The month of September is filled with such joy, warmth, and love. The seasons are officially starting to change from Summer to Autumn. Certain parts of the country may notice a change in temperature, colors on the trees may be transitioning, and the excitement of holiday vacations are in the air. Here in the desert we are lucky if the weather starts to cool. Chris often says the temperature does not change until November, but this year, we have felt a slight shift in the heat. We are getting very excited to hike the dog in this new season. After so many rainstorms, the desert will be alive with colors. I cannot wait to go out, take photographs, and share with you all. For now, we are staying safe and indoors. Everytime I wish to travel I remember the dog has a fur coat and it would just be miserable for him.

Recently I have been sharing past experiences and trips with you all. The fall series I created was from a hike taken a few years ago during the Autumn season. Looking through old photographs is quite joyous for me. I often say that I have taken so many reference photos and may not have enough time in my lifetime to paint everything I wish to. However, I am sure going to try and share all my visions with the world. A huge feat this is for sure! The recent sketchbook painting “Autumn is Here” has been one of the more fun projects for me. A lot of energy and time was placed into every centimeter of this painting. I am very happy to have been able to create a print for everyone. I hope people will enjoy having this painting hanging on their wall for years to come. 

Fall in Red Rock Canyon | Karen Hilliard Art | Prints

The tiny painting series was wonderful to paint as well since I love small surface areas. Each of these paintings has brought back so many memories of Fall. So many traditions happen this time of year and I am excited to create some new traditions as well. This season holds my favorite color palette as well. What are some of your traditions or favorite memories this time of year? Is there any food you enjoy or recipes you would want to share? I have been drinking hot chocolates regularly just dreaming of cooler weather. Maybe this is why I feel a drop in the temperature and my husband does not…because I am imagining the chill on my face as I drink hot beverages. I love how certain smells can transcend me to different places! 

I hope you all have a wonderful Wednesday and thank you for reading!

-Karen Hilliard


Fall is one of the most beautiful times of the year other than Spring. In the early months of the year, flowers bloom all around the United States and fill our views with delightful colors. In the later months, colors illuminate our optic nerve differently. Oranges, browns, reds, and deep hues of fire fill forests with warmth and welcome the cool seasons approaching. Fall is a time of gathering together, warming by a fire, and sipping hot chocolate. Pumpkin patches are in full swing, the holidays are on their way, and families are making plans to gather together. A warm hug surrounds everyone and they just have to open their arms to accept the love. All of these feelings inspired my recent series of paintings from Red Rock Canyon State Park here in Nevada. 

Paintings, Number 1, 2, and 3, have gone off to their new homes and 4-8 have been created. These lovely paintings await a nice home to share the joy of Fall. I am currently working on 9 and 10. This has been a very fun series to create and gives me such joy. I love the feeling that these Tiny Paintings may bring someone else happiness and uplift them. So many of my happiest memories are of this time of year and I try to portray this in my paintings. The months of Fall can be cold and frigid which many people do not prefer; so in these paintings, I try to show the warmth through the black dreary coldness. I want them to represent good times and restore positive memories in their viewers.

Some questions I would ask are:

What are your memories of Fall and Winter? Were they happy or not so fun? What memories do you want to create now that you are older? My answer to the last one is new traditions with my family. I want to keep doing the traditions I had with my family growing up and extend new ideas with new experiences for my little family here in the desert. I would love to find a local pumpkin patch and pick out pumpkins, have hot cocoa, take many photos, and walk around the patch. Laughter, for me, needs to be in every memory. Simple moments have had the most impact on my life and have sparked my imagination in amazing ways. Like the Hay Bale Maze in the television show Gilmore Girls, a simple moment. The whole town was upset about the money spent on the maze and it ended up being a wonderful experience for everyone. Even the character Luke enjoyed it! So that is what I wish for this Fall Season, simple moments. What do you wish for?

Thank you for reading and have a great week!

-Karen Hilliard

Fall in Red Rock Series 1 Number 8 | Tiny Paintings | Newsletter | Karen Hilliard Art | Blog | Tiny Painting | Original Art | Watercolor

Fall Leaves

Creating the colors for fall leaves is wonderful. I use about four to five layers of paint on these little beauties. Watching the water flow and form together to create a new color is my favorite part. Winsor and Newton Professional Watercolours are my favorite medium so far. If anyone would like to know the colors I use, please leave a comment and I will post them within 24-48 hours. Also, if anyone has any questions regarding watercolor, I am happy to help in any way I can. Now, back to the fall!

Fall in Red Rock Canyon | Tiny Painting | Karen Hilliard Art | Small Works | 4x6

“Fall in Red Rock Canyon Series 1 Number 2” was a joy to create. I say this a lot because painting is something I enjoy very much. I love creating these worlds for all of you viewers to enjoy and always hope my paintings are looked upon with love for many years. Number 2 in the series has deep yellow, orange, red, and golden hues throughout the leaves. The focus of this Tiny Painting is the contrast of cools and warms. I used ink to get deep dark shadows and a combination of layering watercolor on top of the ink for darker effects as well as subtle shadows. The tree branches were fun to ink out with their rough bark appearance. Then, I used the watercolor to bring depth into the bark.

Do you have a certain part of this piece you like more than the rest? This painting really reminds me of the fall season. Any time I travel during the cooler months I look for changing colors throughout the land. Pine trees are beautiful and keep their green pigment in the pine needles and I enjoy how they are dispersed between deciduous trees. It intrigues me that trees in a Deciduous Forest can produce such beautiful leaves to protect them from heat, then they change color when the cold weather comes, and disperse or shed their leaves when they are no longer needed. As spring comes, so do more leaves and the cycle repeats the following year. This may be where my fascination with trees was formed. These giant beautiful protectors are also very intelligent survivors that will outlive us, if we let them be.

Thank you for reading and have a happy Wednesday!

-Karen Hilliard

Fall in Red Rock

The fall colors have always made me smile with warmth and glee. They remind me of many happy childhood memories. Now as an adult I enjoy a cup of coffee with a dash of pumpkin spice and the smell brings me back to the fall. I can be anywhere, in any season, and the smell of nutmeg makes my heart sing. In a previous post titled “Sketchbook” I started writing about the hiking experience in Red Rock Canyon where we found beautiful fall leaves. They covered the ground like a warm blanket on a cold morning. The different colors made us feel as if we were sitting in front of a fireplace drinking hot chocolate. I tried to emphasize all of the emotions of this in my recent sketchbook painting. 

The contrast of light, dark, cool, and warm colors really drew me into a special world. I loved creating this piece and am still working on it. I remember watching our dog find the perfect spot to lay down among the leaves and take a rest after a long hike. We still had a ways to go so we decided to honor his request and let him take a breather. He ended up cuddling in my lap and inspired me to just sit and listen to the quiet calmness all around me. Animals are so amazing in this way, truly appreciating their surroundings. All my senses were alive so I closed my eyes and just enjoyed the moment with him. I did not want to think about painting so we just took some photographs before we left the spot.

This sketch is very special to me because it captures the captivation of the moment. The quiet calm. The much needed break from the hustle and bustle of everyday life back in the city. Red Rock Canyon is a special place for those who want to get away from the fast pace of life. It is nice to even get away from mundane thoughts as the canyon sparks brand new creative ideas. This hike cleans my palette, washes away my brushes, and presents me with a new sheet of blank paper telling me anything is possible. It opens my mind to new opportunities, wondrous images, and relaxing feelings of peace. Getting outside regularly is a must for my family and I. We are very thankful for where we live and our ability to share this world with all of you over the internet. I also added some paintings of the pinecones that covered the ground all around us. Thank you for reading and we hope you have a lovely weekend! 

-Karen Hilliard

Exploring the Desert

The desert is all around us and the canyons are in our backyard. We may have to drive a distance to be in their presence but it is always worth it! My advice today is to always carry toilet paper because you never know when you are going to need it. A doggy bag is also a good idea. Pack it in and pack it out is a very important phrase to remember while hiking out in nature. The desert, although seemingly prickly and fierce, is very fragile and it takes years for certain plants to reproduce. Tread lightly, carry water, and be careful in these harsh surroundings. This being said, let me take you on an adventure! Out into the wilderness we go, through the wash, and then who knows…Are you ready?

When our puppy was a wee little one we took him on a mini backpacking trip. We found a lovely water source for him in the spring runoff coming from the mountains. Taking many breaks to rest his puppy legs, I found some wonderful spots to stop and sketch. The flowers were blooming in patches everywhere we looked and gave the desert an artistic vibe. We felt as if we were walking in a painting. Being a visitor of such an amazing place creates a feeling of awe. Red Rock Canyon really made us feel small compared to the giant canyons before us. Our minds drifted to how we are such a small part of this giant rock we live on floating around in space. Earth is really a vast place and this feeling of it was here before us, will be here after us, was truly humbling. I try to always represent this in my work and emphasize the beauty of whichever place I am in. 

The mountains surrounding us were large and comforting. They kept us shielded from the chilly winds and made us feel as if they were hugging us with their warmth. An immense sensation of protection swept over me as I sat there sketching our dog enjoying his drink from the stream. I also took many photographs and completed some paintings upon arriving home. The painting of the dog in the previous post is from this hike as well. These pictures were taken out in the desert on the backside of the Red Rock Canyon Loop. There is a wonderful hiking area where one can see wild burros romping in the desert and playing with their herd. On this day we did not see any large wildlife. We look forward to many more hikes in the future in this amazing spot. Hope to encourage you all to get outside and look at this big beautiful world with a new perspective! Happy Wednesday.

-Karen Hilliard


Always Carry a Paper Towel

One of the lines from Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy that my husband and I love is “Always Carry a Towel.” We discuss this at length to the point where he actually packs a towel for any of our adventures because we never know when we will need one. It actually comes in handy with the dog and any water source quite often! Speaking of water and needing a quick way to clean things up; I usually use a paper towel when blotting watercolor paint. I use a regular reusable rag when working with acrylics. The fine details and intricate lines I create with watercolor require a gentle hand with the aid of a small surface area especially with my 4″ x 6″ Originals. Paper towels are easy to fold into tiny spaces in order to collect excess water or fix runaway paint.

The joy of watercolor is to let the paint flow and interact with each color differently. In my large pieces I do need some control to keep my fine lines from trickling into nothingness. So I suggest always carrying a paper towel and yes, I reuse them. One paper towel will last me about 2 to 3 months if my dog does not get a hold of it and chew it up. I have to hide these beauties as if they were buried treasure he cannot sniff out. Keeping these paper towels safe for multiple months can be a challenge but I love reusing them so it is necessary. Blotting is super important in my technique so the paper does not buckle. I work in a wet on dry technique and control the minute wet on wet interactions specifically. Some of my recent work was wet on wet with a wet on dry technique to complete it and it was very enjoyable. The Daisy Way series was fascinating and fun to create. I used a paper towel with both styles and prefer the wet on dry for my larger works.

The wet on dry allows me to work for several hours, days, months on a piece. I can let it sit, focus on the lines, and challenge myself with determination to finish these. Each large painting takes many layers and many hours of work. Dolphin Smiles was painted using a wet on dry technique. My gallery focuses on the natural world and includes portraits interacting with nature. Recently I have been working in my sketchbook and posting videos on social media platforms. Each video, if you focus, you can see me use a paper towel to blot a section of the painting. These timelapse videos move quicker than I could ever paint in real life so you have to watch very closely to see a paper towel on one of these “reels.” Please drop a comment on what you use to blot your surface area, excess water problems, etc. If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment and I will respond in 24-48 hours Monday-Friday. You can also send me a private message at

Thank you for reading and have a wonderful Wednesday!

-Karen Hilliard

Reference Photos

The thing I have to remember about reference photos is that they are a guide. Sometimes I get so caught up in trying to make things look exact with teeny tiny details and forget the fun of flow. Watercolor loves to do its own thing, such as create its own movement because it is water after all. I love how rivers and oceans flow so freely and it is important to let art have this opportunity as well. I have started working in my sketchbook again hoping to create by letting the water move without strict direction. Using ink pens to sketch prior and after the water has been quite enjoyable. I chose to draw first and get an idea of placement with the pen. Then, I chose to just put the paint down, see where it went, and sketch with the pen over the dried paint.

Both had an interesting technique and were extremely enjoyable. My usual style is very tight, detailed, pointed, and precise with little room for the paint to move. I find that I am more free in sketchbooks and composition practice. My sketchbook is very large, hardbound, and enticing. It calls to me. I love not having to be cohesive, trained, or exact in my execution. I find practice to be extremely important in any aspect of life. Using the reference photos to inspire my movement, image, etc. leads to some interesting developments that I may not have seen otherwise. This is the beauty of art. Freedom to express oneself in multiple ways and various levels.

I used to use a BIC pen all through highschool and I think I am going to go buy a box next week. For now, I have been using archival ink pens for watercolors so the ink will not run. The BIC pens will be just for regular ink sketches maybe with colored pencil but not water media so the ink should not run. I will stick with my little package of Faber Castell 4 PITT artist pens. The size S is my personal favorite at the moment. Oh India ink, how dark and rich you are! So any advice I have is draw, draw, and draw, as often as you can. You never know what magic is going to come out of your fingertips!

-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

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