I've spent most of my life teaching at a community college in a 2-person department. The work load kept me busy, I've had much to learn, and progress has been frustratingly slow. I take a great deal of comfort in Hokusai: "...nothing I did before the age of seventy was worthy of attention..."
My one strength as a young artist was reasonably accurate observation. Composition, color, brushwork/mark-making were fairly steep learning curves. And so, playing to my strength, I've spent a lot of time working from direct observation. The way light moves around form is something I find fundamentally mysterious. And, it has taught me a lot about form and color.
I use photo references for landscapes. Because a photo is already abstract, it lends itself to manipulation and lately I've been having fun with that.
The themes that have proven consistent are levels and structures of consciousness, environmental issues, and the feminine principle. I am also interested in edges. It's where the action is.
The discipline of figure drawing is something I find beneficial, though I don't use the human figure in my work. I feel we are already, as a species, narcissistic enough. Occasionally, I will do a portrait for a friend.
I find that I am most engaged when I'm out of my comfort zone - basically don't know what I'm doing (or at least, going to do next).