Rainbow Mountains

The air was crisp and thin at the start of our hike to heaven. The buses were all parked and guides were scurrying about gathering all their clients like mother hens. Each guide broke the tourists into groups and went on to get to the top of the mountain. Since we arrived so late, our guide told us we had to be back on the bus soon so we only had a few hours at the top. We new that time was of the essence and we had to hoof it! This being said….our guide took off…with the oxygen. I have never used it in my life or needed it hiking in Colorado, so I wasn’t worried, just a little nervous, and very aware to watch my breathing. The whole hike was a slow incline up the mountain. We packed both our bags with our thermals, fleece, and rain/windbreaker jackets. We also brought our snow gloves in case it snowed and jackets too. Well, we needed everything, okay…here we go!

We followed the herds of people from the parking lot and walked at a steady pace talking the whole way. Many people decided they were done walking and took rides on the horses offered. Men and women who lived nearby brought their horses and rode the tourists up the mountain while they walked on foot leading the way. Then, they would run down to catch their next fare, and they were all in sandals!! Impressive stamina. My goal was to not take a ride on the horse, not out of stubborness, I just felt the horses could use a rest. They looked super overworked. So on we walked and many people stopped to ask me if I wanted a ride in their horse. Chris was wonderful and ended up carrying my pack too, which I gave reluctantly. I didn’t want him to strain himself but he is super strong, and I am very grateful. I had to stop several times near the end and Chris noticed the trees stopped growing the higher up we were.

A lack of oxygen for the trees to grow was an interesting discovery. Seeing herds of llamas grading was quite enjoyable as well. The whole hike to the top was sunny and amazing. We reached the final hill and I was so excited. Chris looked at me and asked if I was okay and I said let’s do this! About 10-20 feet from the top I sat down and he sat with me. It was an insane feeling of helplessness. I literally had to go inside my mind and calm down the fear of not being able to breathe. I sat for what felt like forever which was a minute in reality and then took Chris’s hand to hold the whole way up. We did it! Success! Chris struggled breathing too and really held it together by staying calm. Our guide met us at the top and we told him about the asthma and he offered the oxygen. I figured since I made it, I didn’t need to put my mouth in something everyone used. We said thank you but we are okay. He replied we had 10 minutes to enjoy and head back down. We made it to the top in an hour and 41 minutes and thought we had more time. Surrounded by the beauty of the mountain, we just looked at each other, smiled, and relished in every second.

Rainbow Mountains. Peru Series Number 5

We took a ton of photos, well, as much as we could in the time frame. Then we changed into our snow clothes because the snow came in. On the way down it did get sunny and we did shed the clothing back to our original attire. This wonder is a must see if you are ever in Peru and near Cusco! We highly recommend it. I just wanted you all to know about the breathing factor…so you can be prepared. Everything was worth it to see these mountains. Everything!

Thank you for reading and I hope you have a happy, and safe, weekend!

-Karen Hilliard

A Journey

“Where do you want to travel to next?” This was a question I asked my husband on our first hike together, which he thought was a date. I ask everyone I meet if they want to go hiking because I love the outdoors. Years later, we decided it could be our first date because we both liked each other instantly and the trail turned into many trails throughout the years. Traveling and being outside is one of our shared loves. The other is the ability to think the same thing at the same time even all these years later. After asking him the question about where to travel, he said “Machu Picchu” and this was the same place I had in mind. Before we planned this trip, we decided to get married and then it became a Honeymoon excursion. Since the altitude is much higher in Peru than here in the desert we needed to prepare our bodies and train.

We thought Mt. Charleston would be the best place to hike every weekend to get our lungs ready for the altitude difference. Cusco, Peru has an elevation of 11,152 feet and Mt. Charleston, Nevada stands at 11,916 feet at its peak. Chris and I were not able to hike all the way to the top before our trip, so we trained on our original trail, and we climbed to about 8,000 feet. Northloop Trailhead has some spots for cars so it is recommended to arrive as early as possible, especially on the weekends like we did. Going as often as we could, we felt we were ready for the trip at this point. In a future blog I will write about where we traveled, the elevation gains, and the need for Oxygen at certain points of the trail while in Peru. For now, I will share the journey we took to South America. 

After hiking Mt. Charleston on the weekends, the next idea was to visit our friends in Ohio and Chicago, then fly out of O’Hare. The tickets were more affordable and we got to stop off at our friend’s farms along the way. We drove to Chicago, to pick up a friend, and then continued on to Ohio to stay at Benham Farms, where the hosts are an amazing couple with oodles of information on techniques, crop development, and grazing rotation. We were also able to venture into Yellow Springs for a walk along the river and a taste of the awesome brews from Yellow Springs Brewery. It is always nice to have a break in the hard work during the middle of the day. Then we got to go back to the farm for a night of gazing at fireflies. Not a bad way to end the day or this blog post.

Thank you for reading and have a happy Monday!

-Karen Hilliard

Circle Tour

Let’s start this blog off with the first state on the journey, Wisconsin. We had the pleasure of visiting with wonderful people on their farm while in this lovely state. Our first stop on the tour was at Four Mile Farmstead in Washburn, WI. Since this trip, their farm has moved locations and their name has changed to Drifty Acres. (I added their Instagram link into this post, just click on the name of their current farm.) These two wonderful souls took Chris and I on a ferry ride to Madeline Island in Lake Superior. They traveled to this island to sell their wares and afterwards we all enjoyed having a good time by jumping in the lake and cooling off. Hanging out in the main town was quite charming as well. It was a nice relaxing visit to start our vacation.

After we all spent time on the island, we went back to Four Mile Farmstead. There were many chores to do, however, they did them all! They wanted us to just visit and used the opportunity to give themselves a quick break when their chores were through. The animals came first of course! They took us to a tranquil little spot along the river in Washburn where the dogs enjoyed some time in the water. Their two dogs were running around and bounding through the forest while ours was keeping a watchful eye on them. Our dog at the time was very old and in his last year of life. He mostly loved telling people and animals his thoughts on how we all should behave. This trip was very special for the three of us, my husband, myself, and our dog of 15 years. I am forever thankful he had the opportunity to be on this adventure with us. 

After the river, we all walked back to the farm for an evening meal. These are two of the hardest working people I have ever met. At the time, they were working on their own microgreens business, starting a goat herd, and using compost to start their own garden so they could be self-sustainable while both having full time jobs. Their idea of a “break” was still a lot of work for them and very early mornings. She taught me how to milk the goats and the importance of keeping them calm at all times so they don’t step in, or kick the bucket. Disposing of the first couple of squirts of milk as well as it is not good for humans to drink this. Both of these people are very knowledgeable and love helping out anyone who is interested in farming. I highly recommend checking out their Instagram account or Facebook. I also created a series of Tiny Paintings of their farm Four Mile Farmstead and 10% of all profits goes back to the farm. Two more paintings are available for purchase if you would like to help them out with artwork, or you can go to their page directly as they are always having amazing things going on.

I will continue blogging about our trip around the lake. I know you all want to know about Pancake Bay, Canada, from my previous post “Summer.”

Thank you for reading and Happy Monday!

-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

Ah Spring…

Spring is a beautiful time of year. The pollinators are hard at work on flowers to get a taste of their nectar. Here in the desert the bees work tirelessly on pollinating the cactus flowers on beaver tails and this leaves behind new opportunities for cactus pears. These are delicious morsels and very colorful to behold. In our garden right outside our kitchen door, we have lovely sunflowers that chase the rays of the sun all day. The bees also pollinate these and the flower goes to seed for the many birds who frequent our backyard. The desert tortoises are also out eating anything they can find and loving the water in the cactus. This is what goes on in our tiny spot on the planet, what blooms where you live?

In other parts of the country roses, wildflowers, and tulips abound. Color is booming and blooming everywhere. Yellow tulips are one of my favorite flowers and I have yet to paint them. I have longed to get a bouquet of them with a variety of colors. Fields of tulips in another country would be an ideal painting situation for me, or a vast area of lavender fields. Where is somewhere you would love to travel to for the pure experience of flowers? I think France would be an ideal place for lavender and Japan for the cherry blossoms on trees. While in Tuscany I had the pleasure of traveling by train and viewing fields of sunflowers. They were everywhere and I was eternally happy. This was in the summertime and may be put in my next blog on Friday. Roses are one of my husband’s favorite flowers. What are some of yours?

Mine would be sunflowers and tulips. Another friend from Barcelona mentioned the exact flowers that bring me joy are the ones that bring them happiness. I wonder how a painting of tulips and sunflowers would look and what I would place as a filler? Do you have any thoughts on this? For now, desert bound, I paint my surroundings. Luckily, I am inspired anywhere I go and wherever my eyes gaze. The pure enjoyment of being an artist and feeling motivation from all of nature is my deepest passion. I feel truly blessed. So, in conclusion, Spring brings so many wonderful feelings to the surface. The color and fragrance alone are amazing and the season also brings new hope with possibilities. Have a happy Wednesday, and thank you for reading!

-Karen Hilliard

Blog 100

Wow, this is my 100th blog. I just want to take a moment to thank all of you for reading these and tell you it means a lot to me. I have received text messages, private messages, emails, and comments on the actual blogs. It is amazing to meet with you all here on my little spot online. For those of you following from the beginning, thank you so much! For those of you recently reading, I am overjoyed to write for you Monday, Wednesday, and Friday every week. Here you will find posts about my artwork, hiking/climbing adventures, camping trips, and so on. This blog is meant to inspire everyone to go for their dreams and believe in the possibilities of life. My artwork will hopefully create new perspectives of the outside world and encourage others to see the world a little differently. 

The newest series in my portfolio has been ink and watercolor Tiny Paintings. These are 4” x 6” paintings created on Mixed Media paper. They can fit into a 5×7 inch frame with a mat opening for a 4×6 inch image. Please mat the artwork before framing so the watercolor does not stick to the glass. This is for those of you who would like to purchase my artwork. The direct link to the Tiny Paintings is here…click here! “Fall in Red Rock” is the newest series and the focus is on contrast of colors. I am using a lot of different variants of warm orange and cool blue hues. I hope you like these pieces. Numbers one, two, and three have sold. Number three was very exciting to create. The intricate details were created with ink and then watercolor was applied after for shadows and texture.

fall in red rock number 3 | Karen Hilliard Art | original watercolor

Each leaf was painted individually and the wash work was done with great intention. I chose a few spots to do a watercolor wash in and then ended up layering over it several times. Basically, the whole entire piece is very detailed. The top right corner is a little bit more loose to give the viewer a little bit of play with their imagination. I like how this painting was of a tree and ended up looking like the desert floor with leaves scattered around twigs, or a root system. This was a truly enjoyable piece to paint and I hope you look forward to the rest of this series. Numbers 4, 5, and 6 are now up on the website for your enjoyment. They can be found in the Small Works link or on my Home Page under Small Works. Thank you for reading 100 blogs and I am happy to continue writing more for all of you. Have a great weekend and stay safe!

-Karen Hilliard

Black Canyon, AZ

Part 1

The sun was shining, water still, and the breeze was mild. We decided to go on a kayaking trip and camp overnight. This spot is amazing with many little coves to dock the kayaks or canoes and set up a tent. Our dog loved being able to get out, stretch his legs, and play with the frisbee we brought. The trip is from a few years ago, our dog has since passed, and this memory lives in infamy. I wanted to share this experience with all of you and hopefully inspire you to get outdoors or do something outside your comfort zone. Our big achievement on this day was kayaking all the way to the dam. Which was not exactly all the way, keep reading as to why.

The three of us were on the water for 3 days. My husband in his kayak with all the gear between his legs and myself in mine with our wonder dog. The water was nice and smooth yet we paddled up the river against the current for 2 days. We decided the first day we would stop and make camp. A beautiful spot on the river and super quiet while secluded. The dog enjoyed swimming around with his life vest because water safety is always very important. After many hours, we fell asleep to the stars overhead and an incredibly pitch black night around us. It gets very dark in the canyon. We awoke to a rumbling outside the tent that sounded like a large animal and ended up being a mouse eating our peanut butter sandwich. We had securely hid our food inside the kayak, or so we thought. Creatures have their very talented ways, be careful. We are lucky it was only a mouse.

The next morning we ventured further up the river and came across a gathering of people on the right side of the canyon. They spotted a bighorn and their dogs were barking at the animal. We decided to float on by and leave peace to the bighorn as everyone else had other ideas. Luckily, our dog did not bark at other dogs or the Sheep minding it’s own business eating it’s breakfast on the side of a rock face. As we paddled further up, we realized it was afternoon and we were not going to make it to the dam. The water from Lake Mead is released in the afternoon and the current is unmanageable by paddling. They do this to spin the turbines and increase power to the valley. I will write more about the rest of the journey in my post on Friday and hopefully have a Tiny painting for all of you to enjoy. Until then, thank you for reading and have a great day!

-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 khilliardart.com/contact

Thank you for reading and have a wonderful Wednesday!

-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
CLICK HERE FOR PAINTING -> https://khilliardart.com/product/waking-up/

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