Up until now, I wasn't to aware of it. I was using photos as reference for my artworks and if for instance a pose was working for what I had in mind, I stole it. But after learning more from great master's artworks, I realized that there is more.
They used every shape, maybe even every brushstroke or piece of marble, to communicate an idea. They weren't just randomly making scribbles and marks until something popped out.
A great example is the statue of the "Dying Gaul".
So what is so special about it?
What I find so interesting about it, is the fact how perfectly it portraits the down-fall of the gauls. And it does that by communicating it visually, using shapes and forms. Here is a break-down of what I am seeing:
So every shape and form helps communicate the concept of "feeling down", "going down", "downfall", etc...
So next time you start an illustration, maybe start by clearing up, what the idea of the illustration is and make every shape and form communicate that idea.
I hope it helps.