I remember years ago my brother, the famous netsuke carver, Clive Hallam, telling me that in terms of subject matter one should always chose those things that allowed you to explore and express what it was really captured your imagination.
I've come to see this as the crux of how I now approach my own work, because in reality, I think of almost everything I do in abstract terms. If I choose to render a dragonfly, for instance, I do so because the structure is so intriguing to me. The challenge of finding a way of giving some expression to my representation of these aspects that reflects the initial appeal is the way I delve ever deeper into my medium. With each new point of departure into a new aspect of exploration I discover more and learn better how to render what I'm experiencing in my medium, metal.
I found the work of Sadie J Valieri, a San Francisco based classical artist, to perfectly illustrate this concept. This is one of her paintings in oils. You can see how her concerns are purely to do with tonal values and subtle textures...almost ethereal qualities the way she renders them. She is undoubtedly a classicist in terms of her technique and perhaps even her subject matter but it still feels very fresh and relevant to me. Some might call this type of work old fashioned...I'd respond that a real artist has no interested in fashion at all.
This is a link to her blog where you can read her ongoing commentary on her own artistic journey and here's a link to her website if you'd like to see more of her art.