becomes real. Get hit by water, and it's gone though.
  • In Potsworth & Company Carter's Dream Zone power is the ability to transform the things he paints into solid objects - while he's in the Dream Zone anyway.
  • The Powerpuff Girls did this with an episode where Bubbles got a set of colored chalk from Him and her creations (which just happen to be evil monsters after a falling out with Buttercup) come to life.
  • Simon In The Land Of Chalk Drawings has this as the premise, that anything Simon draws on his magic chalkboard come to life in the Land of Chalk Drawings, and he can interact with them there.
    • Considering how often Simon's drawings caused problems in the land of chalk drawings, you would think he would have stopped drawing things.
  • Mad Artist Zachariah Easel from Skysurfer Strike Force who can bring any art he creates to life, even crazed cartoon characters.
  • In the "Frankendoodle" episode of Spongebob Squarepants, Spongebob gets a "magic pencil." However, when he draws a "Doodlebob" with it, it comes to life and tries to erase him.
  • Cray Cray in Stan Lee's Superhero Kindergarten has the superpower to make her crayon drawings come to life, though they're not always under her control.
  • In the Sushi Pack episode, "But is it Art?", The Collector, after devising a way to bring the images in paintings to life (which he can control using a pipe organ), plans to control all the great masterpieces in the world.
  • In an adaptation of the original comic book story (see above) the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2003) episode "The King" featured April's tenant Kirby (a No Celebrities Were Harmed version of legendary comic artist Jack "King" Kirby), a comic-book artist who had gained possession of a crystal that allowed his drawings to come to life when strapped to his pencil.
  • Brushogun in Teen Titans: Trouble in Tokyo was an artist who dabbled in dark arts to breathe life into his creations. The ritual backfired, warping him into a paper-skinned monster who can create multicolored mooks from the ink in his fingertips.
  • In the Thunder Cats 2011 episode, "The Forest of Magi Oar," the Wood Forgers, a trio of Paper Masters, have this as a secondary power thanks to the use of magic paper. Gami's paper beasts animate, move and employ Breath Weapons. Zigg can paint a vessel with his brush to capture and contain evil spirits or paint miniature animations. Snips can create self-propelling pinwheels, snowflake blizzards, and people-sized cages.
  • The Victor and Valentino episode "Balloon Boys" features the boys visiting the Nazca Lines, which legend has it make anything drawn on the ground come to life. Victor and Valentino test this by making their own lines; first Victor gives himself a bigger brain, then Valentino turns Vic into a monkey, then Vic turns Val into a (literal) big crybaby. When they are stranded on the ground, Victor draws a giant dragon to scare away a pack of vicious alpacas, which backfires when the dragon then comes after them, and they have to erase the drawing to save themselves.
  • In an episode of W.I.T.C.H. the characters go into a painting which is being painted by a person in the painting. Plus, the painting is not one, by two paintings, one the hangs in an art gallery in the real world and one that hangs in the villains' castle.
  • Lady Redundant Woman from WordGirl can bring pictures to life.
  • Zeke's Pad is about the adventures of a 14-year-old skateboarder and artist named Zeke who owns a magic electronic pad that brings life to anything he draws on it.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Magic Crayon


Night at the Library

When the Wailing Star passes over the library, it causes all the books to project their contents when opened, and any changes made to the books are reflected in the projections.

How well does it match the trope?

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Example of:

Main / ArtInitiatesLife

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Main / ArtInitiatesLife