“I realized, as time went on, that I would have a reasonable chance of creating something that is alive if I did not see water, mountains, and sky.
“If, on the other hand, I only saw what was before me as a tangle of line and color only, I might just get excited, as a visual artist, by what I saw.
“And if I got excited, some of that excitement, that life, might find its way to the canvas.”
How do you stop seeing water, mountains and sky? Like so much else, through deliberate practice.
Take a small section of a subject and try to visualise it as a jigsaw of colour shapes, like a paint-by-numbers outline. You’re ultimately not aiming to create a drawing which you then colour in, but to hold these shapes in your mind’s eye while you paint them. The good news: it does get easier. The bad news: it doesn’t get easier as fast as you’d wish.
How do you not get small sections of white canvas or paper peeking out between colour shapes? By painting on a coloured ground, or by painting large shapes of colour first (blocking in) and then working on top of these. If you do end up with some white, glaze over areas rather than doing some fiddly colouring in with a tiny brush.