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 - DoodlewashIn 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

Recommended19 recommendationsPublished in Featured Artists
  1. Meenakshi Goel 5 years ago

    Amazing art work!!

  2. Jill Gustavis 5 years ago

    Beautiful work, and very inspiring!

  3. Teri Casper 5 years ago

    Wow. Just wow. Beyond photorealistic art! Thank you for sharing.

  4. Thomas Blanchard 5 years ago

    Wow … your work is truly amazing.

  5. Mary Roff 5 years ago

    Truly amazing work…very beautiful.

  6. Bill Jackson 5 years ago

    Magnificent. Would love to see the work up close. Exqisite

  7. June Hadaway 5 years ago


  8. Nay Aung 5 years ago

    Thanks for your sharing Meesha !!! Your paintings show us another possibility of the medium 🙂

  9. Sandra Strait 5 years ago

    Your paintings are exquisite. There is always an expressiveness even when your subject is something everyday. There is always a story.

  10. Sharon Mann 5 years ago

    I’m in awe! Beautiful.

  11. Susan Cuss 5 years ago

    Thank you, Meesha, for sharing your art, and your story. Your paintings are so detailed and beautiful!

  12. scribblersdip 5 years ago

    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 🙂

    • Mikhail Starchenko 5 years ago

      thanx ) i do manipulate digitally reference shots only… when i start to paint – it’s a watercolor/paper only work.

      • scribblersdip 5 years ago

        it’s truly “insane” – in the best and most complimentary way – bravo and you must have the patience of a saint and a true passion for what you’re doing 🙂

  13. Kati Brooke 5 years ago

    Your artwork is amazing! I love how you use watercolors for photorealism, it’s rarer than other forms, but you do it beautifully.

  14. Sharon Bonin-Pratt 5 years ago

    Mikhail, I am stunned by the beauty of your work. I didn’t know this could be achieved with watercolor. I can only imagine it must take hours and hours to complete each painting and the results are truly mesmerizing.

  15. Doug Moore 5 years ago

    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!

  16. Carol Hartmann 5 years ago

    You work is visually stunning! Amazing work!

  17. Sandra Gilbert 5 years ago

    Your paintings are amazing, I didn’t know it was possible to get that kind of detail with watercolor. Thank you for sharing your work and story.

    • Mikhail Starchenko 5 years ago

      I get used with detailed illustration with airbrush back in 90’s… now just revisiting this with simplier tools – just brush paint and water )

  18. Kaye Boggs 5 years ago

    Your work is beautiful…You are a master in watercolor art and you are still growing. I will remember your name and see your progression.

  19. Sharon Nolfi 5 years ago

    Amazing work! The cherries are my favorite.

  20. Jakki Garlans 5 years ago

    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!

  21. Jennifer McLean 5 years ago

    truly stunning work, I’ve just started hyper realism and absolutely love all the details too.

  22. Yvonne Reeder 5 years ago

    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! 🙂

    • Mikhail Starchenko 5 years ago

      Thanx, Ivonne ) … btw time is not that short really… I started by learning watercolor as primary medium in college at 1983 )

  23. Laura Hale 5 years ago

    I know this has been said in previous comments,but WOW! Beautiful art. Thank you for sharing your story and your talent with us.

  24. Aswin S 5 years ago

    Goodness. AMazing stuff..

  25. Ros Selle 5 years ago

    Jaw dropping W O W

  26. Mickey Baxter-Spade 5 years ago

    Absolutely beautiful! WOW!

  27. Mikhail Starchenko 5 years ago

    thank you, Mickey )

  28. marandarussell 5 years ago

    Artists who can create this kind of realism always amaze me 🙂 Great art!

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