I was out sailing on the Pacific yesterday dwelling on the subject of passion. If passion is the wind that fills your sails and gets you moving, inspiration is the rudder which uses that power in a useful direction. Without direction to our passion it's easy to just sail around in circles. Here's some tips on finding inspiration:
1. Re-evaluate. Look at your latest works and notes to see where you have come to and try to recapture your previous notions of where you were heading.
2. Absorb. Look at other artists' works on the web or printed media or galleries to spark the desire to create something that beautiful.
3. Play. Just PLAY with your paints until something starts to emerge. This can be lots of fun.
4. Set a Goal. Set a goal for learning or exploring a subject or technique which will generate it's own inspiring thoughts. e.g. Today I'm going to paint 4 small cloud studies from life using only 2 colours and white.
5. Explore. Go exploring outside, by foot or vehicle, looking for things that grab your eye.
6. Feel. Start with a feeling or a piece of music or poetry - how would you paint that? Try to imbue everything you do with that feeling - from first sketch to mixing paint, to each brush stroke - let it all be an expression of one idea.
7. Take a break! Sometimes we can just push too hard. It's amazing what a little break can do for the creative juices.
8. Pray. I don't normally pray for things for myself, but the two times I've been desperate enough to get down on my knees and pray for a creative breakthrough, God has come through with flying colours - literally. Aside from that, letting God have a hand in your work is an awesome experience. I've heard others call it the 'flow state', where the work comes through you, not from you. When you're finished you have the distinct feeling that you couldn't have done it by yourself. There's a whole other book right there.
9. Meditate. I've found that meditation helps firstly with being calm and centered, but also enhances your creative faculties, making it easier to think clearly and purposefully, visualize powerfully and be more open to the infinite creative power of God.
10. Love. Nothing great is created without love. The more love, the greater the creation - just look at parenting! I've heard it said that as artists we need to have a deep abiding love for both the large and the small aspects of painting - from the process itself to our individual brushes and paints. This is what it comes down to - if you are not loving what you are doing, stop. Try to find that feeling again or find something else to love.
There are an endless number of ways to generate inspiration for a painting, and my list is just a drop in the ocean, so I encourage you to explore ways that suit you - whatever works, do it!