I'm just curious how other artists go about choosing a subject for painting/drawing/sculpting? Do you need to feel inspired first? Have dreams? Use everything as a subject? Look at photographs?
I'm personally occasionally inspired by a stunning scene, or something that happens, and feel driven to put it on paper or canvas. Other times, I grasp for a subject and search through tons of photographs. I wonder if my subjects are too mundane, and should have a "catch" or something. I haven't yet found a specific thing I like (such as only portrait, still life or landscape.) I'd love to hear other peoples thoughts and opinions on this.
The best subjects are the things that are interesting to you personally. You don't have to fully understand your attraction to a particular subject. You don't have to know why you like the color red or why you love the shadow patterns of morning sunlight on a wall. Your job as an artist is to communicate the essence of your interest in the subject to the viewer.
Once you are generally aware of the things that truly interest you, you are ready to seek out things that are of a specific interest to you—things that are potential subjects for paintings. For instance, I am fascinated by the general activity of people in city life. There are times when I spend day after day taking photos of people crossing streets, walking around shopping or talking to friends. I may take a hundred photos and only find two or three that have any potential. Any eventual painting may be a combination of several different photos. I have never been an advocate of composing a picture in the view finder.
I believe the answer to finding the right subjects to paint is to first know yourself and then do the research necessary to find what triggers your interest. That necessary research may be in the form of reference photos, sketching or simply sharp observation. If you use reference photos, be sure to take them yourself.
Watercolor artist Arne Westerman once wrote that he couldn't walk through a park without getting several ideas for paintings.
So, paint anything that truly interests you. Never paint something because you think it may be what others expect of you.
Best of luck—Paul
Thank you so much for your thoughtful reply!
Some people have made me feel bad before for not having a gimmick with my art, but that's never been what excited me. Your response definitely made things a bit clearer.