Contemporary realism still life painting of apples
“2 Red 1 Yellow” by Laurin McCracken There are few things as challenging as painting aluminum foil.

Laurin McCracken is a realist painter whose work is largely influenced by the Dutch and Flemish still life painters of the 16th and 17th centuries. In this guest blog post, he takes us into his process for painting with watercolor: “It is like a very good novel; you want it to go on forever.”

McCracken has been on the faculty of the virtual art conference, Watercolor Live.

Thoughts On Painting


I continue to work on paintings that have a high degree of realism. I like subjects that are a challenge. I like to discover subjects that most painters would think were too challenging or too time-consuming. I love to paint. It is like a very good novel; you want it to go on forever. You hope that the author is adding pages as you get to the end of the book.

My paintings require meticulous drawings. It often takes me four to six hours to do the initial drawing and another three to four to add the final details. I have found that if the detail is not in the drawing, there is a strong probability that it will not end up in the painting, no matter how closely I look at my source material.

The total time I put into a typical, full-sheet (22 x 30 inch) painting is 124 to 140 hours. Some paintings have taken as long as 400 hours. I love to just get lost in the process.

Watercolor Still Life Paintings by Laurin McCracken

Realism watercolor painting of fabric hanging from a line
“Cloth on a Line” by Laurin McCracken
I painted this for an international exhibition because I believe that it is an image that anyone from anywhere in the world can relate to.
Contemporary realism still life watercolor painting of jars
“Jars on Quilt” by Laurin McCracken
The challenge here is to depict the contrast between the hardness of the glass and softness of a well-worn quilt.
Contemporary realism still life painting
“Still Life with Hand-Tied Rug” by Laurin McCracken
A classic still life in the style of the Dutch and Flemish painters of the 16th and 17th Centuries.

Related Article > How-To: Masking Watercolor with Drafting Tape

Discover how to paint realistic watercolor still lifes with Laurin McCracken’s art video workshops here!