Process and Motivation…

One of the many sketches before the final painting. Some people ask me about the prices of my paintings. My prices are set based on time spent. When you purchase one of my paintings you get to go on the journey of their creation: the thought process, the hike, the photograph, the sketches, then the final product all encompassing everything prior. The painting alone takes several hours to complete.

I think about comments I read on Artists who have passed and how no one appreciated them while they were alive. Now their paintings sell for millions of dollars and cities have art immersions made with their paintings. 

I feel truly blessed for the people who appreciate my work while I am alive. Who understand that art is the whole process and connection to the artist and subject. 

Anytime an artist gets discouraged I remind them that people can purchase a print of their work, a sticker, or anything to support them if they wanted to. I remind the artist and myself that a night out in Vegas, or anywhere, is sometimes more than my artwork costs. Also, my paintings can be enjoyed for many years. The one night out may not even be remembered. I take comfort in this thought and continue to pursue my dreams.

I hope this helps any artist friend I have out there. Keep pushing forward. Keep believing in yourself! You got this!

-Karen Hilliard

Desert Traveler

Sally is a desert traveler who is slowly waking up from months of hibernation. Her favorite food is Romaine lettuce and she loves fresh water. I love the colors of her shell and her warm personality. I tried to express both of these throughout the painting of this sweet little soul. It is very amazing to watch a tortoise eat because it is a relaxing sight. All of her movements are slow and calming which many people can learn from. When was the last time you went to a restaurant or prepared a meal at home and sat in a long conversation with a loved one? My husband and I try to do this daily. Whether it is breakfast or dinner, we always try to make the time to sit like Sally and enjoy each other’s company. Tortoises are great teachers as are all animals. I also tried to embrace her calm while painting all the tiny dots in her shell. 

Waking Up | Karen Hilliard Art | Tiny Paintings | 4x6

The funny thing about details in watercolor is the fact that when I make all these tiny dots, I also wash them away with one drop of water. This medium has always been a joyous experience because it changes just like the flow of a river. I can only plan a composition so much with watercolor because it always seems to take on a life of its own. I love watching Sally cross the yard in her own time. She reminds me of each painting I have ever done and how much patience they all take. Sally meets every challenge that comes her way and pushes through frustration like the little tank she has become. She is fearless! I also wanted to add light colors to this piece because she loves basking in the sun.

I chose to leave the background white and create a light shadow under her shell to show how bright the sun is here in the desert. The light illuminates everything and plays tricks on the mind with many mirages. I love how her little mouth is open and hoping for a huge bite of the lettuce even though she always makes a small incision. I hope her personality of warmth, love, and patience shines through on this painting. I also hope you all have a Sally in your life as a reminder to slow down, bask in the sunlight, and flow like a river through any obstacles. Thank you for reading and commenting on the last blog. Enjoy your weekend!

-Karen Hilliard

Getting Ideas Together

Daily sketching for the series “The Wonder of Trees” has brought my mind to new places. So many ideas are floating around inside my head for where I want to take this series and what I want my viewers to get out of the experience. Trees are wonderful in so many ways. I find myself focusing on the intricacies of the bark. The lines or striations that grow, adapt, and develop overtime are fascinating to me. Nature has so many rich and subtle colors and everyone sees these differently. I love using a brown and blue mixture of paint to get the dark shadows and let these hues dry for days or weeks. They are so rich and deep all on their own and stand out with such presence. These colors remind me of how I feel when out walking on a hike and staring up at these tall wonders.

There will be a variety of trees in this series. Not all will be tall wonders with their roots planted firmly in the ground outstretching for miles. Some trees will be wood curled upon itself, fallen from their mighty mountain tops, or simply bushes that have rolled their way into a new life. Finding random cactus, weeds, and bushes that have turned into a hard wood appearance is a great joy of mine. I also love how Joshua trees form a hard seed pod that could be used as a baby’s rattle with all the dried seeds inside. The outer appearance is wrinkled, lined, speckled, and amazing. I did a whole series on these pods under my Acrylic Paintings Tab if anyone would like to see what I am writing about.

What are some amazing hikes you have been on? Did you find anything fascinating while you were walking? I always love walking in the Redwood Forests of California. The coastal air or salt and sea is wonderful. The trees always make me feel cool and shaded from the sun in a form of protection. I love the ferns on the ground and the forest floor filled with debris from the trees above. Almost as if I am walking in a whole different world filled with possibilities. I would love to hear about your experiences, hiking or otherwise. Especially, how the journey made you feel or what it made you wonder about. Thank you for reading! Until next time…

-Karen Hilliard

Sketches and Studies

I have numerous photographs of nature waiting to become paintings. Over the years I have been on many hikes, camping trips, climbing trips, and visited many states in North America. Traveling is one of my greatest passions. I get inspired everywhere I go. While trying to decide what to paint next, I look through these various photographs and remember the feelings I want to express to my viewers. Sketches and studies get created and I work on design or composition. 

Karen Hilliard Art Blog Sketches and Studies

Sometimes a painting forms from a section of the photograph or sketch. Other times I use the entire image as a whole and focus on the main subject in the photo. Truthfully, even with sketching prior to painting, I never know how the painting will turn out. The colors take control and lead me where they want to go. They run into one another and create a beautiful image or detail I could not even foresee. This is when watercolor becomes joyous and unplanned. There is little to no control with watercolor and yet, I fall in love with all the tiny details that can be created. 

In this blog I am adding some photographs of field sketches, painted field studies, and a new tree root I am fascinated by. Yes, it may very well be my next painting. I look for color variations, such as warms, and cools. I focus on details and lines in the wood. I need to remember to write down ideas in my notebooks of what I am seeing at the time. So many photographs have been saved over the years and I would love to know what thought process I was feeling while out in nature. Do you ever have these moments when you try to flash back to a memory? Usually, I can remember the exact moment, but sometimes, a little help would be nice!

Thank you for reading.

-Karen Hilliard

The Wonder of Trees

One of my greatest passions is hiking among trees. I love the way they look, feel, smell, and sway in the wind. Standing under their massive beauty in a rain storm is also quite enjoyable. Their leaves and needles glisten with rain drops. The series I am focusing on now is the bark of trees. I am using macro and micro details to show images I find in their trunks. Oh the stories these creatures could tell if only they could talk to us. They have an amazing way of communicating with each other and the forest around them. I wish we could hear their language. In this series, I am trying to portray faces and creatures that I see in the lines or details of these giant wonders.

Each painting will be sketched out in my book beforehand to finalize the image I wish to show. I love how viewers see different impressions in my art than I intended. I love hearing and reading comments on these pieces because you all inspire me by showing me different perspectives of my own intentions. This has always fascinated me about painting, drawing, poetry, music, etc. The arts have a way of opening our mind and creativity to such amazing beauty. So please, send me messages, emails, or texts of what you see in the wood pieces that I will be creating throughout the journey of this series.

In this fallen tree from Mt. Charleston I see a pointed nose of maybe a witch or wizard. I wondered what this person was thinking and feeling. The colors of orange and dark brown/blue reminded me of Halloween and my mind drifted to watching the person doing spells. The painting also reminds me of wood nymphs, or dryads. I love how intrigued I get by being out in nature. I hope all of you have a place you can go that brings you immense joy and creativity. Even turning the home into a creative space is quite enjoyable. Let me know what you see in this painting if you get a moment in your day, or any of my paintings. I would love to know what you see! Thank you for reading.

-Karen Hilliard

What Inspires You?

I get inspired by multiple objects and subjects. One of my most interesting inspirations comes from hiking, camping, or climbing adventures. Another way I find inspiration throughout the day is reading comments from people who are interested in my artwork. This not only inspires me, but motivates me. Thank you for your continued support of my work, reading these blogs, and taking an interest in my art as I move forward into new creations.

Lately, I have been intrigued by early morning hikes in the desert. I love the way the light catches the rock formations and casts various shadows creating many images in my mind. Desert washes are fascinating because they are always changing with foot traffic, rain, wind, or any other natural element. The rock beds in the desert have cool and warm tones. My husband and I love wandering around and inspecting the type of rocks we come across. Sandstone and limestone are prevalent in the desert surrounding us. We often get excited when we find iron or gypsum lying around as well. These colors are challenging to try to capture with a camera, a quick watercolor sketch, and then finally a painting. I love the lines and striations in the wash and surrounding sandstone cliffs.

The reason I love the early morning is also because of the skies. Each day, every hike, the sky wakes up in a different way. I love trying to capture the rays of sunlight through the clouds and the fast changing pigments developing overhead. Our pictures rarely end up showing the glorious views we get to see. This is why I love painting so much. Art increases imagination and I use this in order to try and paint the feelings or emotions I had while witnessing such a breathtaking wonder. The color palette we see with our eyes as we look upon the sky is vastly different from the spectrum of colors captured by film. I hope your day brings you much inspiration and you are able to express it in an artistic way. Thank you for reading!

-Karen Hilliard


Happy New Year Everyone!! I hope your 2022 ended with excitement. I am looking forward to a wonderful new year with 2023 being filled with possibilities! Thank you for your continued support of my work as I move forward into new creations.

Soulful Wanderer• Watercolor Portrait • Karen Hilliard Art

“Soulful Wanderer” was created to capture an amazing vacation in Alaska. This original watercolor encompasses all the light and joy of the experiences shared. I was fortunate enough to have the exposure on my camera set in a slower action mode and it had an amazing effect on the movement. The original photo shows light illuminating behind the person and rays of colored lights pulling outward from his face. The photograph was taken at the Ice Show in Fairbanks, Alaska. When night fell, the ice sculptures were illuminated by different colored lights. My friend was walking among the sculptures taking pictures and I caught him in a moment of pure delight. He travels all over the world and brings joy everywhere he goes. My hope is that one day, this painting will bring wonder to whomever chooses it for their home.

Sled Dog

“Sled Dog” was painted from a photograph taken of a dog in Alaska. I met this wonderful dog while I was learning to mush in an open space outside Denali National Park. While painting, I decided to focus on the beautiful blue eyes filled with wonder and excitement. The most interesting observation I had about these dogs is how eager they all were to run and pull their person all over the frozen tundra. These dogs were just as excited as the mushers if not more. The negative space was fun to experiment with as I painted this watercolor. I loved pulling the blues of the eyes into the fur and combining darker shades of blue as well. The dog’s fur intrigued me with the dark shadows of the ears and eyes combined with subtle colors in the face. Mushing was an amazing opportunity and experience. I hope everyone who wants to try it can enjoy this activity someday.

The Fairbanks, Alaska Ice Show and Dog Mushing through the forest near Denali National Park are a must! I highly recommend both of these wonderful vacation destination experiences. Thank you for reading my blog and have a great January!

-Karen Hilliard

Working in the Details

Detailing a painting takes many hours of preparation as well as time working on the actual piece. First, I go out hiking and find a subject I am drawn to, fascinated by, or something inspirational. Various photos are taken from several angles and then a field sketch may be created on site. Trying to capture the colors with a limited palette out in nature is quite challenging and also exciting at the same time. As I hike, I get many ideas and my mind wanders to different scenarios of composition for the painting. By the time I get home some ideas may have been forgotten, remembered, or something totally different happens to be created.

I choose to paint from home on my projects because each one takes several hours to complete. Whether the painting is small or large, I take great care to add as many details to a piece as possible. I enjoy pointillism and cross hatching techniques and apply these to individual works of art. I love the control that comes from taking my time and exuding a lot of patience. The paintings that are the most enjoyable have a combination of controlled techniques as well as watercolor play. I love the unexpected that comes in life and with watercolor. Using wet on wet techniques and allowing the water and paint to move together at its own pace is a true joy to watch. Each painting has something entirely different if one looks closely!

The newest painting in the Lake Mead Series has many different techniques used on such a small surface area. I am looking forward to hearing or reading feedback on what people notice in this painting. The subject was part of a bush that had curled around on itself. It then got whisked away into the wash and rock bed in the desert. I chose to use a macro technique and show one section of the wood completely zoomed in. I see many different images in this painting especially when I look at if from different angles. I wonder, what do you see?

Thank you for reading!

-Karen Hilliard

Hiking Around the Desert

Inspiration is all around us whether it comes from personal experiences with loved ones or beautiful images we see everyday. Most of my ideas are sparked, inspired, and illuminated when I am out in nature. Currently, I have the luxury of living in a desert and beauty is literally all around me. Some may say the desert is nothing as far as you can see, but I see shadows, creatures, plants, and so much possibility everywhere I look. Fascination intertwined with delicate and intricate lines. Striations in rock faces and features as well as the bark of trees whittled by wind and rain. The desert forever changes.

I currently have been working on a small works series about the Lake Mead Recreation area. This is a great place to wander and explore. I like the early mornings so my husband and I can watch the sunrise over the mountains. The dog also likes the cool air as opposed to the heat of the summer. Our favorite time to go is after a rainstorm. We love seeing how the desert changed topography overnight. The sandstone and limestone stand strong and sticks from trees appear in the sand. The gravel and sediments on the ground create new shapes, new hills, and new valleys. I love photographing these amazing sights and then painting them later when I have more time. 

Lake Mead Wash | Rock Paintings | Watercolor Painting | Karen Hilliard Art

When I am on site, I carry a small sketchbook and watercolor set. I backpack everything in and out and my husband plays with the dog while I paint. Or, he sits with me and just enjoys the scenery. The desert is a wonderful place to call home! Wandering around and finding beautiful rocks with many colors is always a great joy. Here is the first painting in the start of this series. I hope you enjoy the new works and thank you for reading.

-Karen Hilliard

Acrylic Paintings

In the recent Joshua Tree Series from Red Rock Canyon, I focused on the seed pods inside the palms of the tree. These structures fascinate me every time I am out walking in the desert. In the early spring the pods are a beautiful light green color and attract burros that love to eat them. In the middle of spring they turn into beautiful white flowers and attract pollinators. Pods that do not flower attract many small insects including lady bugs that eat the aphids. The fall season turns these wondrous creations into a hard sculpture with detailed texture. They appear to look like striations in wood.

For “Swoosh, Center Texture, and Front and Center,” I focused on the tip of the pod. I wanted to show the beautiful lines and variations of color looking from the top of the pod downward. The color yellow was chosen to represent the dryness of the husks of flowers left behind. The purple is used to show depth underneath the pod before the green palms of the tree can be seen. I love the way these seed pods look like sea creatures popping their head out or swimming towards something. These pods fill my mind with so much imagination. What do you see when you look at them?

-Karen Hilliard