GUEST ARTIST: “Watercolor Hyperrealism” by Mikhail Starchenko

Hello, my name is Mikhail Starchenko (a.k.a. Meesha) and I was born and currently live in Russia. I started drawing at the age of around 3 years old. When I was 17, I started my education as an industrial designer at Art College. Then I worked as (surprise!) an industrial designer for 2 years, before starting a long a career as freelance artist/illustrator.

I did a lot of airbrushing during those times. In 1989, I won the 35,000 entries poster competition with a rock music theme, sponsored and organized by Music Television, Russian national broadcasting company and Stas Namin center. The theme for the contest was ”My  Generation” – Soviet youth and Gorky Park band greet American youth and Bon Jovi band.

#WorldWatercolorGroup - Hyperrealistic Watercolor by Mikhail Starchenko - Doodlewash
#WorldWatercolorGroup - Hyperrealistic Watercolor by Mikhail Starchenko - Doodlewash

In the early 90’s I also did three 10-minute cartoons as an art-director/character artist at Ekran studio. I also did a lot of artwork for different advertising agencies and worked as an art director for the biggest Russian record company (Soyuz).

Later in the 90’s, I was also involved in computer graphics and worked for a gamedev business. I also love planes and one of the biggest projects I was involved in, as the only professional artist in team, was the first two releases of “IL-2 Sturmovik” in 2000-2003.

Somewhere around 2014, I decided to get ”back to my roots” and did my first watercolor after more than 25 years of airbrushing and digital art.

#WorldWatercolorGroup - Hyperrealistic Watercolor by Mikhail Starchenko - Doodlewash

Then, I was kind of trolling the Russian Facebook community, really, to discover what is possible to do with watercolor and brush. To see how it might be done properly. Then I found a lot of realistic/photorealistic/hyperrealistic artists around (mostly in the U.S,) that could put me to shame with my trolling by already having way more complicated and perfect techniques. I didn’t even imagine it possible with watercolors!


From a technical point, the paper I like to use the most is Arches cold press 300gsm (I know that with detailed painting some prefer hot press, but I really like the cold press relief). Most of the time, I use synthetic brushes (no specific brand – an Ikea brush set in the kids area can even do the trick).

For paints I use right now (once again for more than year) are Mijello Mission Gold in tubes. I always prefer tubes, and these Korean paints have a very nice saturation and work well for me. To be honest, I just haven’t tried everything on the market. I’m just an ”if it works, don’t break it” kind of guy.

Maybe I’ll do some changes in my materials over the coming years. Since I just came back to watercolors around 2 years ago, this is my work setup for now. Also, I tried a Talens Liquid mask recently and liked it much better than the Sennelier and Maimeri I usually use… have to get this now!

#WorldWatercolorGroup - Hyperrealistic Watercolor by Mikhail Starchenko - Doodlewash

Since beginning with watercolor again, I continue to work on my own approach to hyperrealism and am on my way to perfection. Somewhat watercolor kungfu for me. Practice, practice and practice.

Mikhail Starchenko

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56 thoughts on “GUEST ARTIST: “Watercolor Hyperrealism” by Mikhail Starchenko

  1. Absolutely stunning and stellar work – it’s literally a stop and look twice and then three times, and then you fall into the pieces, enraptured by the detail and essences. It’s hard to believe that it isn’t something that hasn’t been digitally altered or enhanced etc. Truly captivating!

    Thanks for sharing here 🙂

  2. Thanks for sharing your amazing watercolor art and style with us. I always admire photo-realistic paintings but not sure if I’d have the patience to see it through to the end.

    I’d love to see your process and know how long it takes to actually complete one of your masterpieces!

  3. Thank you for sharing your amazing work, I was hooked by the cherries at the beginning and didn’t think I would see anything better. How wrong I was!! Your paintings just got better and better – wonderful!

  4. Mikhail, I am just stunned at your work — amazing, lovely, impressive, stunning, exquisite and just plain WOW! You’ve managed to accomplish a great deal of watercolour understanding and control in a very short time. Well done you! How exciting to have met you and I look forward to seeing more of your work around Doodlewash! 🙂

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