Is there a tutorial or something that can show me exactly how to simplify my subject to paint?

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This is a very difficult one, the best thing I can do is to recommend that you look are plenty of paintings, watercolour paintings are probably better than oils. See how the painter handles the backgrounds of his paintings, there you will see how mountains or townscapes are reduced to outlines. The more you look at the better you will be informed.

That's the best advice I can offer you.


Thank you John for replying. I really appreciate your input. 

I agree with John, the more master paintings you study the better

Good luck,Rhonda

If you have a pc, not a Mac computer, you can get a free program called "Fotosketcher" that will take any photo and simplify it very easily. I have a Mac but my husband let me put it on his pc so I can use it. It is really awesome. Another way I try and simplify a subject is to squint at my subject down enough to see just the big shapes. Then I draw them out with pencil shading in the main values. From that, I do my paintings. Hope that helps!

Thank you Rhonda and Jeri for commenting. I really appreciate the input. 

Squint, or do the fuzzy one-eye. (Close one eye and making the other go out of focus). Try to paint what you see with the fuzzy one eye. Use a large brush so you can't fiddle and lots of paint to avoid scumbling and dab dab dabbing. Initially decide on one colour for the lights and one colour for the darks for each object. Paint those in. Then give yourself a second altering colour for the lights and another for the darks. Keep stepping back. If you can tell what it is from 10 feet away, leave it and move on to the next object.

Wow! I was just pondering that question about the colours.  I watched you do this, but I just now got it!  Light bulbs went on!

It was as if I was teaching my math classes again, and my students just got it!  Love that look on their faces! Thanks and thank you Menneherrin for asking the question.

:-) All good.

Ok, that makes perfect sense. Thank you Richard. Im gonna be a squinting wildwoman!

I heard an artist say she had the same problem, and was advised to paint a couple of projects with a palette knife rather than brushes, which would prevent the same level of detail she guilty of. She liked palette knife painting so much that she never went back to brushes!!  You might give it a try and see what happens...


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