Painting Simultaneously

Painting large and small paintings at the same time is fun and difficult. Right now, I am working on the Sunflower Series 1 small works on paper. While working on these Tiny Paintings I have simultaneously been working on two 15” x 20” pieces. “Persistence” is a large painting of cactus flowers from Valley of Fire and has a cheerful palette of color. “Between the Lines” is the same size painting of a fallen tree on Mt. Charleston with cool and dark color patterns. As I worked on Number 3 of a beautiful and sunny flower, it was challenging for me to get back into the mood to paint my larger works of art.

Number 3 in the Sunflower Series 1 Tiny Paintings was interesting because the subject is a sunflower opening up halfway. I truly enjoyed the colors of light and dark used to emphasize the contrast between the opening and closing of petals. This small work of art took many layers for completion. The center of the flower was particularly intricate using a pointillism technique to add texture. I chose cerulean for the background to highlight the sky overhead. These colors were similar to the painting “Persistence.”

These cactus paddles were painted by using comparable green hues to the small works series. I tried to place the emotion of calmness my husband and I feel while we look at the cactus and flowers. As the sun rises over the valley it casts amazing light on the sandstone throughout the trails. I enhanced the light of the early morning colors before the shadows grew really strong against the rock. “Persistence” is the title to show how desert life consistently tries to survive despite difficult circumstances.

I needed to remember this word while switching to “Between the Lines.” This painting has taken me many months to create. Sometimes I get intimidated because I do not draw the composition out prior to the painting. I like the authenticity of making something new everyday and tying it altogether for the ending product. I remember every feeling, thought, movie, song, and anything that inspired me while painting. As I worked on this painting I thought about doodling in my notebook in high school with my ink pens. I remembered to just breathe and follow the lines. After this, the colors came and the painting grew. I am grateful to be able to paint different pieces during the same month and feel inspired by the difficulty this presents.

“Between the Lines”…In progress…

Thank you for reading and looking at my new larger works of art. Feel free to email me any stories you may have about multitasking and how you handle challenging moments. You can contact me at I look forward to hearing from you!

-Karen Hilliard

Bees and Sunflowers

Waking up every morning to the sound of buzzing bees is amazing. These creatures tirelessly do their job of pollinating every ounce of the sunflower. I was lucky enough to get some photographs of them in flight and landing on the flower. They move quickly, so I was very excited to capture such wonderful moments. As I zoomed in on the photographs I could see the fuzziness of the bees. I wanted the first couple of paintings in the Sunflower Series to show this excitement.

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Number 1 in the series is a close up of the bee working and taking care of the plant. The bee dug it’s head into the shoots and pollinated each one. I love watching them work. I chose to use the same colors in the flower for the bee to show it’s natural camouflage. The pollen dusted the bee and top part of the flower with a brilliant yellow. I chose Lemon Yellow from Windsor and Newton Professional Watercolors to show the fluffy pollen look. I had so much fun painting this bee and decided the next painting would be an even closer representation of another bee.

Number 2 in the series focuses on a bee with pollen packets on its legs. I was fascinated that the bee could continue to fly and continue its job while being weighed down with pollen. I painted the object larger than it is to show its cute little face. I was able to zoom in on the subject and see all the tiny hairs on its head. Creating the face of this bee was my favorite part of the painting. I also enjoyed making very thin lines with many different colors to show the texture of the petals.

I hope you are entertained by the videos I have been posting on Facebook and Instagram of the process in these paintings as well as enjoying the paintings themselves. Please contact me at and let me know your thoughts on the blogs, paintings, or videos. I appreciate you taking a walk with me through my garden and marveling at the bees. Have a wonderful day!

-Karen Hilliard

Sunflower Sketching

My husband found several old seed packets in a box when we moved. He took these seeds and sprinkled them all outside in a small patch of dirt. Among these were sunflower seeds. Last week I went outside and beautiful flowers had bloomed at the tops of tall stems. I was elated by the bright colors every morning. Inspiration came from these flowers and I decided to take my field sketchbook outside and do some paintings.

I am happy to share these sketches with you on the journey of one of the sunflowers. As it bloomed it started out green and closed in. A peek of yellow petals met me one morning and the next more yellow petals. The green was a very lovely yellow green with a hint of olive. I felt like I was welcoming this flower into the world by drawing, then painting, its progress. I like to use a regular Bic black pen when I do my initial sketching in a book. Other ink pens are darker, and great when in the field, but I do like my everyday Bic pen for doodling. Adding watercolor at the end of a sketch gives the drawing an extra zest of perception to the viewer.

Thoroughly enjoying the experience from the day before, I wanted to go draw in the garden again the next morning. The subject had changed into a fully bloomed yellow sunflower stretching upward to the sky. The center was still green with dew drops from the early morning. The middle of the flower started bleeding out to lighter green, and transitioning to a yellow orange at the end of the inner circle. The petals were a remarkable golden yellow even in the early light.

The past three mornings, the sunflower has greeted me with some new friends. There was a bee, then 2 bees, and finally 3 regular honey bees. A buzzing black bee said hello as well on the fourth day of this glorious flower’s opening. I chose to paint a series showing these interactions of life in our garden. I hope you enjoy the preliminary sketches as well as what is to come! Let me know what you think about the photographs, sketches, paintings, and the new series idea, by sending me an email from the Contact page. CLICK HERE ->

-Karen Hilliard

Yucca Plants of Red Rock Canyon

The Red Rock Canyon small works Series 1 is complete! Paintings Number 9 and 10 are both zoomed in versions of the Yucca plants in the desert. Native Americans used these plants for many things. One use of the plants were the fibers in the leaves. For the last 2 paintings I focused on the white fibers historically used to mend and make clothing for native tribes. Each painting has no pencil sketch prior to the paint application so they are very different.

Number 9 was painted using blue and brown mixed together to make a dark shadow color resembling black. I left the white fiber hairs very carefully while covering the surface with the darker colors. When this painting looked like an ink sketch, I started to add olive and hooker green layers to emphasize the leaf sections of the plant. This painting took 4 hours and was challenging as well as fun. My husband bought me a tripod so I was able to make a video showing the process of each painting.

Number 10 is the final piece in the series and I used a similar concept from Number 9. I left the fiber strands white and worked around them with brown and black. In this painting I decided to work the green in each leaf simultaneously with the darker colors. This painting has a lot of layers with three different types of green paint. I also used burnt sienna, and yellow ochre for highlights. These colors created the variants I was hoping for to show the difference in the leaves of the plant.


Making the videos were very fun and also difficult. The tripod was excellent and held the phone perfectly. Painting with a phone in my face, over my work, was different and I had to get used to it. I enjoyed the videos for my Tiny Paintings because they fit the space of the tripod very easily. If you would like to see the videos they are on Instagram. Here is the link: I am intrigued to try this video idea with a larger piece. We shall see what happens! I hope you enjoyed these pieces from Red Rock Canyon and the process of the work. Let me know what you think by sending me an email from the Contact page. CLICK HERE ->

Links to my Instagram and Facebook pages are on the top left of my website. The painting videos are on both so everyone can view them.

-Karen Hilliard


My husband and I love walking around the desert searching for pine cones. While we hunt, he looks for cones filled with pine nuts, however, does not find them. Scattered on the ground are older and younger cones that have fallen off their tree at different times. I love to see the different ages of the pinecones. Once in a while, we find one by itself along the trail probably blown by the wind. I decided Number 7 in the series would be one of these treasures.

I painted from the center outward and the paintbrush took on a life of its own. The painting ended up being a zoomed in version of the object. I used blues, browns, and a bit of yellow ochre for highlights. I left the whites with my paintbrush by painting the space around them. The light areas are to represent sand and debris that flew, and stuck into the cone. This painting took quite a long time and I had to keep telling myself to stick with it. When I finally completed it, I loved the perspective, and decided to do another.

Number 8 was going to be a farther away version and it ended up being even closer than the first. I don’t draw a pencil sketch before I start so some paintings are enlarged more than others. In this piece I used more brown and blue and very little burnt sienna for the center of the painting. I am very pleased that I decided to make two of these because I really like how they look together. My husband and I get very excited when we see pinecones on trails and then spend time reminiscing about our very special day.

As I worked on these paintings, my mind drifted to the months before our wedding day and the wedding itself. We chose to have pine cones in our wedding bouquets and boutonnières. This painting reminded me of all the happy moments of drawing ideas out with my dearest friend Andrew, hunting for pine cones, and the smile on my husband’s face while we were making wedding decorations with his family. I am thankful that my mind can drift while I paint and I am able to add my emotions into each piece of art. I hope you enjoyed these paintings, and getting to know me a little bit more. If you would like to share any special memories you have, please email me. I would love to hear about them!

-Karen Hilliard

Barrel Cactus Close Up

Red Rock Canyon pops with color throughout the year depending upon rainfall. This summer we were blessed with many storms in July. The barrel cactuses had a second blooming season and the desert was glowing with color. These cactuses have gorgeous yellow flowers and it is fun to watch the bees and bugs pollinate them. In this small work series I decided to paint some close up perspectives of the delicate color variations of these flowers. They are subtle yet beautiful. I love to sit among the desert life and feel tranquility. 

Number 5 in the Red Rock Canyon small works series 1 is a close up of a barrel cactus flower. I love the flow of color these flowers have. I used a wet on wet technique with the purple and red shadow sections. The yellow was more controlled. Then, I added colors of tan, orange, blue, and purple on top of the yellow and it allowed for nice layering. I wanted these flowers to leave the viewer with a flow of calmness. I liked this painting so much and decided to make another with a similar idea.

Number 6 in the series is also a close up of the flowers inside a barrel cactus. I used red and blue to create the depth of shadows with a wet on wet technique. I chose to let these colors dry completely before I added the yellow color of the flower. This was a different choice than the other piece of work. As I added the yellow and orange I decided to let it dry, sit, and then layered more orange on top. I used red to detail in the lines of the cactus spines. I tried to recreate the flow of the first painting to leave a feeling of peacefulness. I am pleased to have put my emotions that I felt in the desert into these pieces.


I hope you enjoyed a close up and personal view of these flowers and next time you stop to experience any flower with a closer look. I would love to hear from you about your thoughts on these paintings. My email, Facebook, and Instagram are all on the website at the top. I also have a Contact page and it goes straight to my email. I look forward to hearing from you!

-Karen Hilliard

Red Rock Canyon Barrel Cactus and Juniper

I am fascinated by desert plants and their amazing persistence to survive. On my hikes I have seen plants and trees growing out of crevices on rock walls. The tiniest amount of water can sustain a desert plant. Barrel Cactuses are unique with beautiful yellow flowers on top. In my last blog I wrote about the Red Rock Canyon small works series 1. I decided for the third painting in the series to be a Barrel Cactus.

I went through many versions in my mind of how I wanted this painting to look. I thought the landscape of the cactus with a yucca behind it would be gorgeous for texture contrast. As I looked through the photos on my phone, I kept zooming in and saving screenshots. I settled on the top of the barrel cactus and its flowers for the composition of this Tiny Painting. The red, yellow, and green combination along with light and dark variants were pleasing to paint.

Barrel Cactuses are beautiful and intertwined. The flowers are embedded in the needles and then bloom upward. Another plant I find interesting are the Juniper Trees. Number 4 in the series is a darker version of a different Juniper Tree than Number 2. This Juniper had more reddish and purple cones than the other painting. I enjoy painting the different perspectives of each tree and changed my color palette for the second painting. I focused on brown and blue for the shadows and then used a layer of green over the darkness.

It is a true joy to talk, or write, about these paintings and my process. I am happy to share my love of the desert and the environment with all of you. I would love to know what you think about the paintings. Just click on the link and you will be able to review them on the website, or you can send me an email! You can also send me an email about a favorite hike you like to venture on, or where you wish to travel to next. Thank you for reading this blog, I hope you enjoyed our walk through Red Rock Canyon, Nevada.

-Karen Hilliard

Red Rock Canyon, My Inspiration

Yesterday I started my new small works series. Red Rock Canyon in Nevada holds an enormous amount of inspiration for me. I love the way the colors move together and everyday the light is different. The weather varies as well and this makes for interesting hikes. I stop to sketch or take photos while my dog runs between my husband and myself trying to keep our pack together. He is a herding dog and loves to do his job. I decided on Red Rock Canyon for my next series to share my love of the desert with all of you.

Number 1 in the series is a burro. This burro came up to us on the trail and kept it’s distance. It ate, frolicked, and enjoyed the time in its habitat. We respectfully stood still and told our dog to “just watch” as that is his command for not disturbing nature. He sits and stares at burros, deer, and wildlife without barking. He is a pretty awesome companion. I tried to capture the gentleness of the burro and the softness of the moment we all shared.

Number 2 is a painting of a Juniper Tree. I chose to paint a section of the cones and tried to make the tree more subtle. I added light and shadow to emphasize the cones. Juniper berries are actually cones and I find this very interesting. This tree is one of my favorites to paint for the texture, color differences, and variants of light.

I love sitting in the desert with my little sketchbooks and watercolors. I focus on objects that I wish to paint later. The next painting in the series will be a more detailed piece on the barrel cactus. While I am outside, I try to do quick sketches and paint washes just to remember the color and emotion I felt while I was there. Then when I return home, I sit down and create pieces with a lot more detail. Life is all in the details after all. I hope you all enjoy this series, the blogs about it, and the walk with me in nature through these paintings.

-Karen Hilliard

Valley of Fire Flowers

The palette of colors in the desert is every artist’s dream. The yellow flowers are joined by their complimentary color, purple. The blue primary color can be found throughout the rocks and is matched by it’s companion orange in every piece of sandstone. The red stone of the earth is complemented by the luscious green plants and cacti growing next to it. I took many pictures on my travels to Valley of Fire State Park. The first series I created for my Tiny Paintings were the flowers of this park. I wanted to express the beauty I saw surrounding me in a series of small paintings. I love receiving flowers, yet they do not last, so I wanted to represent the love of flowers as something that could hang on a person’s wall forever. 

The first painting was of the cactus flowers including the plant. I am fascinated by the contrast in colors and how the light and dark dance together. The second and third pieces were close up representations of one cactus flower to show the pollen and life inside the petals. I further wanted to add another species that is prominent in the desert during the spring. Desert Marigolds are the sunshine of the desert. Clumps of yellow set along sandstone paths to brighten up anyone’s day.

Number 8 was a beautiful white flower with paper thin petals and dark green leaves. The center of the flower had a glorious pollen stem shooting up to the sky. I ended the series with two more cactus flowers because I love the purple and pink in the petals. These colors burst out against the green cactus paddles and intrigues the eyes of anyone looking upon them. 

As I made this series, I sold eight of the paintings soon after. Knowing that each piece of artwork was bringing a person joy gave me such happiness. I also took 5 of the images and made a greeting card set so people could send each other flowers that would last. I picture these paintings on the customer’s walls, cards up in their homes, and feel like they bring a smile to the person’s face. Sharing my paintings with the world is the best gift any artist can receive. I am very thankful for everyone’s support and hope these works of art bring you all joy.

-Karen Hilliard

Valley of Fire, The Fire Wave

One of the most colorful places in Nevada is Valley of Fire State Park. My husband, dog, and I frequent this magical place filled with sandstone creations. Each hike has a different pigment of the stone and variations in the sand. A trail we particularly love to run on is the Fire wave trail. We first came across this path while hiking. My husband sat to relax and I painted. Later, we both grew to love it for our run. It has a nice balance of flat terrain and hills to push ourselves. I am glad we always take time to stop and appreciate such a beautiful place!

The trail is quiet and peaceful in the early hours when the sun is just starting to rise. The flowers bloom alongside the sandy path. Our dog loves to stop and smell the flowers when they are first starting to wake up. We are all intrigued by cactus flowers. My husband likes to see if the desert tortoises have eaten any of the paddles and I like to photograph them for future paintings. 

The trail comes to a downhill slide into a wash. The wash is filled with sand and stone where we could spend hours exploring. The erosion and lines in the rock are captivating. The run is very tranquil and afterwards we hike for a while so we can take photos of what we really enjoy. I am thankful that I can come home and paint our memories and share them with everyone. I have really been excited about painting the many different species of flowers in the desert. The Fire Wave trail is filled with so much beauty it is hard to see it all in one trip. The desert is ever changing with wind, sands of time, and glorious rain storms. We see something new each time we visit the park. We are grateful that we live so close to this wonderful place.

The hike can get really hot in the summertime so be careful and always remember to bring a water bottle! I hope you enjoy this post and are able to find an amazing hike where you live that you truly love.

-Karen Hilliard