I discovered that the images/paintings I like most have some good Idea underlying. My favourite example is this famous painting from Bobby Chiu:

Attachment 1192688

This painting would work perfectly even with a not so good execution, the Idea is so strong that the nice rendering is just the icing on the cake.

Another example I love is the Newborn Contest entry from ca.org Member Veajoun:

Attachment 1192685

Gosh i could go on but now to my point:

I find that the idea-finding part of art isn't being discussed as much on c.a. as the technical aspect.

So my question: What are your exercises for practising getting good ideas? There are lots of methods, like brainstorming in advertising, but they all require some kind of given question, message or problem. Do you stare at your paper until your forehead bleeds (like doug adams) or does it strike you out of thin air? Do you have a method that works for you?

Thanks for reading and eventually answering!