Place a bunch of artists in front of the same scene or set-up and everyone has a different interpretation. Are we not seeing the same colors? Are we not seeing the same light?
There is much more to painting than meets the eye...
Emotion. Our own unique response to whatever subject we choose to paint. Even the same artist on a different day will interpret the same subject differently. Who we are. What we are. Everything we've been through physically and emotionally effects how we place paint to canvas. I've been reminded of this recently.
I've noticed over the years when my actual life feels out of my control, my art tightens. It's as though I'm looking to have control over something when everything else feels chaotic. I have a student who reacts completely in the opposite way. She unleashes wildly and boldly in an emotional abstract outpour that has the illusion of somebody screaming!
What happens to your art when life feels out of your control?
Even when life is going along normally, we focus on capturing different things. Is it a feeling you're trying to capture? Perhaps creating an ambiance? It is technical fundamentals? Is it certain colors you wish to play with?
When we decide on a subject to paint, there is something about that subject that spoke to us to make us choose it over all other subjects at that moment. What is that something? What was it about your subject that spoke to you? Whatever it was: the shadow play, the colors, the movement, the serenity, the lines, the structure... This should be your top priority. This should be "the thing" you're trying to capture. It is where your passion lies.
No one will feel about "the thing" exactly like you do. What captures you about the subject is what you should be striving to capture in your painting.
Ignore all those voices in your head that are telling you so and so said I should do it like this or so and so would do it this way. When you're trying too hard to focus on someone else's method, you're not following your own unique voice. Yes there are those times of learning/studying which require thought about the teacher's words. But any other time, the only thing you should be following is your own gut feeling. Let that brush go on auto pilot. Focus on "the thing" that inspired you to paint your subject. Exaggerate it even, so your viewers won't miss it. Everything else will fall into place.
When it comes to art the thing is, expressing "the thing" is what it's always been all about.