After a filling lunch, I was more motivated for a nap than for serious painting. So I was happy when one of the ladies offered to show us how to use our new rigger brush to paint realistic tree branches.
The trick is to lightly place the tip of the brush on the paper. Hold the brush loosely between your thumb and index finger near the top of the brush. Now as you move the brush in the direction of the branch, use your finger to gently and slowly twist the brush back and forth. The twisting motion is what gives the branch a realistic shape.
I'm not actually a lefty. I just had to hold the camera with my right hand to take the picture. :)
As you practice and get more skilled with the technique, try to apply more pressure at the beginning of the brush stroke and decrease the pressure toward the end of the stroke. This will make the branch thicker at the start and thinner at the tip.
You can also use different sized rigger brushes to create different line widths. I used a size 6, a size 4 and another smaller brush for this practice (see picture).
This technique was really helpful to me. I am always challenged when I need to recreate the random nature of things like tree branches. My analytical side fights to create order instead. But the twisting motion of the brush made it much easier.
So next time you want to paint a tree, give this method a try. You might be pleasantly surprised!