“Our life is frittered away by detail… simplify, simplify.”
Henry David Thoreau
One of the challenges I (and I know many other landscape painters face) is learning how to simplify. Capturing the essence of your subject with as few marks or shapes as possible makes for a strong design (one you can read across the room) and in general makes a stronger statement. I love this example of how Picasso evolved the drawing of a bull from a detailed representation to just a few lines.
To work on this skill, I selected a reference photo with as few shapes and color variations as possible. This painting was done from a reference photo I took in Big Sur, CA. Notice in this study how there are very few shapes and only about 7 main color mixtures. I could have rendered this more fully and modeled the clouds or other shapes, but I think (at least for this composition and study) it would have detracted from the impression. Of course, this is also somewhat a matter of personal taste. It fits the bill for me, as I strive towards more abstraction in my work. Simplification is part of that path.