Weekend Shenanigans

Wind, sleet, and a rainstorm! Do I have your attention? It sure had ours! We went out on a hike and stumbled upon beautiful trickling waters all the way to flowing rivers. On our return hike we were met with some interesting weather and yes, all weather is good weather. We braved the storm and ended at a restaurant, soaking wet head to toe, and all of us just sat enjoying warm drinks before lunch was served. The start of the hike was beautiful and yes…very windy. Not so windy that it would be unsafe being out on the trail, but windy enough to be unpleasant for others in the end. For us, however, we loved it and it was worth the lulls in weather patterns to be in the eye of the storm for most of the journey. We hiked through the desert and watched our dogs play, drink water in streams, bound around with immense joy, and get very wet. We watched the children jumping babbling brooks, finding walking sticks, and studying the nature around them. We laughed, had multiple conversations, and much exploration.

Hiking up the long arduous hill was invigorating. The kids were having the best time bouldering around the rocks and climbing to the top of things. We were very careful to keep them safe and once the rain started, the climbing stopped. To see nature through a different lens of children’s eyes is wonderfully remarkable. One of the best parts of Saturday’s adventure was seeing what the children would do next, what questions they would ask, and how their eyes lit up with amazement at EVERYTHING. Once the rain came, then the sleet, people may have thought I would mention all the complaining that happened. There was none! The kids and adults just followed each other in single file on the trail and protected one another during the wind blasts. Smiles all around and laughter with each unexpected experience. This goes down in my memories as one of my best days on planet Earth. Have a marvelous Monday and thank you for following along on my artistic journey!

-Karen Hilliard 

Moments in Time

Every time I am out in the desert I feel worlds away from everything and everyone else. The topography continuously changes and causes my mind to wander into my imagination. So many thoughts come flooding in as if a flash flood or monsoon is happening inside my brain. Does this ever happen to you? I get so many thoughts at once and don’t have time to write or sketch them all down. I feel grateful every time I hike to have the opportunity for my life to be filled with wonder. Never expecting what may happen out in nature and always being pleasantly surprised is the best way for me to approach life. This is where I find my greatest inspiration, from the unknown. My favorite days outside are, what other people may describe as, the gloomy days. I love overcast and cool weather. Anytime the weather shifts to drizzle or gray moments, my mind shifts back to my childhood, growing up on the coast of California. This was such an amazing moment in time for me and anytime it rains I am transported into my imagination.

The gray days are perfect weather to enjoy a sip of coffee and break out my sketchbook. I have this wonderful little set of watercolors I found in Germany and it fits in my bag perfectly. When I arrived back in the USA I found the same set on Amazon. Here is the link if anyone is interested. These are my field watercolors, Winsor and Newton Cotman series. I also went to our local Desert Art Supplies and purchased another small blank set which I fill with specific colors and my Winsor and Newton Professional Watercolors. Between these two sets I find a happy place. Anytime I see the sky gets cloudy and I have a free moment, you can find me out in the desert, falling in love with the scenery all over again. I hope to bring this peace into your homes or the homes of your loved ones with my paintings. For now, have a terrific Thursday and I hope you have the chance to get outside!

-Karen Hilliard

Juniper Trees

 Juniper trees are a beautiful sight to behold out at Red Rock Canyon. Actually,  anywhere in the southwest where you can adventure out into the wilderness and find one of these beautiful specimens of foliage is a real treat. The berries are actually called cones and birds eat them, they can also be used to make gin, a drink for humans. The problem with the juniper trees recently has been bird droppings, or ding, with a mistletoe seed in the poop. This then attaches to the tree and sucks the water out of the bark to grow the plant, then the mistletoe eats the tree. The mistletoe is a parasite for the trees. Out in the desert, especially where water is scarce, plants have to fight to survive, and the mistletoe is really taking over a lot of the juniper trees. While we’re out hiking, we love to find these trees and stare in awe at their beauty, always hoping to not see mistletoe. When I stop to sketch these trees I try to capture their needles and show the berries in bright colors. To me, they look like Christmas tree ornaments adorning the tree naturally. What do you see when you spot them? Have any of you seen them in real life, or just in photographs? Here are some paintings of Junipers I have done over the last few years. Let me know your thoughts on the comments!

What are you favorite paintings out of this little collection? What is your favorite tree or bird? I have a few plain air sketches of these trees from hiking as well and fortunately none of those have mistletoe. Please do not ever eat the mistletoe or berries as they are poisonous. I will not even eat a Juniper berry/cone if the mistletoe is growing anywhere on the tree. This parasite affects the structure of the tree. It can be removed carefully and trees can be spared, however that takes a specific skill set and knowledge in that area. Please do not attempt it unless you know what you are doing. Thank you for reading and have a marvelous Monday! Be safe out there!!

-Karen Hilliard 

Red Rock Canyon

The Southwest is filled with marvels from Sandstone and Limestone rock formations to the various vegetation surrounding them. The animals alone are hearty and spectacular. I decided for my first blog on the beautiful landscape should be about my own backyard, Red Rock Canyon and Lake Mead Recreation Area. This one will focus solely on Red Rock Canyon here in Las Vegas. The canyon is just outside Summerlin, which is a community here in Las Vegas. Summerlin is a lovely place filled with sandstone topography, and aesthetically pleasing stone walls around the businesses. You can find coffee shops, donut shops, pizzerias on your way out to red rock, or on your way back from the canyon if you are interested in a meal or a snack, after a long hike, or climbing session. There’s also horseback riding near the canyon past the 13 mile loop. Red rock Canyon has a lot to offer for families as well as experienced adventure enthusiasts. The 13 mile loop in itself has many pull outs with different names such as Pine Creek Canyon, Icebox Canyon, Calico Basin, Sandstone Quarry, and more. This has always been Las Vegas to me. Whenever I have friends visit, I try and take them out into nature rather than go to the strip to see the lights. I would rather take people out to the street sunshine and the vast desert surrounding all of Las Vegas.

Personally, I’ve only ever seen a coyote and some road runners inside the loop. I think we did calico basin pull out one and pull out two for several years. I loved running up and down the trail because the topography was nice and hilly. It was a very good workout. This is also where I first started climbing on rope on the panty wall and calico basin. It’s a great start for new or inexperienced climbers. Another activity people like to do in the loop is bike riding and then they often meet at the Dunkin’ Donuts in Summerlin at the end of the ride. I have yet to ride my bike around the 13 mile loop or to run around the entire thing. Have any of you been to red rock canyon and done any of these activities? I started going hiking just outside the loop and I absolutely love the freedom of it. Also, there are a limited number of people. Outside the loop I’ve seen Burroughs, bighorn, sheep, tarantulas, tarantula wasps, and much much more. The flowers and cacti are breathtaking. I am very excited to start taking you on walks out in this beloved desert ecosystem. 

Thank you for reading and have a Marvelous Monday!

-Karen Hilliard


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

Flash Floods

In regards to my blog “All Weather is Good Weather,” I stated we did not live near hurricanes, tornadoes, fires, earthquakes, etc. Natural disasters seem to skip us here in the desert. Well…recently we had a tropical storm come through from a hurricane off the California Coast. Then, a few days later we had our monsoon season but this time the streets were rivers. Luckily, everything was okay for the people where we live and yet the debris the following week has been interesting. Mud has been piling up everywhere and streets are still tan with dirt from what was left behind. I stand by all weather is good weather because I know how much this rain has helped the desert. Our sunflower patch in the backyard got hammered by hail but the desert, where people do not live, needed this rain.

The ecosystem thrives on the rainy season for all the creatures and plants that live outdoors. They do not have McDonnalds and Starbucks for fancy outings with friends. Their very existence depends on water and food sources that are scarce. So everytime I hear frustrations towards rain, I understand, but I also think about the animals that depend on it. The trees and plants crave their water sources as well. Water is so important for everything and everyone’s existence and we need to keep our fresh waters safe. This is a whole different topic for another time. On to weather again. Forest fires where so many homes are destroyed are unfortunate and terribly sad. These fires do however help the forest floor to rejuvenate, and create new habitats. Luckily humans help the situation by not letting these fires burn too long because that can lead to devastating losses a forest has a hard time coming back from. 

Flash floods come swiftly and then leave behind essential nutrients and sediments animals and ecosystems need. This helps the desert rejuvenate. Yes, there is massive destruction with these natural disasters but it is the Earth’s way of healing itself. If you are ever in a flash flood situation, try to get to the highest point as quickly as possible. Do not mess around and think you will have time to get out. The rains come fast, dump feet of water, flow vigorously, and are intensely scary. Flash floods are beautiful to watch from somewhere safe but please stay clear and don’t try to get a closer look. Respect nature. Have you or anyone you know been affected by a natural disaster? From my personal experience, I have dealt with flash floods and earthquakes. From a secondary perspective I have witnessed forest fires and the devastation of wildfires. Be safe out there and smart.

Have a happy start to your week.

-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

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

Something to Blog About

Accidently dipping a paintbrush into my hot chocolate, coffee, or tea is an occasional  occurrence. How many of my artist friends out there have this problem? No matter how many times I watch my surroundings or place my mug far away from my paints, it happens. While creating this last painting of the “Fall in Red Rock Series,” I did this many times. On the last day of the painting, while filling in all the final details, I must have dipped my paintbrush into my hot chocolate 20 times at least. Of course, I stopped drinking it after the first one and washed my paint brush every time it happened. The reason I am writing about this is because it was the last cup of hot chocolate and grocery day was still three days away.

Buying groceries has gotten expensive recently due to inflation of product and gas prices. I try to be really conscious of certain items in the house. I have only been drinking hot cocoa instead of coffee and tea. One simple cup a day is a nice treat and helps get me into the mindset of Fall. While painting I love to place myself back into a memory. The painting series I am currently working on is about being outdoors during the Fall season. I am remembering the crisp air of the morning, the cool colors surrounding me, and the smell of leaves on the ground. So you can imagine how sad I was when drinking this magical cup of cocoa was no longer an option. I was able to finish the painting but waited a few days to start the next one. 

Fall in Red Rock | Original Watercolor | Karen Hilliard Art | Tiny Painting | Starting Bid | Auction

I love activating all the senses and making my painting experience just as wonderful as the actual day I took the reference photos. By awakening other senses I am able to tap into a new creative spark and amazing things happen. The paintbrush has a mind of it’s own, then lines, shapes, and details start to form. I created a sketch before this painting series and the Tiny Paintings are all turning out a little different, than not only the photograph, but the sketch itself. I do love this about art. The feeling that I never truly know what I will create until it happens. Living in the moment. Even on a large piece that takes many months to create, each day is a new beginning and takes me into a fresh mindset. What is your process? 

This is titled with my husband’s words after I said, “oh no, I dipped my paintbrush in my hot chocolate again!” His reply was, “That gives you something to blog about.”

Thank you for reading, and happy Monday!

-Karen Hilliard

The Wash

In the hot summer months the water in the valley dries up and the wash becomes available to walk through. The path is riddled with beautiful sandstone and limestone rocks, pebbles, and boulders. It is an amazing workout on the ankles and legs which helps with dexterity. Balance with oneself and nature is necessary while exploring topography such as this. The heat of the desert settles in and the wash appears vast, hot, and completely sparse of life. There we are, walking, trudging along into the abyss wondering what treasures we will find. I love watching our dog bound endlessly from boulder to boulder like a billy goat on the side of a cliff. He has so much energy and it is nice to watch him in his element exploring every ounce of wonder.

His exercise in the summer months is limited due to the heat so we have to take the dog out hiking in the very early hours of the day. The fall months are a much nicer experience for the three of us and the exploration we love to do. The leaves change color, the wash is dry, and the breeze is cool if not cold. The mountains are starting to get ready for snow so they can supply the wash with water in the spring. The colors in the desert are glorious during the fall. The rocks on the path we trail on are wondrous shades of blue, purple, red, orange, yellow, white, and cream. We love feeling the smoothness of the rock faces whittled down by wind and rain in the wash. Sitting down on a nice surface area and enjoying a cup of hot chocolate or tea is a nice treat for the humans on this journey.

Blue Heeler | Karen Hilliard Art Blog | Red Rock Canyon State Park
I used the Fall colors from the desert for inspiration on this little sketch.

The boundless energy of our dog keeps us entertained and moving forward under any circumstance. Sometimes we end up butt scooting down cliff faces and carrying the dog on our laps or handing him to and fro between one another. He is not a small or light animal but we manage. Through all this, we have a backpack that one of us carries with a sketchbook, watercolors, and a pen. Oftentimes we will find a spot where my husband and dog sit, relax, explore, or do whatever their hearts want to do at that moment. I sit and sketch, paint, or draw. I like to just look, observe, and think about what I see or notice as well. Writing down my thoughts is a must because of the vast beauty and endless ideas in front of me. I enclosed a few pictures of our hike in the wash. More to come!

Thank you for reading and have a happy Monday!

-Karen Hilliard