There is no such thing as New. I mean out of the blue coming from nowhere new. It doesn't exist. Some people (I can't call them artist) think what they are doing is coming from nowhere (magic!), but most of the time they are doing nothing but cliché, again and again. Why? Inspiration comes from study. Inspiration comes from what you see, what you analyze, what you understand. Study little and your art will be little. There is magic, but it's not coming from nothing. It's coming from study.
If you study only one artist, one group, one art, what you'll do will be only pale copies. It's good to copy (as long as you say it's a copy). It's the best way to analyze. Trying to work from nature only is silly, and all the great painters I know did copy the ancients for learning purposes. But there is a big difference between copy and art.
Here we are. Inspiration. Easy to say, difficult to find? Not so much. Study what you like, and get some more.
It's really easy to study now. I buy books and read them, but I also read blogs and use google as a tool to help me study.
I don't watch much the blogs of fellow illustrators, unless they do a very different job than mine. This to avoid unconscious copy, but also because if they do something close to my art it doesn't help me improve. But I do check something like a hundred blogs. Blogs about design, blogs about history and culture, blog about photography, everything. Thank you guys I learn so much reading you!
The more you see, the less you'll get stuck into copying. Imagination is a muscle. You have to practice. The more you practice the easiest it is.
It's difficult to explain how ideas come from all that studying.
Maybe an example would help?
I was watching these pictures of a tiger carrying an umbrella, an then it's been a while I wanted to do something inspired by the story of the musicians of Bremen. But I'm not very fond of the list of animals in the story... so suddenly watching the tiger I found out that it was not such a problem. I can use my own animals. Let's do tigers and giraffe Bremen style!
See? It's a game of this and that, just let your mind wander from a subject to another. Learn to do this.
Tic tac toe, letter X, letter O and then XOXO! here it is, idea.
And when an idea comes, have paper in hand, and take notes! Get some pocket sketchbooks, carry them around with you.
Another way I use to get inspired is making a search for a cute word in Google image. Searches like "house sparrow", "cupcake" or "california poppy" will bring tons of images . I browse and browse and make sketches of the cutest until I've analyzed what I liked or not in these pictures, what kind of details, forms and colors are truly significant to represent the subject I chose. Then I stop browsing and sketching and begin to design my very own idea of the subject. It's a very soothing and calming process and I always come with truly personal images.
I also do computer backgrounds that look like inspiration boards, with all the pictures I like or find inspirational. Today mine has a flower pattern from an eighteen century book, a lion embroidery from the seventies, a few thirties fabric patterns, a traditional ikat jacket with beautiful colors and watercolor charts.
There is tons of other ways to get inspired. You can watch your favourite children's pictures and think of a way to mix them. Or observe an old pattern you find quite ugly but still appealing and then try to find what's appealing and use it.
A good thing too is to consider studying your own culture. I do have to make more pictures from my childhood in Paris. I have to take a new look to the design and wallpapers that decorated our old family home. I study the history of children's illustration. I sowed in my garden flowers I loved as a little girl. I just can't wait to see them bloom and have fun drawing them.
You have to keep an eye on all and everything, and make something that will be truly yours out of it. Don't be small, don't stop at the first idea, go big, have fun, go for more, be proficient, be eclectic, and enjoy with delight the results!
There is no step without ground, and what you study should be the ground on your art path.