Pencil Portraits

Drawing portraits of people is a favorite pastime of mine. As a child, I was always fascinated by the eyes of everyone. It still amazes me how an expression can be seen in the eyes. During Covid we all had to get creative with how we expressed our facial patterns to show mood due to wearing masks. I found comfort once again in the eyes and their ability to show someone’s soul. This is where I start on a painting for a single person. If there is more than one subject matter in the photograph I am requested to draw, then I start with the shapes of the face. I used to just go for it without blocking in the space, but with drawings I take a different approach. Since the medium is already in pencil, I see no reason to not draw shapes and get an idea of where everything will go compositionally. Yes, drawing one person in a space is far less challenging than adding more into the same space, however, I love challenges.

My beautiful neighbor commissioned me to draw this lovely picture of her and her grandmother. This woman means the world to my friend and I wanted to show the light of their spirits shining through the images. I focused on layering and leaving white to emphasize highlights. The hair is always a special treat for me because the tiny details enthrall my mind. I absolutely love the details of the hair and the shirts they are both wearing. Their smiles and lines in their expression were also very important to the feeling I was trying to represent. This drawing was meant to rekindle happy memories and spark joy anytime it is looked upon. The client was very pleased with this representation of her loved one. Always a joy to have amazing feedback of love from people I create portraits for.

The next portrait is of my niece and was supposed to be a reference piece for a larger painting I am creating. This drawing took on a life of its own and created a light in the subject. I love how the drawing changed the composition of the painting and how the drawing is its own entity. When I look at the drawing and the painting side by side I can see all the differences in each. No two artworks by me are the same no matter how similar they may look. I take great care in giving each original piece something special. The drawing of my niece is one of my favorites that I have ever created and it will stay in my private collection for all time. I do love black and white or grayscale drawings of people or animals. They are fun, and imagining the colors that may be there captivates my senses. Thank you for reading and have a great weekend! Please contact me if you are interested in a portrait.

-Karen Hilliard

Tiny Details

My favorite part about my works of art are the tiny details created. I have always been fascinated by meticulous and intricate nuances in life. Nature is an amazing outlet for me where I can take in a deep breath and attain perspective with new ideas. Painting larger works of watercolor with a size 0 paint brush down to a size 000 seems unheard of. These brushes are used to add finishing details or fine tuned touch ups with highlighted layers. I enjoy painting the entire painting with these brushes. Yes, it takes a very long time from start to finish, however, this is the joy I want to share with the world. The time and care in each and every one of my paintings. Here are a few pictures of images from the tiny details in my larger painting “Tree Wizard.” This painting is still a work in progress and I am loving every minute of it!

In these two images of the painting I see many different creatures. The section on the left seems to look like the eye and beak of a crane. A beautiful bird staring out from the paper. On the right, I see the start of an elephant. The subtle eye is closed and peaceful almost as if it is sleeping. Some people have messaged me with images they have seen, such as swans, frogs, and more! Please feel free to send me a message, email, or text with anything you happen to see in my work. You can contact me at

The image on the left shows many details. This is where I see a variety of faces, fairies, nymphs, etc. Little mystical creatures of the forest, and these ideas spark my childlike wonder of the world. I remember all the fairy tales my mother read to me, and all the Disney movies I watched as a child, in these tiny moments when I look at my paintings. As I paint, the intention to create characters is not even thought of. The images and creations come after the painting has sat for a few days and then I see characters in the lines or details. I like that I can look at my paintings year after year and see new images constantly. I hope they bring everyone as much joy as they bring me, along with many happy memories.

-Karen Hilliard

Utah is a Beautiful Place

I was recently in Zion National Park, Utah; and became mesmerized by the breathtaking colors of the sandstone. The crisp lines of dark carbon minerals pressed into the red rock are amazing. This place is one to marvel at. I love how the vegetation brings the pigment of the rocks forward. The cream colors create a beautiful contrast as well. As I looked up at the details of the mountain, I spied a bighorn sheep. She was frozen in a regal position trying to camouflage herself into her surroundings. I took a photograph from afar so as not to spook her. She was magnificent. The females have little horns for their protection and the males have the larger, rounded horns, to protect their herds. It is always a pleasure to see these wonderful creatures in their natural habitat. 

In the photograph, there was a reflection on her belly from the sandstone below. I wanted to show the colors of red, orange, blue, and purple in this natural reflection. I used Scarlet Lake for the red and watered it down so as to have it as a wash. Then I added 4 layers of Ultramarine Blue mixed with Burnt Umber for the shadows and details obtained with pointillism. This whole painting was formed using Windsor and Newton Professional Transparent Watercolours and their size 00 paintbrush. I do love emphasizing the tiny details of life and love their brushes for this reason. Many colors went into creating the layers of the sandstone and the green pigments for the plants.

The large manzanita plant to the right was quite enjoyable to paint. I hope you have the opportunity to visit Zion if you are ever in the Southwest portion of Utah. Thank you for reading my blogs about the process and the journey of the artwork I love creating. I hope this painting brings a smile to your face and the one person who gets to take it home will look upon it forever. Have a lovely week and hold on to your Wonder!

-Karen Hilliard

Hiking and Learning

The last week was a whirlwind of hiking around the desert to get inspired for future works while learning more about business to develop my brand. A combination of inspiration, creativity, and sometimes a business mindset is needed to be successful in the wonderful world of art. I seek and find inspiration outdoors. Going on lovely hikes in the Lake Mead area brought immense joy and newfound ideas for more projects. My husband and I got to travel around with some amazing people this weekend and our dogs had a great time exploring the desert. A tired dog is a good dog! The people had a great time wandering around and finding rocks, a walking stick, and shade to discuss many amazing ideas.

The hiking was a nice distraction from the classes Chris and I were both taking during the week. His classes are for teachers and they are endless. Yes, teachers need to go to school as well to keep their licenses and improve on new methods of teaching. While he was in those classes, I took business classes for my art. I am pleased to say I learned who I am as an artist. Compassion, Value, and Relationships are very important to me. Each client I have worked with stays in my mind and heart. I love knowing where my paintings and prints reside. I am pleased when clients message me months later, or review, not only the painting, but the treatment and care they felt. I want these works of art to inspire others to explore the outside world and find beauty around them. I love sharing experiences and memories.

We were very fortunate to have our cactus bloom this week and the bees were flying in to pollinate. I posted a quick video of this on my TikTok @khilliardart if anyone is interested in seeing it. I did not want to disturb the bee, so if you look close, you can see some movement in the center of the flower. I definitely will be painting these in the future. Every person who comments, likes, or sends private messages, means the world to me. I really appreciate hearing how these works of art impact your life. I have decided to only make 25 prints of each size I offer so the reproductions are limited. Each print will come with a Certificate of Authenticity stating what number it is out of the 25. If you have any questions, please send me a message at khilliardart/contact.

Thank you for connecting!

-Karen Hilliard

Watercolor Works

Over the years I have accumulated a well sized body of work. Trees and Rocks fascinate me because of the many images I see in their intricate details. Bringing my imagination alive and sharing it with the world is the definition of happiness. Papa Rock is a painting of a boulder from the Flat Irons in Boulder, Colorado. While out hiking with friends, I walked around a cluster of beautiful trees into a clearing. A boulder filled with yellow lichen stood in front of me with deep colors against the light blue sky. The shape of this formation appeared to look like Papa Smurf. A wonderful show from my childhood that taught kindness, understanding, and sparked imagination. The striations formed in the shape of Papa’s hat and nose. I also saw the Smurf’s kind eyes. The colors of red, pink, and light blues enticed my mind to see the character from my memory. 


Another cluster of wonderful rocks I saw while hiking was shaped into a pack of wolves by my mind. I set the night sky with a moon to show the pack howling up at the stars and light of the moon. I love how the main rock in the middle of the painting seems to be a wolf standing on a rock singing its song. Wolves are family oriented and communicate in the most beautiful ways. I love how the pack talks to one another and other packs during the night. Some may say it is eerie to hear a wolf howl while out camping, but I like it. I find the howling of wolves and coyotes to be soothing and feel we are all connected when I hear them speak. I am just a visitor while out in nature and the sounds of the forest remind me of this. I hope you enjoy these two paintings of this breathtaking mountain. The colors, contrast, shapes, and forest really spark the imagination. If you ever get a chance to visit Colorado, I recommend hiking near Boulder. The views are amazing! 

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Wolf Pack Howl has been lost throughout my journey of showing in coffee shops. Papa Rock is available for purchase if anyone is interested. Please contact me through my website via email. Click here for the link!

-Karen Hilliard

The Bee’s Knees

In the early 1800s the phrase “The Bee’s Knees” meant small and insignificant. In the 1920s the meaning changed and became the phrase for “an outstandingly good person or thing.” My husband has a love for the outdoors and enjoys being in the garden. He thought it would be intriguing for me to paint a giant bee for one of my Spring paintings. He was fascinated with how hard they work at a relentless pace. I often tell him “You are the bee’s knees.” Deciding to research the meaning of the phrase enticed me to paint this subject even more and the title began to evolve. Chris thought it would be very interesting to see the intricate style of my tree paintings used to paint a large insect. 

The title developed from the fact that my husband is an extremely good person who leaves everyone with a smile on their face whenever they speak to him. I then needed to add the element of the bee into the title. The legs of the bee are where they collect pollen, which is said to be the sweetest part of the insect. Chris shows his kindness in every way and is also very sweet so it was easy to intertwine these two ideas into one. “The Bee’s Knees” was finished in March of 2022 just in time for Sprint. I decided to give the painting to my husband and he wanted me to make prints of it so the painting could be shared with the world. The original photograph I took is of the bee landing on the sunflower in a vertical position.  This painting can be viewed either vertical or horizontal. It hangs vertical in our private collection. We hope you enjoy this new painting!

There are also Greeting Cards and Stickers of this painting available. Contact me with any questions you may have via my contact page on the website! Thank you for reading and have a great week!

-Karen Hilliard

Arch Rock, Valley of Fire

Valley of Fire in Nevada is a great place to go see wonderful colors of the Southwest. The sandstone is something to marvel at in this magical park. Sunrises and sunsets paint the sky with rich colors. I often take my camera and a sketchbook along with my hiking essentials. One of the spots to stop is called Arch Rock. This rock is slightly off the road and minutes from its trailhead. There are signs placed at the beginning of the trail asking visitors not to climb on the rocks. Some people still do to take their pictures which is really bad for the structure of the rock. I wanted to paint this amazing wonder so it could last forever throughout history. I hope it is still standing many years in the future so all who wander into this park may see it. Many photos were taken for this painting to be created. 

Arch Rock | Watercolor Nature | Original Watercolor | Karen Hilliard Art

The photograph used as a reference had a boulder through the arch instead of the sky. I chose to use cerulean for the sky and created whimsical clouds to dance through the arch. Orange was used in the layering of rock to add blue’s complimentary color. The rock looks washed out by the direct sunlight above it. Sometimes in the desert the rocks appear white depending on the time of day. The shadow of the rock holds the deep color of sandstone that is amazing to look at. I love the reds, orange, and brown tones throughout this piece along with the subtle pinks I was able to include. If you are ever in Nevada, near Las Vegas, I recommend driving out to Valley of Fire. It is about 45 minutes outside the city and you will not be disappointed. You may even get to see the herd of desert bighorn sheep that live there. Nevada’s state animal! If you have been to this State Park, please send me a message about your hiking experience. Have a great Wednesday, and thank you for reading.

-Karen Hilliard

Woman of the Rock

Calico Basin inside Red Rock Canyon State Park is a wonderful place to climb and hike. The trails are developed next to beautiful sandstone sculptures of amazing rock formations. Calico 1 Trail has Panty Wall with each route named by climbers to be quite humorous. Along the path to the marvelous climbs, I stumbled upon a lovely ridge of rocks. At the edge of the striations I saw a woman leaning back on the mountain for support. On her head I envisioned that she was carrying a basket of clothes, food, or water. She appeared fatigued in the hot desert sun but strong and willing to do her work. Also, she was wearing a sarong fashioned into a dress. The colors of the rock were contrasted with the background in such a pleasant way.

Woman Of The Rock • Watercolor Painting Print • Karen Hilliard Art

When I got home and looked through my photographs, I knew I had to paint her. I loved the way the shadows danced with their lines and flow. Almost as if they were moving like water into the red sandstone where she was resting. I chose cool colors to show the difference between her warmth and the heat of the sun. It was fun picturing a waterfall or river coming to soothe her as she worked so she could quench her thirst. I focused on the light in this painting and tried to illuminate the spirit of the woman that I saw. What do you see in the rock? Have any of you ever been on this hike in Red Rock Canyon and seen this woman of the rock?

-Karen Hilliard

Spring in Cornerstone Park

Spring is coming to Nevada! The weather patterns have been very different this year and are cool, warm, cool, hot, then cool again. The bees are trying to not be confused by the changes in the atmosphere. They are working very hard to pollinate the few flowers and blossoms they can find. Cornerstone Park in Henderson, Nevada is a very beautiful place to take a walk. Canada Geese roam the grassy center of the park with many other bird species. Continuously hunting for tiny morsels or whatever they can find. I went to this park to photograph my friend for a painting and was fascinated by all the life there.

We stumbled upon these gorgeous trees with brownish purple trunks and pink blossoms everywhere. The trees had some purple and red flowers in the blooms as well. As I was taking photos of my friend, I got a rare treat and a bee flew into the camera lens. I ended up taking many pictures of the blossoms for reference and was delighted at some of the close ups I took of the bees. Thankful this little buddy decided I was a friend. He went on about his merry way and continued to work as I took pictures to make him immortal. I used transparent yellow to really bring out his sunny disposition or how happy he made me feel on this wonderful day.

The flowers were on a beautiful flowering desert tree that I cannot place the name of. If any of you know what type of tree this is I would love an email so it can be named in this blog. You can contact me at or just click on the link. Here is a close up picture of the buds on the tree and the color of the bark. I decided to make them lighter in the painting and add the bright highlights seen in person. They were absolutely beautiful trees. I would appreciate the help in identifying them. The trees looked very young if that helps.

Thank you for reading and have a lovely Wednesday!

-Karen Hilliard

Hiking Mt. Charleston

The air is crisp and low. Snow has settled on the ground yet is starting to burn off as the winter season is coming to a close. People and dogs are hiking and enjoying themselves on this glorious Nevada mountain. The terrain is rocky and steep in sections, the tops of trees sway in the wind, and my family is having a great time outdoors. I wander around taking photographs, the dog plays in the snow, and my husband is among the trees feeling delighted with every moment. These are my two favorite beings to be with and they both make everything even more beautiful.

One of the things we always stop and do is smell the trees. Ponderosa Pines let off a scent of butterscotch. We recommend this to everyone we meet on hikes, “smell these trees! They smell like butterscotch!” One of my good friends told me this same thing many years ago on the North Loop Trail up to Raintree. I told my husband when we met and went on this hike for our first date. Now, it has become our constant. Hence, we love sharing this knowledge with others. When you are out, near a Ponderosa Pine, please, stop and smell the tree! You will not be disappointed. Along the hike, as we smell the Ponderosas, I am also studying all the trees and finding images in their bark.

The base of the tree has many faces in the lines. I see creatures in the textures and my mind begins to wander. I take photographs or sketch what I see when out in nature. Then, I come home and either paint the same day or wait many years to start a painting. Mt. Charleston Series 1 of my original Tiny Paintings were painted a long time after I took the photographs in 2015. The paintings did not come to pass until 2020, five years later. The pictures in this blog are from two different events in my and Chris’s timeline. The painting was from a photograph taken when we first met and the pictures with our dog are from 2018. In the painting I saw the head of a crow. What do you see?

-Karen Hilliard