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
CLICK HERE FOR THE PAINTING -> https://khilliardart.com/product/lake-mead-wash-series-1-1/

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

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
CLICK HERE FOR PRINTS -> https://khilliardart.com/product/arch-rock-prints/

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

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