“I have a great liking for images which are somehow devoid of ‘incident’ … If I were able I would leave everything out, as Turner was able to do in his last paintings; leave out everything and still have a sense of place, a mood, and an exactitude and monumentality of scale.”
— Wolf Kahn: Landscape Painter by Martica Sawin, Taplinger Publishing Company, New York, 1981, p46.
But faced with detail, how do you know what will convey the essence or emotion of the subject or scene? How do you decide what to leave out? I think the answer lies in not trying from jump from A (detail) to B (minimalist mark making) but exploring it as a journey. Doing a series of paintings and/or drawings of the same subject, each time reducing what you include.
As an exercise, use a pencil to draw an apple using 50 lines, then 20, then 10, five, and three. A line can be short or long, straight or curved, but it ends the moment you lift pencil from paper. Then do it with a figure. Or use paint, restricting and reducing the number of brushstrokes (as Matisse did).