Living in the Moment

The concept of living in the moment should be an easy one to maintain on a daily basis, yet, it is not. There are so many beautiful events to experience, natural wonders to see, places to explore, and somehow life goes so fast then time slips away. I try to always find time to go outside and play. On days when I am unable to, I go back into my memories through pictures I have taken, sketches I have drawn, or just sit with my mind about what I can remember. For me, life is a constant balance of emotions, reality, and perspective. We all see and feel each experience in a different way and this is why living in the moment can be challenging sometimes. There are facts and history, yet our Interpretations of everything are where things can get wonky. Art has a way of bringing perspective into the light. Everyone can interpret a painting, a writing piece, or a song how they want to for how it fits into their moment.

So live in your moment! If your day is hard, challenging, or fearful, then I hope you find strength. If an experience of sorrow overwhelms you, then I hope you find peace. I wish in all of these moments, everyone can remember how far they have come and how much they can handle. If your day is filled with joy, then I hope you can radiate and spread it to as many others that you come in contact with. My intention with my artwork is to have others view it in whichever moment they are in. I hope each day of looking at one of my paintings brings new ideas or a new perspective to the viewer. With these thoughts in mind, I would love for each of you to find one painting on my website that speaks to you today. However it makes you feel, I hope you’re in your moment! Thank you for reading and have a marvelous Monday.

-Karen Hilliard 

Resolute Protector

Somewhere in the midst off the California coast, a beautiful tree stump sits covered in moss. I became fascinated with this subject while walking around the woods with my family. After many photographs were taken, I came home and started to see different images in the textures of the tree. This title, along with others, popped into my mind as I painted this watercolor. The vision of a forest protector came to me. One in which is resolute in their purpose to protect the trees. Sitting socially among their friends, quiet, unseen almost, and ready to rumble at the first sign of trouble. This painting is a reminder that we are all connected. It is so lovely when I see photographs of human fingerprints and tree rings side by side. Also, branches and our bronchial patterns inside our lungs. Every time I venture into the forest I feel as if I am entering a different world, yet am reminded we are all of this Earth.

Resolute Protector | Karen Hilliard Art | Original Watercolor | Redwoods | Watercolor Painting
Click Here for the Original Watercolor

Resolute Protector” holds many emotions for me and I tried to express them in every detail of this piece. I love the subject and how tree sheddings were collected, then protected by the mighty stump. The beautiful moss surrounding the pine needles gave the dried out old needles a feeling of rebirth into something new. Decomposition at its finest! I also found a lovely little nut or seed, and it turned into an eye of the protector. What do you see when you stare into this painting? Could you look at it forever and still be amazed?

Thank you for reading and have a wonderful weekend!

-Karen Hilliard

Zenning Out in Nature

Some meditate, some write, some think or ponder, I do it all and zen out while in nature. I am one of those people who thrive outside in solitude or with a close friend who can do the same. I have been lucky in life and found someone who zens right along with me. This post also aligns with my previous one on huecos, or holes in rock formations. While on another trail at Valley of Fire, long before our daughter came on the scene, we found this beautiful hueco to zen out in. After a long time of relaxing in the small space, we took some photographs to document this moment in time. We don’t always do this because we also like to just be in the present. The spot was very lovely, however, and we wanted to remember it for future hiking adventures. The hueco can be found in the wash after the Fire Wave Trail. It is recommended to do this trail in cooler months as people have gotten lost on it and ran out of water. We found it most enjoyable in the early morning as the sun rises over the valley. The colors are remarkable!

Have any of you been to Valley of Fire in Nevada? If so, what is your favorite trial or one of your favorites? Another hike we love to relax on is White Domes. This trail is very populated but my husband and I often find gems to hide and relax in. This hike has a lovely slot canyon as well and the sandstone is very picturesque compared to our hike in Owl Canyon at Lake Mead. We loved the color variations and the flow of the canyon at Valley of Fire as it weaves and tuned in wondrous ways. We had our dog on leash for this trail as there is a lot of human foot traffic. The sand is very nice and inviting when the trail starts and a huge workout on the way back. This trail is not only beautiful but a muscular infused heat sensation in the legs! Thank you for reading and happy hiking! Have a wonderful Wednesday.

-Karen Hilliard


Holes in rocks carved by rain, wind, and time. Huecos are a marvel for my senses. My eyes trace the lines and patterns while gleaming at the light variants coming through different areas. My hands touch and caress softly as I feel the sand or tiny sediments beneath my fingertips. My ears hear the wind or breeze whistling through the holes and my mouth smiles with pure delight. I know instantly that when I arrive home I will have many pictures to paint from. Sitting and sketching has become more challenging yet my new experiences have blossomed into something even more rewarding. Now I get to enjoy the moment in a new way through the eyes of a wonder child. My husband’s cousin calls this the time of wonder and amazement in a child’s life, at the age our daughter is currently. We could not agree more. She has brought even more whimsy into my creations and I am forever grateful and our conversations.

I have always been blessed with seeing images in rocks and trees and now I watch a little soul seeing new things while communicating with so much joy. I often wonder if she is talking to fairies or angels. I go down the rabbit hole in my mind of where she came from and what she remembers. Why babies are a clean slate and can speak any language once taught? Why animals take human babies in and protect them? So many fascinating questions to think about. All of these go around in my mind as I stare at the holes in sandstone, or any rock I see. I feel as if I am looking into another world and this is why my mind drifts to babies. Huecos take me to a new place in time and I am very excited for the paintings to come. Before experiencing these earthly wonders with our daughter, I would think about other things while looking at the holes. Another constant was what animals may live on them. What do they make you ponder about?

Have a Happy Monday and thank you for reading!

-Karen Hilliard

Gorgeous Valley of Fire

Happy Thursday everyone! I realized I did not put a blog out on Monday because I put my Newsletter out and forgot to double write that day. My apologies for all of you who are engaged with my posts. I have been working hard on a series of Redwood pieces that I share with my Newsletter subscribers and simultaneously work on these Valley of Fire Rock Formations. My passion is nature and I’d any of you are following the journey of my paintings or art career, I am sure you know this already. For those of you just reading my blog for the first time, I hope my art encourages you to get outside and look at the world with whimsy. 

Rock Formations of Valley of Fire | Karen Hilliard Art | Tiny Paintings | Original Watercolor

The new Tiny Painting series about the rock formations found at Valley of Fire State Park here in Nevada holds a special place in my heart. This was one of the first places I visited when I moved to the desert and it immediately sparked my creativity. I will forever be fascinated by this place and walk around the park in pure amazement. The colors are breathtaking on any type of day in any weather pattern. In the last blog I introduced the first painting in the series, “Rock Formations of Valley of Fire Series 1 Number 1.” I also have more from previous series still available on my website. Here are a few of them and if you are interested, they are one of a kind. Once you purchase one, you are the only one who will have it!

I love painting small so everyone can enjoy an original of my work if they wish for one. My style is the same in watercolor whether large or small, the larger works differ on the amount of time and mental focus to complete a large painting. My larger pieces from this park have SOLD in previous gallery shows. There are three paintings I have left from years ago that I have not released and will be uploading onto my website later this month in the Smallworks section. They are different sizes and I will be posting updates about them if anyone is interested. Two of them are nature scenes and one is a close up of petroglyphs. For now, I hope you enjoy these Tiny Paintings from a park full of fascination. Have a wonderful Thursday and thank you for reading!

-Karen Hilliard


Two very different sections of the park hold beautiful rock formations filled with various hues. Fire Wave Trail in Valley of Fire State park is one of my favorites. The trail starts and leads the hiker through the desert, around rock cliffs, and opens up on to an amazing trail with striped rocks. The mounds, boulders, and hills leading up to the wave are lovely on their own and I could have spent hours photographing or sketching them. The wildflowers and cacti are endless during spring and the colors illuminate their surroundings. My husband, dog, and I like to run this trail and go over the wave and into the wash. Here is where I found this lovely little nook to sit and marvel at. The rocks were huddled in the small space and reminded me of the gold rush when everyone was hustling to find gold. To me, this is my gold. Rocks and nature speak to me and this painting is titled, “Golden.” I tried to capture the colors of the day in the park with high sun and a little overcast. This blog is titled “Perspective” because my newest painting on the Rock Formations from this park is from a totally different area.

Even with both paintings being from different parts of the park, I really love how they go together. They look wonderful side by side. The second one, and newest one, “Rock Formations of Valley of Fire,” is from the Arches campground site. We were amazed at how many huecos and outcroppings there were in such a small camping area. We had always wanted to camp at Arches but these spots are taken most of the time. We lucked out on this recent trip and found a spot overlapped in time. We had one glorious night through high winds and sunshine. This was our first camping trip with the baby and she used the tent like her personal bounce house having the time of her life. Between her enjoyment, laughter, and smiles, there seemed to be nothing close to this amazing experience. Then, we walked around and found beautiful rocks that she also loved with just as much excitement! I hope this blog finds you well and that you have a lovely weekend. What do you think of these two paintings together? Thank you for reading!

-Karen Hilliard 

Daily Watercolor

The daily watercolor sketchbook sits on a table in my studio screaming my name from its bindings. “What will you paint today,” it calls to me. As I sit in the other room playing with our daughter, getting another tissue out of our dog’s mouth, and thoroughly enjoying myself…I ponder in my mind what shall paint during nap time? Knowing I still have to write my blog from Monday, post a reel on Instagram to stay relevant on social media, and the most important, be ever present in our daughter’s life. Walking in two worlds is hard sometimes and doing daily artwork is even more challenging. The most rewarding experience of all my days is being a mother. Yet, I must transition here back into my art brain for this blog. So here I sit, about to describe my latest sketchbook entry, all the while thinking of what voice to give to her next stuffed animal. As mentioned above, walking in two worlds where the creativity gets highly expanded and melds together.

My recent art project comes from our family trip to Valley of Fire. I drew my husband while we all sat inside a little sandstone cave in the desert. The crawl space was big enough for all three of us and a dog with room to move around, lay down, etc. The colors on this day were unworldly. The orange illuminated my mind with thoughts of a fire burning bright around Christmas time. I chose to emphasize his hat with the color green to represent the evergreen of winter. I thought this would be a nice contrast from the deep orange, red, and bright yellows I was trying to capture from my memory. While working on this piece, I decided to film it on my phone. I just wanted to see the difference from Time Lapse to regular speed. The results were quite enjoyable and I was able to clip several shorter videos for my social media demands which was nice. Finding time to be creative is quite a challenge. This being said, I am always creative, what I mean is…trying to find time to put these creations down on paper is the hard part. Also, there is no time to watermark this little work in progress so…honor system! I hope you all find time today for a little relaxation. Thank you for reading and happy Tuesday!

-Karen Hilliard

Valley of Fire Camping

The sun rises over the valley of rock formations and natural wonders illuminating everything in sight. Crisp morning air fills the lungs and the sight of a bighorn sheep lifts the senses. Excitement fills every ounce of my being as my eyes gaze upon everything with wonder. Possibilities are everywhere and images of paintings dance around in my head. The patterns, striations, huecos, and colors of the sandstone amaze me. I grab my trail sketchbook and start scribbling as much as I can, writing details I want to remember, and photographing where I was at the time. Pictures usually do not turn out as rich as I remember the hues being in person but it is nice to have a reference. I know I will have to add paint later, at home, because the most important part of the journey has not even woken up yet. When she wakes, my husband and I will get to experience Valley of Fire from an entirely different perspective. In the time being, I sit with my dog and draw…fascinated by where I am.

My husband is taking the car to the visitors center to grab the last campsite we found. What luck! There is no more dropping the money in and grabbing a spot. Now, we have to drive all the way to the visitors center and hope no one else gets our amazing campsite while we head out. One of us stays behind, myself and our daughter, so now two. The dog gets to go for another car ride and explore a bit, which he loves. While my husband is out, and the baby is asleep in my arms, I sketch some more. Then, she wakes up and I start putting our tent up for the night. We want to have our tent up to let other people know the spot was taken so they would drive on. Our poles, however, had a different idea. The cord inside of them lost their elastic and it is a huge effort to get the poles to link up. Taking deep breaths in any situation is always important and the best stories, and times, come out of these moments. The tent gets put up with my husband’s help after he returns and we just smile and look at each other over the top of it when it is finished. Our main goal, her and the dog, having a wonderful experience. Accomplished! Stay tuned for our adventures in the park next week. Thank you for reading and have a wonderful weekend!

-Karen Hilliard

Owl Canyon Part Two

Another amazing find at Owl Canyon were the tunnels under the hills carved out through the wash. The hike led us through a beautiful slot canyon up to a hill where the road was above us and the rock wash was below our feet. The tunnel was long and the construction on it was awesome. We are tall people so it was nice to have this round shape be way over our heads and not have to squat and walk through it. Our daughter loved the echo of her voice and made a lot of wonderful sounds which we all ended up mimicking one another. Our dog loved all the smells associated with time resting on the walls of the tunnel itself. I took a wonderful picture of him having a glorious time activating all his senses. The tunnel opened up into more of the slot canyon and we proceeded to venture on. The hike continued with more owl nests, more wash walking, and some lovely rock stacks, or cairns, left by others before us to mark the trails. We decided to stop for a rest, water the dog, feed the babe, and explore for a little while.

To see the world through a child’s eyes is wondrous and to watch them explore is even more miraculous. It amazes me how much I forgot about my own childhood and how special or magical everything is to a child. I am forever grateful for the tortoise pace of life where we stop, touch, smell, taste, and look at everything with immense joy and wonder. Every detail of this world is somehow new again and this trail was new in itself. We had not ventured on this hike prior so there were no memories shared. Now, I will forever remember the sounds echoing through the tunnels of owl canyon. The laughter bounced off the metal walls and her joy illuminated the darkness of the tunnel. The sound of the dog panting with excitement and sniffing around non stop will also be a fond memory to keep forever. Bringing joy to these two little souls is now our purest joy. Sketching on trails has turned into something different entirely and painting is done in the warmth of our home after the hikes are finished. Walking back while staring at the canyon walls brought such inspiration for future paintings. I hope you enjoyed this little read on Monday. Thank you for taking the time to walk on this trail with us!

-Karen Callen

Owl Canyon Part One

Nestled within the beautiful Lake Mead Recreation Area, lies Owl Canyon, where its visitors are hikers and its inhabitants are owls! Starting the hike with a steep downhill descent, while pondering the steepness of the climb back to the car, is an interesting experience of…should we turn back now! There was too much excitement, however, of where the trail would lead. At first it looks as if one will wander out into the abyss of the desert and then a trail pops up at the base of the hill. Following this path up another incline leads to a wonderland of seashells. Yes, I wrote seashells! In the middle of an arid desert, there are seashells scattered across the land. This led to much conversation about how Lake Mead was once under water and how the shells got there in the first place. After the windy path of shells there is open desert and the trail is unmarked. On the internet it says it is easy to get lost and I can understand this. We went left toward what looked like the canyon. We read prior that there was a slot canyon and this is why we wanted to go in the first place. Also, for the chance of seeing owls.

The trail had a lot of foot traffic on it but we were fortunate to have a very long time of it just being us and our dog. We kept him on leash just to be safe and were super happy we did. Eventually, there were many people and dogs of all sizes walking through the canyon. We spotted owl droppings, nesting areas, nests, feathers, pellets, all while walking through the cool canyon shade. The rocks spoke to me and danced around in my mind. Later I would find a restless night’s sleep due to how much inspiration I encountered in the canyon. The sound of the rocks and stones beneath our feet is still ringing in my ears with pure enjoyment. I love digging my shoes into sandy or rocky paths and getting a nice leg workout while exploring. My favorite part of the hike had to be watching our daughter look up and all around in such wonder. This is definitely a family friendly trail and there is so much to see as well as touch. Our child loved it! Stay tuned for more of the story and descriptions on Thursday. Until then, thank you for reading and have a marvelous Monday!

-Karen Hilliard