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Works drawn in a simplistic or cartoonish style may feature a piece of art, often including a person, drawn in what we would consider a much more detailed or realistic style. Almost invariably, some character will remark on how unrealistic that art is, or how bad the artist's grasp of anatomy must be-- why would anyone give people five fingers?

Largely a subtrope of Stylistic Self Parody.

Examples of Fourth Wall Portrait include:

Anime and Manga

  • Parodied in the anime version of Shaman King, where a member of the Quirky Miniboss Squad makes a portrait of one robber in a 70's Shojo style (a style more detailed than the cartoony Shonen of the series - but not by much). And two of the heroes (besides the artist) are the only ones who see the portrait and the aforementioned robber and confirm the likeness.
  • Used in the 4-koma short comics at the back of the manga adaptation of Gundam Wing, which were far less detailed than the actual manga. The shorts also featured strips on "how to draw characters" which were three panels long (the last reserved for the punchline) and even simpler than the 4-koma themselves.
    • A couple of strips centered on Doctor J inventing a de-chibifier ray and using it on Heero. Unfortunately for him, it only affects his head and leaves the rest of him super-deformed, looking pretty strange.
  • Happens in Bakuman。, when Takagi and Mashiro create their first manga series. Since Mashiro wants his girlfriend Azuki, an aspiring voice actress, to give her voice to the heroine in the anime adaptation of his series, he makes the heroine resemble Azuki, and the first draft design of her is much more realistic than the usual "big eyes" style in which Azuki is actually drawn within the Bakuman manga. Later he decides to makes the character more stylistic.
  • Inverted by Ika Musume, where Takeru draws a picture of Ika, which looks exactly the same as her. Takeru complains that it looks too "manga-like," while Ika argues that she doesn't have such a simplistic face. (Of course, she does.)
    • It's also played straight with Ika Musume's (realistic-looking) portraits. Combined with the above, it comes as a bit of a Mind Screw.
  • Busou Renkin plays this straight when Kazuki draws a picture of Chouno to show around the school while they try to track him down. It's in incredibly detailed style and both Tokiko and Chouno himself are taken aback by it. That said, Kazuki did put his heart and soul into it.

Newspaper Comics

  • Frequently used in Calvin and Hobbes. In very early strips, Calvin's imaginary excursions were often drawn in a cartoonish style basically the same as the main strip's art. Later on though, the artist experimented with different styles in different fantasy worlds. When Calvin played "house" or "doctor" with Susie, the art was in a style a lot like soap opera strips: normal human proportions, angular lines on characters, etc.
    • The commentary in one Calvin and Hobbes collection revealed that it unintentionally showed Watterson's true talent. Whereas the usual Soap Opera Comic is drawn on a much larger paper and scaled down, Watterson's parody of it was drawn at normal scale without losing any quality of detail.
  • A FoxTrot strip featured a still life of some fruit in a bowl, starting from a fairly realistic drawing and "improving" to the comic's cartoony style.
    • Another had Jason drawing comic characters with eyes identical to the comic's googly eyes; Peter says he's never seen such realistic eyes, and Jason replies he's going for the "graphic novel feel".
    • Yet another has Jason making a snowman. It looks normal until Peter points out that the nose is in the wrong place, and Jason moves it to the side of the head to match the normal Foxtrot face.
  • The Far Side once featured a street artist in a city where everyone had a simple two-dots-and-a-semicircle smiley face for a head. He is, of course, completely unable to draw them correctly.

Video Games

  • In Sam and Max Freelance Police: The Devil's Playhouse, there is a painting of Sam and Max on the wall of Momma Bosco's lab, as a realistic-looking dog and rabbit.

Web Comics

Web Original

  • Parodied in an Abridged Series of Yu-Gi-Oh! (no, not that one) by puddleths. Yugi is asked to sign a deviantART drawing of him, and claims it looks nothing like him, even though it's drawn in anime style. He then praises a stick figure drawing of him.

Western Animation

  • The South Park "Free Willzyx" featured forensic sketches of the main characters in a realistic style. Of course, when those sketches were shown to residents of the town, nobody could recognize who they were supposed to be of.
  • A scene from The Simpsons in which Homer worries that his children could turn into "hideous freaks, with pink skin and five fingers on each hand", followed by a shot of Bart, Lisa, and Maggie in a more 'realistic' cartoon style than usual, plays a slight twist on the same basic joke.
    • Another gag involved Lisa explaining to Bart, thanks to evolution, humans would have an extra digit on their hands in several thousand years. She then shows Bart a picture of a five fingered hand, prompting Bart to hold up his own four fingered hand and comment on the weirdness of having five fingers.
    • Another time, during a Treehouse of Horror episode, Homer ended up in a parallel dimension that led him to the real world, keeping his cartoony features in rendered in 3D graphics amidst live action.

  Homer: "I feel like I'm wasting a fortune just standing around here! Well, I better make the most of it." He beat drums his fingers, then belches.

  • On one episode of Family Guy had Peter mention that he took some drugs once, and everything got "way too real." Cut to a live action scene of a fat guy in Peter's clothes on a bench, wearing a fake Peter head, looking at his hands and declaring he was "freaking out".
    • There was also the Road To Multiverse episode where Stewie and Brian go to the real world briefly. Stewie comments on it feeling weird before pushing the button to jump to another universe. They were portrayed by a real toddler and a real dog.
  • In SpongeBob SquarePants, Squidward is surprised at how SpongeBob is able to draw a perfect circle. When he asks how he did it, SpongeBob shows how he starts with a realistic human head, then gradually erases the features until he is left with a circle.
    • Live-action humans actually do exist in the Spongebob universe, so this may not qualify as a Fourth Wall Portrait.
    • When Spongebob imagined himself as a lifeguard, he saw himself as a guy dressed in a Spongebob costume. Also Larry the Lobster's reflection in one episode was that of a boiled lobster.
    • When Spongebob and Patrick leave the water, they're usually "portrayed" by an actual sponge and starfish in live action footage.
  • Animaniacs: When the Warner siblings met Pablo Picasso, they played a game of Pictionary. The Warners drew in a cubist style and guessed it right every time, while Picasso criticized them for not knowing how to draw. But when he drew the same objects in a realistic fashion, the Warners were stumped. Eventually, a dealer saw the Warners' drawings, mistook them for Picasso's, and bought them.
  • When a picture of Elvis Presley appears on Lilo and Stitch, it's a photograph of the real article, rather than a drawing done in the film's unique style.
    • There's also some live-action footage from a 50's monster movie about a giant spider.
  • In the "Wacky Delly" episode of Rocko's Modern Life Filburt is helping to design the cheese character for the titular new cartoon, and draws a realistic (Even by Real Life standards) picture of a cheese wedge. Rocko is amazed, but Heffer quickly decides to "improve" it by erasing it and drawing a crude cheese-like stick figure which becomes the actual design for the cheese.
  • In Tiny Toon Adventures, Babs left Buster to go to New York, and Buster was stuck trying to find a replacement co-host. One of the prospects was a normal, unanthropomorphic rabbit. It didn't last.
  • On the Beavis and Butthead episode "Heroes", a news report on the plane that the duo shot down shows a police sketch of them drawn in a more realistic style. The duo themselves were too sleepy to comment.
  • In one episode of Catscratch Blick rummages through a box and holds up a realistically drawn cat, not understanding what it is, he chucks it away.