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

Mt. Charleston Watercolors

The Tiny Painting Series are a way for me to create small versions of what would be larger pieces so everyone can enjoy my work. My larger watercolor paintings take anywhere from 80-100+ hours to complete. Although painting larger is the most enjoyable for me, I chose to create smaller works using the same technique. I had a customer tell me she was so happy to be able to afford one of my originals and this made me smile. I will explain pricing in my next blog and the differences. Everyone being able to have a piece of my artwork in their home is a goal. I also like to have prints for this reason but do not print all my work so people who want only the original may have that happy feeling.

Number 2 and 3 in the Mt. Charleston Tiny Painting first Series took much longer than I had anticipated. Simultaneously working on larger works for juried competitions is quite challenging while trying to produce smaller works. Balancing time is vital between social media, conversations with buyers, and slowing it all down to paint. This is why I love painting small. It is an amazing release and nice to see a painting accomplished within two days instead of a month. The second painting is from the same photograph I used to create “Movement of Change,” an acrylic on canvas. I love the way the bark of the tree seems to be dancing and moves my imagination into many directions. The head of a cat appeared to me the first time I saw this tree and the paintings have taken on new life of their own. 


Number 3 in the series has the same effect on me. With this painting, I tried to focus on the contrast between light and dark. I see many creatures in this tiny space. I love the blues, browns, and subtle grays because they allow the yellow ochre to be illuminated. The focus is upon the light but my eye keeps being drawn back into the detail and texture of the dark. This is a very lovely painting that allowed my mind to wander through its many lines. While exploring with dots, lines, and dashes, I realized there are many tiny images that pull my viewpoint inward. I could look at this painting for many days and hope it goes to a really loving home. Thank you for reading, until next time!

-Karen Hilliard

Spring Greeting Card Set

I am happy to announce my new set of Greeting Cards for the Spring Season! I wanted to make sure I had these ready for Mother’s Day. I chose flowers, portraits to resemble Mother Earth, and my painting titled for my own mom. The portraits chosen were Gentle Breeze and Let Your Light Shine. These two friends of mine have radiating personalities. Both are working with holistic forms of healing to benefit women and all people they impact. These two lovely ladies remind me of Mother Nature and the rebirth springtime creates. These cards measure 5” x 7” so you or the person you give them to can also frame some in a standard 5” x 7” frame or matted and placed into an 8” x 10” frame.

Persistence was chosen because we like to give our mother’s flowers on their special day in May. I love how bright and cheerful this painting is and the title is fitting for all Mothers. Patience, love, and understanding is needed in raising children. I feel almost all mothers exemplify the meaning of persistence. The Bee’s Knees was chosen for the feeling of spring and regrowth. Starting over and helping life bloom is the nature of the bee as well as the nature of parents for their children. I wanted this card set to encompass all aspects of Motherhood. The last painting I chose is very special to me.

My Mother’s Robin was titled for my mom. When I was little I stayed home sick from school. One morning, I looked out our large window and saw several different birds landing on our lawn. I asked my mother what type of birds they were and she explained. Then, she asked me what one I liked and I pointed at a blue jay. I asked her what her favorite one was and she said the robin, then she explained how to identify them by their orange bellies. This painting is titled after my mother’s favorite bird because I saw a robin in the sandstone as I was hiking. Valley of Fire in Nevada has many beautiful rock formations. I am grateful to have found this image on Mouse’s Tank Trail.

I hope you or your loved ones enjoy these cards for many days! Thank you for Reading!

-Karen Hilliard

Fallen Trees in Red Rock

As we walked around in the desert and absorbed our surroundings we found some amazing sites. Mountains of sandstone, riverbeds filled with stones, and fallen trees looking of driftwood all over the paths. The bark was sculpted by the elements of time with wind and water. When I look for inspiration I find it among the trees. I am captivated by texture, lines, and holes of various shapes. Some of the movement is created by the elements and others by the decay of insects. Sometimes the image of the whole tree creates a picture in my mind and other times I see creatures in sections of the bark. I title my pieces when I am out in nature and everyone else sees something different than I do. My favorite part of life is that we all have our own perspective.

In the first picture here I see a bird with a beak looking to their left. I also see a scrunched up face of a human looking to their right. In the second photo I see so much texture I do not know where to start with the focus of the painting. The second photo is one that I could make several paintings out of just from the lines and pockets alone. What do you see in these photographs?

In these vertical photographs I see many images. The tree stump on the left looks like a creature with a large eye and wrinkled mouth. I also see a horn coming out of the creature’s head. The photograph on the right shows me a lizard, a snake, or a bird with a long neck. I follow the grains of the wood from the foreground up into the horizon line of the piece. I like the contrast of color between the trees and the rocks in both compositions. I am excited to see what my hand and paintbrush create with these. Stay tuned!

Moon Wizard” is an original painting. This watercolor measures 18″ x 24″ and is painted edge to edge. No prints were made. We found this tree on Dale’s Trail in Red Rock Canyon State Park. This trial is is off of the Pine Creek Trailhead and lies between Pine and Oak Creek.

-Karen Hilliard

Hiking in Red Rock Canyon

Starting in the early morning and feeling the cool wind on our faces, we braved the chilly air and went for a hike out in the desert. The dog needed a long adventure and we love being outdoors any chance we can get. As we walked down the sandy and stony path the beautiful mountains of Red Rock Canyon stood before us. The sun was in and out of the clouds which created beautiful contrasts on the rocks. The formation’s colors changed minute by minute and it was something that could not be captured on camera. Here are some pictures we got of the color changes as best as we could catch on our phone.

Along the trail, gorgeous Joshua trees fill the paths. Spring has sprung in the desert. We found beautiful flowers blooming out of the top of the plants. We thought it was interesting how the buds were eaten before they flowered. We imagined burros coming up and eating the plants. At the base of the trees laid beaver tail cactuses, or cacti depending on where you are from, and they were eaten by what we think were tortoises. Being out in nature sparks our imagination in so many ways leading to endless conversations. What are some ideas you have when you see bite marks in plants while you are on a hike? Do you bring your pets with you and how do they react outdoors?

The dog had an amazing time running around in the sand and rocks through the wash. He had so much curiosity and the wind was very enticing for his nose. His senses were on overload and we were thrilled to arrive home and have him sleep the rest of the day. In the next blog I will share some trees we came across and explain how the lines and shapes fascinate me to paint new watercolors. Looking forward to many new paintings to share with all of you in the future. I often wonder if I will paint all my photos and ideas in my lifetime. I sure am going to try! Where have you hiked recently? Send me a message if you would like to share.

-Karen Hilliard

Watercolor with Salt

Using salt with watercolor paintings creates an amazing texture. I love the little snowflake and white bursts the salt makes while absorbing the moisture of the water. This texture is great for backgrounds if you want to make your painting look magical, mystical, or look like the winter season. Timing is very important and I suggest practicing on several scrap pieces of paper before using this technique in your actual finished work. For my examples below, I used a wet on wet technique with dark colors of paint and applied the salt generously on top of the wet paint.

For this experiment I wanted to create a winter or cold morning feel. I liked the idea of snowflakes or morning frost. I am currently working on flowers from the Nevada desert to make this painting interesting. The desert gets cold in the evenings and drops to freezing temperatures overnight. I wanted to show the magic of the desert and chose the colors Antwerp Blue for the night sky with a touch of Permanent Alizarin Crimson. I added Cerulean into the middle for an early morning atmosphere. The flower stems were applied first and I left white around them to come back and fill the petals in later. Other artists use masking fluid and paint flowers first, let the medium dry, then apply watercolor over the whole paper. After this is dry, they scrape the masking fluid off and fill the flower colors in. This is another option if you prefer this technique.

Later, I decided to practice with the salt in my sketchbook. I used Sea Salt only this time and a generous amount of Permanent Alizarin Crimson. The Antwerp blue was added later using my finger to apply it. The red was nice and a deep hue with splashes of the blue throughout it. Then I applied the salt by placing a few pieces apart from each other to see if I could get more snowflake images. I really am pleased how this turned out and will be using it in the future. The problems that occur with this style of painting are getting salt in the water cup and inside the paint brushes. I recommend using older brushes, a clean water cup or jar, and a paint set separate from your main paint set. I wish I knew this when I started. If you apply paint to any other painting after using the same materials, salt will get into your other paintings. I hope this blog helped some of you who have been wanting to experiment with salt. Feel free to contact me with any questions through my website contact page.

-Karen Hilliard