Ever since I was little, I would be in the stands watching my sibling’s games and I would be stretching. It seems odd to me how much I knew the importance of this as a small child and forget as an adult how necessary it is to have complete movement of my body. Now that I am older and wake up a little stiff, I am finding the need to stretch more and more. Why I am writing about this in my art blog may make no sense but if you read any of the previous blogs about hiking then a parallel is formed. Hiking, running, climbing, walking or any activity makes demands on my body and stretching becomes a major necessity. I must remember to wake up earlier and start the day off right. Life humors me by the mere fact that I can climb mountains and be fine, yet tweak my back picking up a pen. Sitting in a chair and painting for hours on end is no easy task. I must remember to get up and stretch or move my limbs regularly. Breaks are so important.

Oftentimes, I can get so enthralled on a project that I forget to eat or go to the bathroom. Sitting hunched over for what feels like minutes, yet turns into hours, may not be the best course of action. Getting a nice reminder to use the facilities when I stand up is not always a joyous thing. Having to run to the bathroom when one’s body is locked up can be quite challenging. So remembering to wake up early and stretch, take breaks while painting, and move at a tortoise pace in life are a few things I have learned in my time on this planet. Hope this post helps someone else today. Hoping you are out, enjoying yoga, a book, time with loved ones, or just doing something to relax. Take care and have a wonderful Wednesday. Also, thank you for reading these thoughts on self care and maintenance.

-Karen Hilliard

Finding Time

Time may be a construct in our everyday lives that we create and intertwine to needs, demands, and wants. However, making time for what matters to us has to be the most important. I find it difficult to find time to draw or paint and my ideas run rampant in my head slowly driving me mad. Not really insane per se, but constantly whispering…”draw me, paint me, or I will slip away and you won’t remember me.” So here I sit, in the dark, on a Wednesday morning…sketching and barely being able to see what I am doing. Why is the light not on you ask? My daughter slumbers next to me with her sweet innocence and I choose not to disturb her. Yet, I find time for myself to draw and that is an amazing feeling. I am so thankful and grateful everyday to be a mother and have this passion for creation inside me as well. Ideas may come and go, or often slip away, but I will always try to sketch some of them before the fleeting moments happen.

Work in Progress…

This flower cactus series has consumed my mind in all the good ways. My brain is active like the pollinators bringing ideas to every stem of my neurons and my fingers want to dance them out onto the pages of my sketchbooks.  So again, here is sit, in the dark, feeling alive and excited with every stroke. Also, it is nice to see how they turn out in the daylight when she wakes. I do consider my eyes often and make sure to take breaks or stop if any strain is happening. The blogs get written during the wee hours as well and I have computer glasses for that since my screen is set on dim. Once in a while, I point the tiny light at the sketch to see if it is coming out decent. Here are the Cactus blooms I have been creating. I hope you are enjoying this series. Spring is a magical time of year with so many possibilities!

Have a wonderful Wednesday and thank you for reading.

-Karen Hilliard

Cactus Blooms

The desert comes alive in the Spring as we head into the summer months. The pollinators are out in force working hard to collect what they need to survive. Bees are amazing to watch as they work, dive, swim, and play in the pollen of cactus flowers. We are fortunate to have beavertail cactus which produce prickling pears. The flowers that bloom have these beautiful yellow, orange, and green magnificent colors. The center looks like a green button almost. I love sketching them and changing the colors around to see where the art takes me. As I watch the bees work, my mind drifts into a world of whimsy. I end up using all the colors on my watercolor palette to express the emotions I feel from these lovely treasures we find in the desert. 

Cactus Bloom 1 | Karen Hilliard Art | Original Watercolor and Ink | Tiny Painting | 4x4

Another interesting fact about these flowers is that the petals appear soft, but are protected by a harsh stiffness underneath from the cactus needles. Nature amazes me and how adaptation takes place to help plants survive. Did you know there is only one type of prickly pear flowering cactus plant in the Galápagos Islands because bees only pollinated one over and over. They let the other flowers die out because they preferred the nectar of the yellow flowers. Just Fascinating! We saw this on a documentary on Netflix once upon a time. The Islands are definitely on our list to go and visit. Have any of you been there, or long to go there? Where else have you traveled and seen desert wildlife or flora? I have really been enjoying the comments on my blogs and love getting tips of where to travel to next!

Thank you for reading and have a Marvelous Monday!!

-Karen Hilliard

Daylight Savings Time

 The start of earlier days means the possibility of waking up and going hiking and catching the sunrise. Driving to hiking spots in the dark is pretty awesome for my family because the dog can sleep, the baby can sleep and the husband and I can just talk and drive. When we look out the window we are blanketed beneath the stars and encompassed by the earth. We love getting to the trail super early, especially on what we think is going to be an overcast day or cloudy day, because the sunrises are even more breathtaking here in the southwest. Now, all of this being said, keep in mind we leave at 4 AM, which for most people is not the morning. We like to get to trails super early just to see the sun crest over the mountains. We also love living in the central location to where the state and national parks are super close to us. We’re very fortunate to live where we do, it is an outdoors man and woman’s dream. I also feel blessed knowing we will be happy anywhere we live since happiness is a state of being.

Do any of you have a favorite time of day to go on your adventures? Is there a special place in the world you love visiting? My large family’s special place has been Disneyland for a very long time where as my little family and I prefer the outdoors. Everyone has their own way and I love how different we all are. Nature awakens all my senses which I am sure you already know from previous blogs or following my work. My goal is to bring the beauty and magic of the outdoors into your homes. I think it is because I am a huge Disney fan for the artwork and storyline that I see whimsy everywhere. The magic I experienced as a young child has been carried over into how I see all aspects of this world. The most magical time for my imagination is in the early hours of the morning, when everyone seems to be sleeping. This is when my creations run wild. The sun rising to welcome a new day also opens my mind. Therefore, I love longer days and more time to create!

Thank you for reading and have a wonderful Tuesday! I wrote this blog last week and forgot to post it. Since motherhood, days and dates are a blur! Can anyone else relate?

-Karen Hilliard

Living in the Moment

The concept of living in the moment should be an easy one to maintain on a daily basis, yet, it is not. There are so many beautiful events to experience, natural wonders to see, places to explore, and somehow life goes so fast then time slips away. I try to always find time to go outside and play. On days when I am unable to, I go back into my memories through pictures I have taken, sketches I have drawn, or just sit with my mind about what I can remember. For me, life is a constant balance of emotions, reality, and perspective. We all see and feel each experience in a different way and this is why living in the moment can be challenging sometimes. There are facts and history, yet our Interpretations of everything are where things can get wonky. Art has a way of bringing perspective into the light. Everyone can interpret a painting, a writing piece, or a song how they want to for how it fits into their moment.

So live in your moment! If your day is hard, challenging, or fearful, then I hope you find strength. If an experience of sorrow overwhelms you, then I hope you find peace. I wish in all of these moments, everyone can remember how far they have come and how much they can handle. If your day is filled with joy, then I hope you can radiate and spread it to as many others that you come in contact with. My intention with my artwork is to have others view it in whichever moment they are in. I hope each day of looking at one of my paintings brings new ideas or a new perspective to the viewer. With these thoughts in mind, I would love for each of you to find one painting on my website that speaks to you today. However it makes you feel, I hope you’re in your moment! Thank you for reading and have a marvelous Monday.

-Karen Hilliard 

Resolute Protector

Somewhere in the midst off the California coast, a beautiful tree stump sits covered in moss. I became fascinated with this subject while walking around the woods with my family. After many photographs were taken, I came home and started to see different images in the textures of the tree. This title, along with others, popped into my mind as I painted this watercolor. The vision of a forest protector came to me. One in which is resolute in their purpose to protect the trees. Sitting socially among their friends, quiet, unseen almost, and ready to rumble at the first sign of trouble. This painting is a reminder that we are all connected. It is so lovely when I see photographs of human fingerprints and tree rings side by side. Also, branches and our bronchial patterns inside our lungs. Every time I venture into the forest I feel as if I am entering a different world, yet am reminded we are all of this Earth.

Resolute Protector | Karen Hilliard Art | Original Watercolor | Redwoods | Watercolor Painting
Click Here for the Original Watercolor

Resolute Protector” holds many emotions for me and I tried to express them in every detail of this piece. I love the subject and how tree sheddings were collected, then protected by the mighty stump. The beautiful moss surrounding the pine needles gave the dried out old needles a feeling of rebirth into something new. Decomposition at its finest! I also found a lovely little nut or seed, and it turned into an eye of the protector. What do you see when you stare into this painting? Could you look at it forever and still be amazed?

Thank you for reading and have a wonderful weekend!

-Karen Hilliard

Zenning Out in Nature

Some meditate, some write, some think or ponder, I do it all and zen out while in nature. I am one of those people who thrive outside in solitude or with a close friend who can do the same. I have been lucky in life and found someone who zens right along with me. This post also aligns with my previous one on huecos, or holes in rock formations. While on another trail at Valley of Fire, long before our daughter came on the scene, we found this beautiful hueco to zen out in. After a long time of relaxing in the small space, we took some photographs to document this moment in time. We don’t always do this because we also like to just be in the present. The spot was very lovely, however, and we wanted to remember it for future hiking adventures. The hueco can be found in the wash after the Fire Wave Trail. It is recommended to do this trail in cooler months as people have gotten lost on it and ran out of water. We found it most enjoyable in the early morning as the sun rises over the valley. The colors are remarkable!

Have any of you been to Valley of Fire in Nevada? If so, what is your favorite trial or one of your favorites? Another hike we love to relax on is White Domes. This trail is very populated but my husband and I often find gems to hide and relax in. This hike has a lovely slot canyon as well and the sandstone is very picturesque compared to our hike in Owl Canyon at Lake Mead. We loved the color variations and the flow of the canyon at Valley of Fire as it weaves and tuned in wondrous ways. We had our dog on leash for this trail as there is a lot of human foot traffic. The sand is very nice and inviting when the trail starts and a huge workout on the way back. This trail is not only beautiful but a muscular infused heat sensation in the legs! Thank you for reading and happy hiking! Have a wonderful Wednesday.

-Karen Hilliard

Gorgeous Valley of Fire

Happy Thursday everyone! I realized I did not put a blog out on Monday because I put my Newsletter out and forgot to double write that day. My apologies for all of you who are engaged with my posts. I have been working hard on a series of Redwood pieces that I share with my Newsletter subscribers and simultaneously work on these Valley of Fire Rock Formations. My passion is nature and I’d any of you are following the journey of my paintings or art career, I am sure you know this already. For those of you just reading my blog for the first time, I hope my art encourages you to get outside and look at the world with whimsy. 

Rock Formations of Valley of Fire | Karen Hilliard Art | Tiny Paintings | Original Watercolor

The new Tiny Painting series about the rock formations found at Valley of Fire State Park here in Nevada holds a special place in my heart. This was one of the first places I visited when I moved to the desert and it immediately sparked my creativity. I will forever be fascinated by this place and walk around the park in pure amazement. The colors are breathtaking on any type of day in any weather pattern. In the last blog I introduced the first painting in the series, “Rock Formations of Valley of Fire Series 1 Number 1.” I also have more from previous series still available on my website. Here are a few of them and if you are interested, they are one of a kind. Once you purchase one, you are the only one who will have it!

I love painting small so everyone can enjoy an original of my work if they wish for one. My style is the same in watercolor whether large or small, the larger works differ on the amount of time and mental focus to complete a large painting. My larger pieces from this park have SOLD in previous gallery shows. There are three paintings I have left from years ago that I have not released and will be uploading onto my website later this month in the Smallworks section. They are different sizes and I will be posting updates about them if anyone is interested. Two of them are nature scenes and one is a close up of petroglyphs. For now, I hope you enjoy these Tiny Paintings from a park full of fascination. Have a wonderful Thursday and thank you for reading!

-Karen Hilliard


Two very different sections of the park hold beautiful rock formations filled with various hues. Fire Wave Trail in Valley of Fire State park is one of my favorites. The trail starts and leads the hiker through the desert, around rock cliffs, and opens up on to an amazing trail with striped rocks. The mounds, boulders, and hills leading up to the wave are lovely on their own and I could have spent hours photographing or sketching them. The wildflowers and cacti are endless during spring and the colors illuminate their surroundings. My husband, dog, and I like to run this trail and go over the wave and into the wash. Here is where I found this lovely little nook to sit and marvel at. The rocks were huddled in the small space and reminded me of the gold rush when everyone was hustling to find gold. To me, this is my gold. Rocks and nature speak to me and this painting is titled, “Golden.” I tried to capture the colors of the day in the park with high sun and a little overcast. This blog is titled “Perspective” because my newest painting on the Rock Formations from this park is from a totally different area.

Even with both paintings being from different parts of the park, I really love how they go together. They look wonderful side by side. The second one, and newest one, “Rock Formations of Valley of Fire,” is from the Arches campground site. We were amazed at how many huecos and outcroppings there were in such a small camping area. We had always wanted to camp at Arches but these spots are taken most of the time. We lucked out on this recent trip and found a spot overlapped in time. We had one glorious night through high winds and sunshine. This was our first camping trip with the baby and she used the tent like her personal bounce house having the time of her life. Between her enjoyment, laughter, and smiles, there seemed to be nothing close to this amazing experience. Then, we walked around and found beautiful rocks that she also loved with just as much excitement! I hope this blog finds you well and that you have a lovely weekend. What do you think of these two paintings together? Thank you for reading!

-Karen Hilliard 

Daily Watercolor

The daily watercolor sketchbook sits on a table in my studio screaming my name from its bindings. “What will you paint today,” it calls to me. As I sit in the other room playing with our daughter, getting another tissue out of our dog’s mouth, and thoroughly enjoying myself…I ponder in my mind what shall paint during nap time? Knowing I still have to write my blog from Monday, post a reel on Instagram to stay relevant on social media, and the most important, be ever present in our daughter’s life. Walking in two worlds is hard sometimes and doing daily artwork is even more challenging. The most rewarding experience of all my days is being a mother. Yet, I must transition here back into my art brain for this blog. So here I sit, about to describe my latest sketchbook entry, all the while thinking of what voice to give to her next stuffed animal. As mentioned above, walking in two worlds where the creativity gets highly expanded and melds together.

My recent art project comes from our family trip to Valley of Fire. I drew my husband while we all sat inside a little sandstone cave in the desert. The crawl space was big enough for all three of us and a dog with room to move around, lay down, etc. The colors on this day were unworldly. The orange illuminated my mind with thoughts of a fire burning bright around Christmas time. I chose to emphasize his hat with the color green to represent the evergreen of winter. I thought this would be a nice contrast from the deep orange, red, and bright yellows I was trying to capture from my memory. While working on this piece, I decided to film it on my phone. I just wanted to see the difference from Time Lapse to regular speed. The results were quite enjoyable and I was able to clip several shorter videos for my social media demands which was nice. Finding time to be creative is quite a challenge. This being said, I am always creative, what I mean is…trying to find time to put these creations down on paper is the hard part. Also, there is no time to watermark this little work in progress so…honor system! I hope you all find time today for a little relaxation. Thank you for reading and happy Tuesday!

-Karen Hilliard