Learn To See
As an artist you need to learn to see. Looking is not enough. You need to observe and analyze, using your senses, heart and mind. When you go out to paint, try not to see only the individual objects that are in front of you; like a house, a field, a road, a fence or a stream, (or whatever).
Learn to see and think in terms of light and shadow. Break down the various shapes and forms, and also the various colors. Squint your eyes if you have to. This will tend to throw everything out of focus and somewhat eliminating most of the details. Not to worry; you will paint them in later, as you choose. Contemplate on what you are seeing. “The whole picture.” Break down the various elements and get to feel the nature of it all. First we feel it, then we express it in our own way. Now, this can apply to whether you are painting outdoors on location or painting in the studio from a picture.
Copying nature exactly can produce a bland and static painting. It obviously represents something but, nothing else. If you wish to copy nature, then you might consider getting a good camera and learning how to use it.
True, some accomplished artists do a very good job of rendering or illustrating a scene or object. If you choose to go in that direction, understand that you will definitely need to learn to see and do a lot of drawing to be able to capture all of the details of a subject.
There is nothing wrong with trying to capture the exactness of what you see. But, personally I do not. Sure, my paintings will realistically look like something I have experienced, (with the exception of abstracts). And will certainly be recognizable but, I never paint a scene exactly down to the last detail. I choose to interpret the scene in my own way; recognizable but not photo accurate. I try to capture the feeling and impression of the scene.
Try to refrain from copying nature exactly. Paint what you feel. Let what you see be your guide for expressing yourself. Express yourself and create your own interpretation of what you see. The real goal is to organize form, color, tone, shapes and texture into a pleasing composition.
Use your brush strokes to create shapes, suggesting objects.Sometimes an object, especially in the distance can be suggested with just a brush stroke or two. And remember, we can create different moods by the colors we choose.