Follow TV Tropes


Living Drawing

Go To

This is a drawing, painting or wall engravement which is alive, usually due to some sort of supernatural presence or Demonic Possession. While in most cases normally attached to a wall, it will usually have the ability to move around, although this movement may be limited to two dimensions (meaning that the character is only able to move along walls or other surfaces). Due to their unsettling nature, these characters will usually be depicted as malevolent, although benevolent examples may also occur.

If appearing in settings based on Ancient Egypt, where supernatural themes are common, these characters may take the form of hieroglyphs. May also overlap with Art Initiates Life, which is when a character has the ability to create art that comes to life.

Subtrope of Anomalous Art. Compare Living Statue, Creepy Changing Painting, Spooky Painting and Living Shadow.



    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • GeGeGe no Kitarō: In the tenth episode of the sixth series, the focus is on the Seven Mysteries at Mana's school. Among them is Beethoven's portrait. The Mysteries get taken prisoner by one of them, Yousuke, who is after Hanako. The protagonists defeat him and and allow the Mysteries to return to their parts of the school.
  • Haunted Junction: Beethoven's portrait is The Seven Mysteries one of the ghosts. It cries Tears of Blood.
  • Love Tyrant: In the sixth episode, the protagonists visit a school building at night. They are harrassed by the local spirits, among which a painting of Bach, but Guri and Akane beat them into a pulp.
  • Naruto has Sai, a ninja who specializes in a ninjutsu style where he draws pictures that come to life.
  • One Piece:
    • Gecko Moriah's painting zombies are created to look like portraits and paintings, some of which look like real life paintings.
    • The Dressrosa arc introduces two more art-based devil fruit users. Giolla on the villain's side possesses the Ato Ato no Mi, literally the art art fruit, which can turn anyone or anything into various works of art rendering them powerless in the process. On the heroes' side, we have Kanjuro who has an unnamed devil fruit that allows him to bring his drawing to life... though ironically he is an atrocious artist.
  • In Puella Magi Madoka Magica, the Witch Albertine looks like a drawing of a girl. Her familiars, the Anjas, are also this, being simple scribbles in the shape of a girl fused with some vehicle. In the anime, the characters only run into a single Anja. Albertine herself makes a brief appearance in the Magia Record anime, just long enough to get utterly curb-stomped by Kaede's Doppel.

    Comic Books 
  • Douwe Dabbert: The story "De Dame in de Lijst" ("The Lady in the Frame") features several living paintings of long-dead wizards, including the titular lady. She can leave her portrait for short amounds of time, and can still use magic. At the end of the story, she makes a living portrait of Douwe since she grew fond of his company. This way, "Douwe" can stay with her while the real Douwe continues his travels.
  • Labyrinth: Coronation: One of the Labyrinth's king's most trusted servants is a mobile mosaic that serves as their spy. The mosaic depicts a large, red face that glides over stone surfaces but can also break apart into its shards to teleport. For most of the story, it stalks Skubbin, but under command of Jareth is put to use for (slightly) more reasonable tasks.
  • Tharg's Future Shocks: One story concerns a trio of Stupid Crooks robbing a museum at night, and deciding that the Hieronymous-Boschian painting contained behind steel bars must be the most valuable item. It turns out to be a ravenous monster that disguises itself as a painting to lure in victims. The bars are not to protect the painting from people, but to protect people from the painting.
  • Wonder Woman (1987): A supposedly 10th century tapestry is sent to the museum Helena Sandsmark works at. Diana touches it while it's being examined causing the figures within to rise from the tapestry and start attacking those around them as it is actually a magical forgery sent by Morgan le Fay to capture Wonder Woman.

    Fairy Tales 
  • The Boy Who Drew Cats: A young boy is obsessed with drawing cats, scribbling them wherever there's space. He's sent away from his family's farm to study for priesthood, which does nothing to quell his need to draw cats. His mentor therefore decides to send him back home, but needing time alone to cope with the rejection, the boy wanders off to another temple for shelter. He finds it deserted. All the same, he stays for the night and resumes drawing cats all over the place until sleep gets the better of him. That night, the vicious rat demon who'd chased away the temple's former population returns, triggering the cat drawings to come to life to attack the rat demon en masse. The next morning, the boy pieces together what happened from the giant rat corpse and the tidbit all his cat drawings have dried blood on their paws and mouths. He returns home a hero.
  • The Tale of the Young Samurai and the Beautiful Ghost: Shorei from the Chinese town of Kinyo lived during the Qin dynasty. One day, she was abducted and sold as a slave. Her fortune got a little better when a talented painter made her the subject of one of his works and her beauty attracted good attention, but heartbroken from the separation from her parents she died half a year later. Her spirit would be restless until her painting made its way to Japan and came in the possession of the aristocratic Toshika, an art enthusiast who immediately felt attraction for Shorei's image. He gave the painting a spot near his futon and wrote a poem in her honor. Drawn by his devotion, Shorei manages to leave the painting and meet with Toshika. Although each morning she has to return to the painting, they meet night after night to indulge in art together, until mortality pulls on her once more. Shorei promises Toshika she'll see him again soon and never emerges from the painting again. The painting itself becomes more lifeless by the day, which makes it easier for Toshika to accept the marriage his parents have arranged for him. When he finally meets his bride, he finds that she's none other than Shorei.

    Film — Animation 
  • After School Midnighters: Four living paintings of famous composers make up one set of midnighters at St. Claire Elementary. They are Johann Sebastian Bach, who won't let a chance go unused to call himself the Father of Music, Ludwig van Beethoven, who is the passionate one, Franz Schubert, The Quiet One, and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, the young Cloud Cuckoolander. The protagonist trio generally knows little of their music, amusing Mozart and deeply angering Beethoven. The challenge the group sets for the girls is to compose a work that impresses them. Miko, who has a high class upbringing, wants to take it, but the midnighters are the ones who pick the challengers and they choose Mutsuko. By coincidence, her fly escapes and rests on the piano's keys. In trying to recapture it, she smashes hard on one of the keys. This display of minimalism is heralded by the paintings and they concede defeat.
  • The Painting (Le Tableau) is set in the world inside an artist's unfinished painting and features the characters traveling through several other works of art on a quest to get their creator to finish his work.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Beauty And The Beast 1987, Beauty accidentally wishes for the paintings of entertainers to come to life, which they subsequently do. This makes her understand that when she was told she can have everything she asks for (except freedom), that honest-to-goodness meant any wish or command of hers will be answered by the castle's magic.
  • Gakkou No Kaidan: Shouta and Kaori hide from the ghosts in the music room of the Old School Building. Shouta decides this is a good moment to confess his feelings to Kaori, but as he stumbles over his words Beethoven and other musicians emerge from the paintings and start to play music. They do this to help out Shouta's romantic attempt, but at least he doesn't get that and the two children make a run for it. In Shouta's defense, Beethoven didn't look too well.
  • It (2017): One of the forms assumed by IT is that of Judith, from a painting known as The Flute Player. note  Judith is a crooked, elongated human figure whose deformed appearance terrifies the painting's owner's son, Stan Uris. IT uses Judith specifically to terrorize Stan, adding More Teeth than the Osmond Family and the ability to extend her gums beyond her lips to the 3-dimensional version.

  • One of the popular school ghosts in Japan is the portrait of Ludwig van Beethoven, a common sight in the music rooms. The usual story is that the ghostly duplicate of the composer comes out at night and plays "Für Elise" on the piano. Those who hear it four times will die. The portrait is often cast as one of The Seven Mysteries.
  • Another painted school ghost in Japan is the Mona Lisa in the art room, but she is rarely featured in fiction. Her thing is that she has More Teeth than the Osmond Family and will eat anyone she can.
  • In Korea, it's common for schools to have a portrait of Ryu Gwan-Sun on display. At age 16, she was an organizer of the March 1st Movement against the Japanese occupation. She was imprisoned, tortured, and died in 1920 at age 17, never giving up on the fight. A symbol due to her young age, her portrait'ss reoccurrence is to inspire the students to heroism like hers. The ghost story regarding it is that every March 1st, if you stand in front of her portrait and call out to her by name, the portrait will fix its gaze on you.

  • Harry Potter: Paintings and pictures often talk and even move into other paintings. According to Pottermore, the degree to which they can interact with the real world depends on the power of the wizard or witch in the picture. This is seen as a fact of life to the magical community, to the point that Ron is surprised when he sees a sports poster brought by Muggleborn Dean Thomas. One of the most notable is the fat lady who acts like a gatekeeper to the Gryffindor dormitory.
  • The Rithmatist has chalkings, chalk drawings that behave as living creatures and can move on any two-dimensional surfaces. Chalklings created by Rithmatists are tame but the wild ones can be deadly, even to humans.

    Live Action — TV 
  • Doctor Who: In "Fear Her", the Monster of the Week, an Isolus, is able to turn real people into these. Kids on the street, pets, entire crowds at a stadium, even the Doctor and the TARDIS, all turn into graphite pictures drawn on paper and all of them are still alive. Conversely, a random scribble becomes an animated three-dimensional entity.
  • McGee and Me! is about 11-year-old Nicholas Martin and his six-inch-tall cartoon character, McGee.
  • Ultraman: One episode's Monster of the Week, Gavadon, was a child's chalk drawing brought to life as a kaiju by a strange form of cosmic radiation. Fortunately, the creature was completely harmless, due to wanting to do nothing except sleep.

    Music Videos 
  • aha: In the video for "Take On Me", a woman gets sucked into a comic book and falls in love with the protagonist. When they are menaced by the villains, he gets her to escape back to the real world. Some time later, he finds a way to the real world for himself, a far more arduous process, and reunites with the woman.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Pathfinder:
    • Trompe L'oeil paintings are magically-enhanced copies of an original creature that can step off the canvas, assume solid three-dimensional forms, and even inhabit other paintings. These entities can only be permanently killed by destroying the painting that generates them.
    • Living cave paintings are animated figures drawn in ochre and charcoal on cavern walls. They're believed to have been created as protectors of sacred sites, as they're highly territorial and become extremely aggressive is regular cave paintings are damaged. They're able to "eat" small quantities of coal or pigments to vivify and restore themselves, and older ones are know to grow faded and restive otherwise — some may even become permanently still and join the ranks of intimate cave paintings.

    Video Games 
  • Baldi's Basics in Education and Learning: Chalkles is a chalk drawing of a grotesque face. If the player sees him on a chalkboard in a room, the player must leave that room quickly, or else Chalkles will float off of the chalkboard and lure Baldi towards the room and trap the player in it, all while laughing. His description on the character posters sums him up well:
    Some kid drew this face and next thing you know it's floating around, laughing and making mischief.
  • Do Re Mi Fantasy: Maybe. The Chef who serves as the boss of Candy World is drawn into the arena. He did exist prior to the battle, so it's not clear what the signifance of him being drawn in is. He does not have an art theme either, but rather a cooking and a constellation theme.
  • Drawn to Life and it's sequel prominently features the protagonist as a living drawing of your own creation.
  • Earthbound: In the Pyramid, some of the enemies encountered include Lethal Asp Hieroglyphs and Guardian Hieroglyphs, which are sentient drawings in the shape of snakes and anthropomorphic canines resembling the god Anubis, respectively.
  • Hamtaro: Ham-Ham Heartbreak: Boo Manor is a haunted house in both senses of the word: it's really haunted, but the ghosts hope you're having a great time. Two of these are a mother and son who reside in the manor as a painting but can step out as ghosts. Hamtaro and Bijou meet the mother when she is crying over her missing child. Turns out he's off to Fun Land to see the Ham Rangers and in particular leader Ham Red. When the actor refuses to perform, the mother takes on the role to fulfill her son's wish. They return to the painting afterwards with their love restored.
  • Ib has the player explore a world where the In-Universe artist Guertena's many artworks have come to life. Most of them don't seem to have human intelligence, though, acting more like silent and unknowable monsters. But it's revealed later on that Mary, a girl who the player meets in this world, is actually a painting herself, and she'll do anything to escape.
  • Kirby: Canvas Curse: It's revealed at the end that Drawcia, the witch who turns all of Dream Land to paint, is actually a painting herself, having escaped from her frame. At the end of the game, she is sucked back into her frame, sealing her away.
  • The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds: The game's main mechanic is Link's ability to turn into a painting which can move horizontally along walls, allowing him to solve puzzles and move to places which would otherwise be unreachable.
  • Doodles in Monster Rancher are monsters born from graffiti scribbled onto Monols. Being based on the main character of an arcade game Tecmo made several years before the first game, they're humanoid in appearance and usually appear as a mass of white lines with depth. Their techniques are known for being extremely surreal by the series' standards - being based on the minigames in the aforementioned game, and tend to have superb guts recovery rates but poor accuracy with their attacks, not at all helped by their subpar growth in Skill.
  • Paper Mario: Sticker Star: In the Ancient Egypt-inspired level Drybake Stadium, the Mural Koopas and Mural Goombas are living wall engravements of the normal Koopas and Goombas from the Super Mario Bros. series. While initially immobile, they will detach from the walls and attack Mario after a certain point in the level has been reached.
  • Pokémon: Runerigus, a Ghost/Ground type Pokemon which evolves from a Galarian Yamask, is actually a cursed painting which gained sentience after absorbing the Yamask's spirit. It resembles a drawing of a red serpent on a rock formation with a shadowy spirit inside of it.

    Web Original 
  • SCP Foundation: SCP-085, "Cassy", is a living drawing of a woman. She can move from one paper or canvas to another if their surfaces are flush and can interact with drawn objects as if they are real.

    Western Animation 
  • ChalkZone: The premise of the series is that every chalk drawing lives in a dimension made of chalk, brought to existence as soon as it's drawn. The chalk-drawn characters, then, are all sentient beings within the ChalkZone.
  • Chowder: In one episode, the titular character creates a world using special crayons in an endless blank space behind his bedroom. The citizens are all living beings.
  • In the Courage the Cowardly Dog episode "So in Louvre Are We Two", the paintings and statues in the museum come to life. Mona Lisa leaves her framed picture and traps Muriel inside.
  • Darkwing Duck: Splatter Phoenix was an art thief who used her powers to ransom works of art and could move through paintings to circumvent museum security (revealing the painting to be alive inside the frame when chased). When she stole the Mona Lisa's smile, the lips became animated in the real world, even helping to exonerate one of the people she'd framed for her heist. She met her end when the heroes splashed turpentine on her accidentally, causing her to melt and hinting that she herself was a living painting.
  • Family Guy: In "Breaking Out Is Hard to Do", a parody of "Take On Me" by aha occurs when Chris is pulled into a comic book world through the shelf with milk. He escapes on his own, being rather distraught about the weird place he'd been taken to.
  • Gravity Falls: In "Double Dipper", Mystery Shack's copy machine can do the regular copying work, but if one is to scan living items, the copy machine will create a living copy, even if it's just a body part. The clones start off as flat paper and then pop into 3-dimensional form, which retains at least one trait of its paper origin: a vulnerability to liquids. Dipper uses the machine to create a Clone Army of himself to woo Wendy, but he has to destroy most of them when they rebel against him. Only #3 and #4 survive the ordeal. The original #4, known as Paper Jam Dipper, is the result of one piece of paper getting stuck during the copying process and the clone it produces is deformed and incapable of normal speech.
  • Legend of the Three Caballeros: The Nazca Lines in "Nazca Racing" are drawn in enchanted soil, which is a gateway into the Nazca Realm. The Nazca Realm is one big living drawing. The reality created from drawing is the only magic that exists there and the inhabitants themselves exist as Nazca Lines on the surface. The inhabitants can only move across surfaces, can only leave through their respective Nazca Lines, and are killed if their Lines are erased, although redrawing them will resurrect them none the worse for wear. The Caballeros meet Mono, a mokey, Handsy, a giant, and Clementine, a huge spider. They guard the Nazco Gyroscope that keeps the planet balanced. Feldrake uses it to lure the Caballeros into the Nazca Realm with the intent to erase their Lines on the surface in order to kill them, but he only succeeds in erasing Handsy. She is restored when the Caballeros redraw her, with Donald gifting her a much desired second thumb.
  • My Little Pony 'n Friends: Hydia's extended witch family shows up in My Little Pony: The Movie (1986) and "The End of Flutter Valley" as paintings. In the movie, they are depicted in scenarios that become animated and interact with Reeka and Draggle. In the multiparter, they step out of their paintings on Hydia's request to come up with a plan to destroy the flutterponies.


How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: