you raise some very interesting thoughts there. I've found myself thinking along the same lines the last year or so - and it always comes down to the "why" of it..the "why" behind an image.
A good 15.000 shots within the last 2 years have left me with no definite answer. At least when it comes to certain types of photography.
When it comes to portraits/people shots, the "why" to me is evident. I know I want to capture something expressive that represent the person(s) I'm shooting...or portray them in a situation/activity the explains itself, that is either aesthetically appealing or interesting.
When it comes to still life, I usually go by pure visual interest and tension...colors, texture, lines..and that is a more "intuitive" interpretation. It works if it works for me - it's a feeling of interest in the picture.
With landscapes I am completely lost. There is not one single landscape I've ever taken, that I am truly happy with. Happy, defined as "yeah, this I want to hang on my wall". Funny thing is, that I feel exactly the same way about everyone else's landscapes. An oddity, since i love being IN the landscapes, love experiencing them and seeing them. I feel like I should abandon landscape imagery altogether, but I keep shooting tehm anyway, with (little) hope that I might land one I am happy with.
When I try to find the answer to the elusive "why" of things...perhaps a "formula" or at least some sort of guideline for what makes a picture interesting, I tend to look at a LOT of images. By known and unknown artists. Deviant art is a great place for me. I don't care about how famous the photographer is, I think guys like Ansel Adams and all the others, have some really great shots and lot of "meh" shots in my book. It works better for me to see a large variety of shots.
What tells me I'm an "amateur" is that the shots of mine, I like the best, are not super planned out. I see something that visually attracts me, shoot it fairly quick, having that feeling that "this one is going to be good". Then I take another 5 just to be sure I covered it. Invariably the first one is the best..lol.
If I have a point here, it is that - for me anyway - it's more of an emotional decision, rather than rational design, that produce my own best shots. I'm not ignoring the technical aspects, but the technicalities have the same place in my mind that my legs hae when I ride a bike, if that makes sense.
Masterful technique can produce some visually pleasing shots. That's the "craft"..not just knowing, but actually designing the settings, angles, light, composition etc. and achieve something close to what you have pre-visualized. The ART however, is something a lot less "rational" in my opinion. It's something that flows from a more emotional well, if you will.
Nourishing and inspiring that, takes some commitment to be in touch with one's own emotions. It's hard to put words to, without being a poet, but I stand by the perspective.
To "practice" the "art" of it, I occasionally try to commit to try and capture a number of images that translate into an emotion and apply it to all sorts of photography as a training exercise. Not just portraiture/people shots, but still life as well.
I find that it slowly brings me closer to being able to apply some desinged approach to a specific image I want to capture.
..but I have a long ways to go still and it does not..not even a little bit..help me in the realm of landscape photography..lol.