Yep. It's about trying to by efficient and economical. This is something that I really struggle with myself, but I think part of it is about planning the brush strokes before you make them, thinking critically about what would be the most efficient way of producing the shapes that you want, choosing appropriate brush size and shapes for the task, and then executing. When we try to speed up, we get lazy about using brushes that are too small and painting without thinking; thus we end up overworking the forms, drawing it again and again trying to get it right.
Spend a lot of time learning the ins and outs of the brushes you use; their particular characteristics and how they handle the paint. Always use the longest stroke possible, with the biggest brush possible, and use every facet of the bristles ( an entire painting can be done with 3 inch wide flat brush.
"A drawing is not necessarily academic because it is thorough, but only because it is dead. Neither is a drawing necessarily academic because it is done in what is called a conventional style, any more than it is good because it is done in an unconventional style. The test is whether it has life and conveys genuine feeling."- Harold Speed [[Sketchbook]]
Assuming you already have very strong observational skills (the most essential part, really), all you have to do is slow down and think. Now, that's harder than it sounds; most people forget themselves and go back to mindlessly noodling very quickly.
To cope with this, do a pushup between each brushstroke. Or count to 10. Impose some external contraint that forces you to slowly stop and think and plan, and optimize the value of each stroke. This will help you create a habit. Also do studies from virtuosos like Sargent, Zorn, Schmidt etc.
Brushstrokes are about personality. Fewest number of brushstrokes does not mean that you win. Efficiency can only be measured within your own system of making marks. Dice Tsutsumi uses very few brushstrokes as a concept artist and achieves rich meaningful work. On the other hand John Jude Palencar uses countless numbers of strokes and achieves his own richness. Efficiency is not a number but a workable system developed over years.
So if you want your work to look like it was done with a few strategically placed brushstrokes like Greg Manchess then practice that, if your personality allows. But again efficiency lies within a given system and is not a universal art truth.
Brush stroke efficiency (effective economy) is a byproduct of experience and sensibility. An effective mark expresses the essence of what it represents. You can’t force/contrive effective quality with a lack of experience and sensibility.
Brushstrokes express what kind of artist you are. There is alot of personality in it, though it requires not only focus or a certain mindset to `achieve` this, it requires the same amount of attention to recognize them, and truly read them as they are.
If you are proud of what you did yesterday,
you haven`t done today