I was taught to paint what you see and not what you think you see. However, I think we need to go a step further in that we do not only paint what we see with design liberties but with a reason for painting it. I think we paint better if we have something that we want to express. It is not to say what I have stated below is what I have always been able to express nor have done it well.
A flower is not painted as a flower looking at you but is expressing something like the wind blowing it or the sun shining on it or that it is on its last breath or all of the above. Clouds are not just clouds in a blue sky but they express the day and the emotions that you feel in seeing them. A portrait painting is not just the resemblance of a person but an expression of who they are or how they feel. A painting of fruit is not just saying fruit but is an expression of their surface feelings or of the blemishes that they have. Buildings are not just buildings but the character of them and what they have been through during their years. Trees should express their history and not just trunks, limbs and leaves. A landscape is not a perspective view of things but memories of those places, their smell and the feeling of walking, climbing or sitting in such a place. Still life paintings are not just a set up of things but an expression of a relationship of colors, values and textures that make them come alive and become a family. All those things are expressed better with the help of our Creator.