The magic of thieving

'Good artists copy; great artists steal.'

Apple Mac inventor Steve Jobs famously stole this line from Picasso when he spoke about inspiration. 'It comes down to trying to expose yourself to the best things that humans have done,' he explained, 'and then trying to bring those things into what you are doing... we (at Apple) have always been shameless about stealing great ideas.'

And, like a magpie, I always have an eye out for gems and trinkets that I can incorporate into my artwork to move it along to the next level. For example, Egon Schiele's twisted turn of line. Gerald Scarfe's gleefully mischievous ink spatters. Fashion designer Alexander McQueen's dark glamour. The deep royal purple in a crocus petal.

As an art student, the almost sacred ritual of working in a sketchbook was drummed into us. 'You should always be looking,' the tutors told us, 'and recording inspiration. Ideas come from outside of you.'

So when I was trying to think of story ideas the other day, I was bemused to catch myself literally gazing out of a window and waiting for inspiration to strike from out of the blue. Why would other forms of creation be any different to creating visual art? Even Shakespeare is renowned for reinventing stories that were already around.

So I decided to give myself a little bit of slack for not having dreamt up something searingly original using nothing but my own brain. And I have bought a little notebook which is solely dedicated to recording story inspiration.