The artist Christopher Schink pointed out in Palette Magazine recently, that what gives an artist a “clear expressive direction” is not only the subject you choose to paint, but also “deciding what you like about the subject and editing the elements so that they contribute to the quality you like.”
Whether you are painting a tree or an abstract with marks, it is still the same. What is it you like about the subject or the marks? Do you paint something out or do you add elements (whether paint, collage, transfer, etc.) that emphasize what you like?
It is an editing game, adding and subtracting until the mix is right, until the formula is solved.