Finding Focus in the Calm Places

It was January of 2011 and I was struggling with where I wanted to take my art and my art career. I had been making Judaic artwork using some powerful graphic synthesizer programs. The goal was to print images to silk to make prayer shawls. The technology was new and expensive, and over the course of a year and a half, I found the whole process too frustrating to continue.


So now I find myself lost and unfocused. I am at the end of that journey. I’m out of a job, a job that I invented. I feel betrayed by the very thing that feeds my soul and gives me great comfort. For many months, I tinkered with various software programs looking for something new to do. I revisited prior projects to see if new insight would advance them to the front.


Base image (center) and two "foundlings" for "Erythrina On Fire."
Base image (center) and two “foundlings” for “Erythrina On Fire.”

One day, I made the inspirational leap to use photographs with the math-based software that landed me in a place where I was able to regain my focus. So much so, that I have been concentrating on this series for almost six years, creating more than one hundred, forty pieces.

In the artwork Erythrina On Fire, I have constructed a large swath of smooth cream color against the very busy orange structure of the reflected flower. You can see in the animation of the piece how I altered the colors to give the viewer a place to rest comfortably in a calm place amid the surrounding chaos.



Cochlear Calla Lily Spin

It has long been a goal of mine to make my artworks move. I get a chance to go deeper into the trance-inducing nature of my kaleidoscopes. I also have the opportunity to show the audience how my work is constructed.

Cochlear Calla Lily is constructed in very few parts. I was taken by the simplicity in form of the subject blossom and wanted to reflect that feeling in the work. There is a simple background layer and a central hub. There is a large wreath-like motif and four corner doodads.

Base image (center) and two “foundlings” for Cochlear Calla Lily

The most complex part of the piece is that main motif—a twelve-layered repetition of a single image. When I give my artwork movement, I can show how these distorted and reflected calla blossom dances into place around the wheel.


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Erotic Lure of the Passion Flower

What is it about this passion flower that intrigues me so? Is it the fleshy petals and sepals that burst open with a violent pink. Maybe it’s the sturdy strands of the purple tiger-striped corona. This beautiful geometry is designed to attract and direct pollinators to the nectaries in the middle. The dressing of the bloom is erotic and frilly, showing off its need for reproduction.


I’m not as taken with the actual sex parts of the flower. It seems to me that the alien structure of the carpels and stamens needs to be dressed up in a fancy-pants target to attract the creatures required to help it reproduce.

Base image and two “foundlings” for “Passion On Grass.”


When I take pictures of passion flowers, I try to figure out how to capture a great image around this interior structure that I find so distracting. I found a solution in this case by capturing this freshly opened blossom in profile on my lawn.


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Hidden Jewels

I live in the lovely bedroom community of Altadena, California. We are nestled in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains, just north of Pasadena (think Rose Bowl/Parade). The area used to be fruit orchards, mainly citrus. But many other fruits were grown and hybridized here at the turn of the last century. In 1908, the land I live on was subdivided into the Historic Highlands Tract and sold as housing plots. The area now hosts many Craftsman houses, one of which I am fortunate to live in.

When we moved in, the yard was a mess. There were still several large citrus trees, many varieties left over from the orchard’s glory days. In addition, we inherited a most magnificent pomegranate tree. We didn’t know how special it was at first because it was so overgrown. When we cleaned up the brush and gave our trees a good pruning, we discovered the most amazing gnarled trunk imaginable.

My wonderful old pomegranate tree.
My wonderful old pomegranate tree.

Concentrating on the outward appearance of things can shield us from hidden beauty inside. This once ugly treasure of a tree is now in full fruit. We share the harvest with our friends, as well as assorted squirrels and insects.

Adorn Your World With Pomegranate

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Gaze Into The Crystal

I don’t have a crystal ball. I don’t know what is in the future. But the world out there is looking a little bit scary. I open up my computer and am bombarded with news of a world gone crazy—politics, gun violence, climate issues, terrorism, race, greed, corruption and more. My Facebook feed will give me nice things to look at, even beyond cute kitten videos and baby’s first steps, but I still have to wade through the muck of frightening stories. The internet is a hard place to find peace.

Animation showing the base image and layers of Magnolia Focus

I create art on my computer. Each of my pieces represents hours spent in competition with Tweets and updates and news. My calendar reminds me to make blog posts (like this one). Banners flash across my screen letting me know I have a new communication. The whole world screams for my attention.

It takes steely self-control to actually make my art. But once I begin, once I have really dived into the crystal display, magic happens. The lights blinking for my attention melt away. I find total focus. Hours go by without me even thinking once about the latest poll numbers. Amid the noisy outside world, I am able to channel inner calm and create with abandon. I am transported into a state of total focus, of joyous celebration in the act of creating.

So now, you are reading this on your device desktop. I am begging to be the distraction in a small slice of your day. The irony is not lost on me. But it is my dearest hope that you find my artwork and animations more peaceful than the news and more relevant than puppies in flower pots.

Magnolia Focus_merch

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Yummy Vegetables

It’s been a little over half a year since I have started eating only plant based foods. Yes, that means I’m vegan. Most of my meals now start with fresh vegetables. So these pea pods were probably about to be be combined with some mushrooms for a tasty stir fry.

Base image for Sliced Pea Pods
Base image for Sliced Pea Pods

Look carefully and you will see my favorite santoku knife in the upper right corner. These snap peas were too beautiful to just eat, I wanted to make them into art too. So before they made it into the pan, they made it into my camera. Of course, from there, I spun them kaleidoscopically!

Sliced Pea Pod_animation from Karen Hochman Brown on Vimeo.

Click on this image for more information on Sliced Pea Pods and how to purchase.


A Passion for Passion Flowers

What fun to work with a flower that already looks like it’s been spun around in a kaleidoscope. I have loved the passion flower since childhood. My grandparents had a large slab with a roof that they called the Summer House. The pillars that supported the roof were covered with passion flower vines. My younger me didn’t really remember the flowers. I was fascinated by the strange fruit that the flower produced. I recall them first looking like an egg, then aging into something akin in texture to a stale marshmallow. I called them Easter Egg Flowers.

Base image for Passiflora Indulgence
Base image for Passiflora Indulgence

I was reminded of the beauty and sensuality of the flower when I decided to grow the vine in my home garden. We had a large fence that would benefit from a clinging vine. The blooms as well as the spiraling tendrils have become subject to several of my artworks. Others include Passion On Grass, New Passion and Passion Tendril Vessel.

Passiflora Indulgence
Passiflora Indulgence

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Beach Walks

I grew up in Santa Barbara. There are many popular beaches with vast stretches of white sand. But I prefer to stay away from the crowd and find the stretches that are a more moody and desolate. The scene here is a small walk north from the lifeguard station at Arroyo Burro State Beach.  I figure the surrounding cliffs have collapse and left these sheets of layered rock down at sea level. Time has worn the edges. Oil seepage from deposits in the Santa Barbara channel give the scene a luminescence, even on an overcast day.

Base image for Rock-N-Surf


The resulting artwork is the first piece I created that wasn’t based on flowers. I had been working on this project for two years and had produced about 30 layered kaleidoscopes. It was my birthday and I was feeling like working on something different. The base image seemed to fit my mood for the day and I ended up with this dark yet glowing altered seascape.


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Matilija Inspiration

MatilijaPrairieInstallation_baseThe matilija poppy is a sun-loving native of Southern California. It’s large crepe paper blossom with a showy yellow puffball of stamens in its center give it the nickname of “fried egg plant.” The photograph that inspired “Matilija Prairie Installation” presents the delicate flower and furry seed pod against a brilliant blue sky.

MatilahaPoppywithSky800webI never go into my work with specific intentions. Each component is created on the fly, based on what I feel is needed for the current artwork. I find a photograph I love and then work within my process to find the pieces to assemble. This means taking the photograph into a software environment (U&I Software’s ArtMatic Designer) that I use to make the various reflections. I don’t know what the results will be when I begin to explore the parameters of the reflections. I find faces and insects; there might be seductive openings. I keep changing setting, looking more images that please me.

In this piece, I found an intriguing structure created by reflecting the seed pod. I thought it looked like the turn-key in an old windup toy or maybe nautical cleats. The white square structure felt like a stretched canvas, slightly bowed in at the edges, now held down by these cleats. Also holding down the canvas is the bottom layer that breaches the bounds of the white layer on top. The petal layers have a celebratory air, particularly when festooned with dots. They almost seem to jump of the surface. In the heart of the piece, the blue sky is used to balance with color and dimension.

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