Artist Ward Jene Stroud first saw Brusho in action while attending a bimonthly demonstration at the Oregon Society of Artists. The presenter owned a small local art store and had just returned from a big art supply trade show filled with new art innovations and products — one of which was Brusho.
“I’ll never forget the moment I saw the total color-pocalypse [the presenter] created when he sprinkled some little crystals onto wet paper,” recalls Stroud. “It forever changed my art trajectory.”
Below, Stroud shares how Brusho can add vibrant pops of colorful flair to your artwork. Who knows, maybe this crystal-powered paint will forever change your artistic path, too. Enjoy!
Brusho is a nontoxic ink and dye-based crystal-powdered paint. (Think fabric dye and phthalo watercolors.) Although it has been available in Europe for almost 40 years, the vibrant, translucent watermedia is relatively new to the U.S.
Made by Colourcraft Limited and exclusively manufactured in Sheffield, England, Brusho is available through several online retailers, including Cheap Joes and perhaps your local art store. The paints, which are available in 32 highly concentrated colors that come in plastic 1.5-inch pots, are sold separately for about $5 each or in packs of six, eight and 12 colors for between $30 and $80.
The colors are recognizably named, such as alizarin crimson, ultramarine and yellow ochre. This product will last you for what seems like forever. I’m still using some from my first set, and I’ve done hundreds of paintings and demos.
The word is spreading about this exciting product. I’ve seen more and more artists incorporating the crystals into their work. You’ll also find Brusho websites, Facebook pages, as well as demos in books and videos.
Pro tip: After you purchase the containers, poke a little hole in the top of each with a small nail or other pointy objects for dispensing. Using color-coordinated push pins, for instance, is clever. They will keep the holes plugged and the pots identified by hue.
Sprinkle it On
When it comes to watercolor techniques, the tried-and-true methods — wet-into-wet, wet-on-dry and dry-into-wet — work well with Brusho, although new ideas are being created every day. Let’s take a closer look at some of these techniques, below.
Here’s a cornerstone of my Brusho experience I share with my students over and over: It’s difficult to control the powder. However, you can control the water. If you want softer colors, use more water. For a more defined texture, just use less water.
Add the powder crystals to water in a receptacle, and it will turn to liquid. Use it as you would a tube paint. Then add it to your pre-wetted surface for a gradated, liquid-soft effect.
Add the powder crystals to water in a receptacle, blend and apply the paint to dry paper. Paint as you would with watercolor. This technique is perfect for high-contrast, hard lines and intense color; and it produces a more controlled, tighter feel.
Apply water to paper or a multimedia surface and then sprinkle the powder onto it. Using more water will enable the color to spread and migrate; keeping the paper less damp will produce sharper, more-defined textures.
To retain individual colors and textures, blot with a tissue or arrest blending with a hairdryer. If left to blend while drying, the colors will become a more homogenized solid color.
Keep in mind, as with any ink, dye or staining paint, lifting color can be difficult but not impossible. If you need a soft edge, it’s best to loosen it the instant you put it down.
Inks and dyes, by their very nature, aren’t as lightfast as some other media. Colourcaft recommends using UV coatings such as sprays and ultraviolet glass or coverings.
Brusho has been used in Europe for decades now, and I’ve never heard a complaint about fading from the artists who have used it. My private collection of paintings still looks as vibrant as the day I painted the works, even though some have hung in sunlit rooms for years.
There are many ways to add the particles onto your canvas, but I’ve found that using a piece of scrap paper works really well. I’ve learned firsthand that it’s easy to “blow out” a painting by sprinkling or shaking too much powder directly from the pots onto the painting surface.
By using the scrap paper as a delivery vehicle, I’m able to sprinkle and distribute the crystals in a more intentional manner. I also use the scrap paper as a palette for blending several colors to create a custom color — much like I’d mix tube paints together on a palette.
Experimenting with a new-to-you product may be just the spark of inspiration your art practice needs. Whether you use Brusho as an accent or as the primary medium for an entire painting, enjoy the process of exploration.
Ready to get started? Try your hand at Brusho with this quick demo on how I created my painting, Fly Dragon.
Brusho Demonstration, Step-by-Step
1. The Sketch
I created a loose sketch on Fabriano hot-pressed paper. I’ve found that the Brusho particles move a bit better on its smooth finish.
Next, I added masking fluid and tape for dramatic highlights along the top of the body, eyes, legs and right front wing. I applied a clear wash of water wherever I planned to place the Brusho colors.
2. Brusho Sprinkles
By tapping the crystals from a piece of scrap paper, I sprinkled on a Brusho mixture of turquoise, brilliant red, purple and leaf green. Once the crystals hit the water, they created color bursts everywhere.
3. Eye Focus
The eye is the focal point of this painting. To make it “pop,” I used quinacridone gold for the main color while carefully avoiding the highlight at the top.
I used alizarin crimson “neat” on the edges for strong contrast — and to give the eye a three-dimensional effect.
4. The Details
I used a rigger brush to add veins to the wings, legs and other areas. It’s worth noting that when I painted the legs under the wing and the background leaf, I didn’t “start and stop” at the border of the wing but painted right through it.
Then, using a tissue, I lifted off the painted line inside the wing quickly to create a more gossamer see-through effect.
And, you can watch Fly Dragon come to life in the video below.
Try This at Home
Create your own painting using Brusho, and you just might win some great art swag! You can enter to win either by email or by Instagram.
For email submissions, send a JPEG (with a resolution of 72 dpi) of your finished painting to the Watercolor Artist editors at firstname.lastname@example.org with “Creativity Workshop” in the subject line. For Instagram submissions, follow and tag us @artistsnetwork using #everywatercolor with your Brusho painting.
The editors will pick one lucky winner to receive a Brusho 12-color combo pack and a Ward Jene Stroud instructional DVD. Entry deadline is June 15, 2018.
About the Artist
Ward Jene Stroud is a workshop instructor who shares his Brusho technique across the country. Check out his website for his list of upcoming national workshops, to watch more of his videos and to check out his artwork.
A version of this article, written by Ward Jene Stroud, was first published in Watercolor Artist.