Okay, so recently I came across a fantastic site/blog on Tumblr called Defenestrador which is chock-full of cool fantasy art. And not just any art but really top quality works. In the past I didn't really link artwork together with my gaming, except what was in the monster manuals, etc. But a couple years ago as I was casting around for material for a new campaign world I discovered Deviantart.com (yes, I know, sounds like a porn site, sigh) for some brain candy. I did indeed find a lot of cool stuff, some to show the players at the table, but most to spark ideas for world-building.
So, on Defenestrador's site I came across this magnificent work by Christophe Vacher entitled Stormbreakers:
I love the huge primal-looking ship coming through the clouds with lightning arcing off it. I'm very glad it's not another crappy "pirate ship in the sky" like too many similar works. Instead it looks like it's made of solidified clouds or rock and its dimensions are clearly not simply a direct ripoff of historical ship designs. It does not look like the manufactured work of regular humanoid races. I thought to myself how cool it would be to have the players see this primal vision passing by early in a campaign and then much later have them go aboard for some epic mission!
In the campaign world I'm building there is a sky-god and a god of the oceans (two the the five major nature deities). So from this painting I'm thinking that once long, long ago the sky god expressed admiration for the beautiful sailing vessels crafted by the original mortal races. Pleased that crafts inspired by his oceans had drawn such praise, the ocean god took mists, waves, and corals and fashioned a huge sky-canoe as a gift for the sky-god. The sky-god named it Stormbreaker and gave it sails of living storms and rigging of lightning to make it fly. Stormbreaker has sailed the skies ever since, wreathed in clouds and lightning. It is semi-intelligent and is almost as much a pet as a possession of the sky-god. The deity usually lets it wander as it wills, usually high in the skies, but when angered may send it as a warning to mortals.
I was also thinking that this unique vessel might also have the special (unique?) ability to pierce the Dome of the Sky which covers the world and protects it from the boiling primal elemental chaos beyond. Thus at some point in an epic campaign, the heroes will need to approach the sky-god to use the Stormbreaker to leave the world and sail out into the elemental chaos--perhaps over to another similarly domed world or to confront elemental beings.
So there is an example of how I take art which I find inspirational and use the visions to spin into game ideas.