What influences a painting's outcome? The artist's skill and use of techniques? Quality of art materials, design and subject? Yes all of these are important, but they are all relative to the artist. What is it that makes you produce your personal best work today? I suggest that it is one critical quality. Enthusiasm.
Enthusiasm for the painting in front of you is made up of your inspiration for the subject and your mood. The overall emotional state and response to the task at hand. This can all be summed up in your joyful spirit - your enthusiasm for the painting. When enthusiasm is abundant then this translates into confident painting.
Confidence is critical for artists when painting a subject. One can see confidence in how the overall painting adds up. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. The magic is present! What are the clues to enthusiastic painting? Brushwork comes to mind. Confident brushwork is interesting to look at yet is applied with economy. It is not laboured in great detail. Quick brushstrokes. Broken brushwork and other interesting effects point to an artist in the moment relishing every stroke of the brush. This is also sometimes referred to as intuitive painting.
Other signs of enthusiasm is the drama of the scene, clean colour and treatment of light effects. When the artist's eye is responding to light and colour in a spontaneous manner it will show in the painting and delight the viewer. It is not to say that the painting will please everyone's taste. That is not within the artist's control and is ultimately not the issue. Enthusiasm is the road to each artist producing their best work.
When I look at a painting that I did with enthusiasm, like the one above of my children exploring Nieu Bethesda, I realise that it feels like it painted itself. Almost effortless and time seemed to fly by. Again this is all about being in the moment and responding to the scene with creative energy. Sheer pleasure. I know that these moments are sometimes few and far between. Especially when we need to produce a large number of works, but the process can be made easier too.
We can find the moment easier if we paint what gets us enthusiastic. The subject that calls us and challenges us to paint it! Personally this is usually achieved painting en plein air. Studio painting from references is more difficult. It helps if the subject is fresh in my memory, for instance, and I can still transport myself emotionally into the painting.
Life is too short to paint what leaves us cold. Be inspired and enthusiastic about painting and love it. It is a great way to spend your time.