• Before making a single edit, Tropedia EXPECTS our site policy and manual of style to be followed. Failure to do so may result in deletion of contributions and blocks of users who refuse to learn to do so. Our policies can be reviewed here.
  • All images MUST now have proper attribution, those who neglect to assign at least the "fair use" licensing to an image may have it deleted. All new pages should use the preloadable templates feature on the edit page to add the appropriate basic page markup. Pages that don't do this will be subject to deletion, with or without explanation.
  • All new trope pages will be made with the "Trope Workshop" found on the "Troper Tools" menu and worked on until they have at least three examples. The Trope workshop specific templates can then be removed and it will be regarded as a regular trope page after being moved to the Main namespace. THIS SHOULD BE WORKING NOW, REPORT ANY ISSUES TO Janna2000, SelfCloak or RRabbit42. DON'T MAKE PAGES MANUALLY UNLESS A TEMPLATE IS BROKEN, AND REPORT IT THAT IS THE CASE. PAGES WILL BE DELETED OTHERWISE IF THEY ARE MISSING BASIC MARKUP.


WikEd fancyquotes.pngQuotesBug-silk.pngHeadscratchersIcons-mini-icon extension.gifPlaying WithUseful NotesMagnifier.pngAnalysisPhoto link.pngImage LinksHaiku-wide-icon.pngHaikuLaconic

Sometimes, accidents happen. However, there are times where a coincidence is just enough to create some paint splatter or sculpture or other art form by accident. People see it, and even it it's not even meant to be art, they'll still think it's brilliant.

Congratulations. Your new masterpiece is the result of Accidental Art.

Sometimes related to True Art Is Incomprehensible. See also Mistaken for Exhibit.

Examples of Accidental Art include:


  • One commercial shows someone getting caught in the rain while carrying a painting. The paint starts running, and so the painting is later mistaken for an abstract piece.

Comic Books

  • A stock cliché in Disney Mouse and Duck Comics. Mickey is trying to paint a picture, it gets ruined, but wins an award as such. Goofy wins a poem contest with a grocery list that coincidentally rhymes. Donald has mutilated Gladstone's fashion designs, but he decides to trust his luck and have them displayed anyway, and an expert declares that they're brilliant. And so on.


  • A Bucket of Blood: The main character accidentally kills his landlady's cat and covers it in plaster to hide the evidence. His 'sculpture' is hailed as a masterpiece.
  • This is the subject of the satirical essay film The Subconscious Art of Graffiti Removal
  • In Tapeheads, the main characters run an unsuccessful music video company. When a Death Metal band that they taped is crushed by a piece of falling satellite, they're asked for a copy of the unpremiered video. Being low on funds, they put it on a video that previously held a videotaped funeral, accidentally copying only the audio. Fortunately, the song just happened to fit the funeral visuals very well, and it is lauded as a masterful work of art, even winning an award.

Franco Belgian Comics

  • In an one-page story in The Smurfs, Painter Smurf's canvas is taken away by the wind and it hits the ground several times, getting all kind of stains. Papa Smurf arrives and thinks his painting is brilliant, asking him how he did it. Painter Smurf replies it was "a little inspiration, a lot of perspiration".


  • In a Disney Fairies book, Bess, an art talent fairy feels that her latest painting is missing something. Apparently that something was a whole mess of paint splattered on it by a passing frog.
  • "The Year the Glop-Monster Won the Golden Lion at Cannes" by Ray Bradbury: A B-Movie is transformed into an acclaimed work of art when the projectionist gets drunk and shows the reels in the wrong order (and some of them upside-down and/or backwards).
  • In Fudge-A-Mania by Judy Blume, baby Tootsie accidentally walks through spilled paint and makes little footprints across one of Jimmy's father's canvases. He decides to make a series of "Baby Feet" paintings with her as a result. It's even referenced in Double Fudge, where Peter's family gets invited to a showing of Mr. Fargo's work, including the now wildly popular Baby Feet paintings.
  • A Discworld novel mentioned a piece of modern art consisting of a pile of rags, called "Don't ask me about Mondays". This art was intentional, but when Lord Vetinari viewed it, he displayed his opinions on modern art by having the artist nailed to a post by her ear. This installation was an even bigger hit, and she's planning on having herself nailed to several other things.
  • In one of the Jeeves and Wooster stories, a pal of Bertie's is having trouble. He want's to paint portraits, but can't get a commission to paint one because he hasn't painted any. He finally gets a commission to paint a portrait of his uncle and benefactor's first baby. It's so horrible that the uncle calls it a fugitive from the funny papers, and cuts the painter off. Jeeves gets the idea that the character in the portrait could be the root of a series on the funny papers entitled, "The Adventures of Baby Blobb". It's a hit and the painter becomes rich.
  • In Schismatrix, an entire artificial asteroid with a long stream of extruded plastic and stone head stuck to it (long story) is considered a piece of art by the alien Investors. They even compliment the use of explosions to produce a nice shading technique.
  • In one of the novels of the Chanur Saga the main characters must carry an important stsho dignitary on their starship as a passenger. Knowing that the stsho love the color white they get their hands on whatever white furniture and decorations they can and hastily shove them into the stsho's room. It turns out that stsho art consists of abstract designs in infinite shades of white, and they'd created for their passenger a masterpiece of stsho interior design.

Live Action Television

  • In Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide, this occurred when Cookie strung some cans together in order to keep them from getting taken. It happened in a different way the second time. Ned paints an orange naked lady by mistake, and is so successful that he almost pays off the school's debt.
  • Inverted in Red Dwarf. Rimmer mistakes a light-switch for an artistic masterpiece.
    • Also played straight when Lister recounts the first time he got drunk and threw up from the top of the Eiffel tower "The story I got told was some pavement artist sold it to a Texan tourist. Told 'im it was a genuine Jackson Pollock".
  • Doctor Who: John Cleese and Eleanor Bron cameo as art appreciators who mistake the TARDIS for a sculpture - understandably, as it's sitting in an art gallery. They're particularly impressed when the Fourth Doctor & Romana run inside, and it dematerialises.
    • Possibly referenced in the Tenth Doctor story The Fires of Pompeii, when the TARDIS is sold as an example of 'modern art' (by an ancient Roman).
  • In one episode of Spaced Brian is setting up an installation in an art gallery when he falls off a ladder and is knocked out. In a later scene the gallery is open and visitors are admiring Brian's installation, which now includes the unconscious artist himself.
  • On Bosom Buddies, Kip complains that Henry doesn't understand his art, and makes his point by asking Henry's opinion on a piece of abstract art. When Henry claims to like it, Kip points out that it was actually the board he used to wipe his brushes. However as the conversation continues, Kip begins to notice that it really does look kind of nice. Eventually, it shows up in his exhibit alongside his other works.
  • In one episode of Bones, a murdered artist's body is dumped into a crusher full of scrap metal by his killer, and compacted into a large block. The team's efforts to investigate the crime are initially held up, because the artist's colleagues claim he must've chosen to commit suicide-by-crusher and become a part of his own artwork: take apart the block, and Brennen's team would supposedly be destroying his final masterpiece.
  • In the Dark Angel Season 2 episode "Medium is the Message", Joshua created an accidental painting with a tube of paint labelled 'chocolate mousse' which he mistook for candy and put in his mouth. After spitting the paint onto a nearby painting, he tried to wipe it off with some paper and created an even bigger mess, sticking the paper to the painting. He later sneezed into an ashtray and the ashes got stuck in the wet paint, etc. Alec later saw the antique frame and expressed appreciation for it, and Joshua, thinking he liked the painting, gave it to him. Alec tried to sell the frame, but the art dealer hated the old frame and LOVED the inspired and original artwork, offering him big money for it. Alec then convinced Joshua to make more paintings, but she didn't like the later ones.

Newspaper Comics

  • In Beetle Bailey, Cosmo notices the paint splatters Beetle has left on the floor look kind of interesting, and the sawed-off piece of floor ends up winning a prize as a painting. (Thankfully, this isn't the punchline, which instead involves Sarge falling down the hole.)


  • The opening number of Wonderful Town has a slapstick interlude where a janitor wins first prize in a Greenwich Village art contest for a well-filled garbage can.

Video Games

  • A quest in Baldur's Gate II has you commissioning, on behalf of one of the temples, a sculpture from a haughty artist. If you do the quest right, you'll end up pissing off the artist and has a heavy lump of useless Illithium ore on you hands. But never mind: the temple still accepts that shapeless ore as a great work of art.

Web Comics

Western Animation

  • Doug: The back of his real painting was marked up by his dog Porkchop chasing a raccoon through his paints and then over the canvas. Initially people think it's abstract; matters aren't helped when he attempts to explain and they assume "Porkchop" is the name of the painting.
  • The Simpsons episode "Mom and Pop Art" has Homer becomes an artist after his failed attempt at building a grill (and subsequently attacking it in a rage) is seen by an art dealer:

 Art Dealer: It's called "Outsider Art". It could be by a hillbilly, a mental patient, or a chimpanzee.

Homer: Wow... in high school I was voted most likely to be a hillbilly, mental patient or chimpanzee!

    • An affectedly enthusiastic art teacher sees a janitor painting a handrail and exclaims: "Another triumph!"
    • Another episode mixes this with Eureka Moment. A cartoon version of Real Life architect Frank Gehry casually crumples up a letter and throws it onto the ground, gives it a look, and says to himself “Frank, you genius! You did it again!” He then scales up this "design" and makes it a concert hall. [1]
  • SpongeBob SquarePants: Squidward goes on a rampage, destroying his art studio. It turns out that in this rampage he created a replica of Michelangelo's David, the same statue Spongebob had created earlier in the episode.
  • Pinky and The Brain: Brain's plan is to become a famous artist (which he intends to do by predicting the next artistic fad: Donutism), this fails but Pinky attempts to drink the contents of Brain's brush jar (a milk carton) and promptly spits it out onto a canvas. Cue this trope.
  • Dennis the Menace UK (cartoon adaptation): Dennis wins an art contest on Blue Peter when Gnasher accidentally gets paint on the other side of the paper he sends off.
  • 1970s Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids cartoon: Fat Albert enters a cooking contest (he's the only male entrant, which was the point of the episode). His attempt at a cake is a disaster: He uses the wrong ingredients in the wrong proportions, and so on. Of course, he wins anyway.
  • Totally Spies had photos rendered incomprehensible through a darkroom accident win a contest.
  • Rugrats: Angelica is mistaken to be an artist by the mess the babies make in her room and ends up being tasked to paint Charles' den and entered in an art contest by her mother, requiring her to get the babies to go crazy with the paint again.
  • One of the live-action bookends of The Super Mario Brothers Super Show had Vincent van Gogh declare Mario's dropped plate of spaghetti as "pure genius!" and then promises Mario a lucrative career as an artist. Luigi eventually discovers that the guy is a scam artist posing as van Gogh, though they really should have been tipped off that he was a fake much earlier on.
  • An episode of Garfield and Friends has Jon winning an art contest for a painting that came from Garfield and Odie fighting, getting paint splatter and their paw prints all over the canvas.
  • In an episode of Birdz, baby Abby rolls around on a canvas while covered in paint, and Betty is proud of the results.
  • On the Beavis and Butthead episode "Butt is it Art?", the duo climb on a piece of public art behind Van Driessen's back - destroying it in the process. He then turns around and tells his class that the pile of rubble wouldn't be effective art if it wasn't "just so."
  • In The Iron Giant, Dean's hobby is constructing art sculptures from junk in his own scrapyard. At one point, he yells at the eponymous giant who has been indiscriminately eating the junk and happened to swallow some of the art pieces. At this the giant pulls a half-eaten sculpture from his mouth, adjusts a few parts, and then sets it down. Even though the giant only understands art as "what Dean doesn't want to be eaten", Dean decides that the result is as impressive as the other artistic displays, and in a later scene he is directing the giant in the construction of larger sculptures.

Real Life

  • There's a (possibly apocryphal) story about a museum that hung a piece of art on the wall, which received a lot of attention and adulation. Said piece of "art" turned out to be an architectural layout of the men's bathroom that somebody had mistaken for an artwork.
    • A related story involves a sculpture submitted to a museum. The museum threw out the sculpture, and instead put the stand it was on on display, mistaking it for actual art.
  • The photographic technique of solarization came about when Man Ray's assistant Lee Miller carelessly switched on the light in a darkroom. Ray liked the resulting effect, and (a minor piece of) history was born.
  • Marcel Duchamp was never satisfied with his Large Glass until it was accidentally broken on the way to an exhibition.
  • In Don't Try This At Home: Culinary Catastrophes from the World's Greatest Chefs, Michelle Bernstein tells of accidentally dropping a terrine (i.e., pretentious meatloaf) in a bowl of chocolate sauce. The resulting mess was delicious, and she went on to use the same combination intentionally.
    • This is one of the supposed origins of the chimichanga, and the French Dip sandwich.
    • As well as Gun Powder...
      • Gunpowder was first discovered by a Taoist Philosopher/chemist searching for the formula for immortality...Irony much?
  • Found art. True found art is the deliberate designation of a non art object as art by an artist (sometimes with alteration but this is not necessary), but this trend in art is the inspiration for many examples of this trope in fiction and has increased the likelihood of real life occurrences.