What started as a form of therapy became a way for Cheryl Kellar to both lose and find herself in the world of high fashion.
WORDS / SUMMER EL-SHAHAWY
Cheryl Kellar’s bold, colorful paintings add even more layers of complexity to her already stunning fashion subjects. Inspired by fashion of all kinds, she puts her own spin on the flashy and fearless to create something newly fabulous. She has been working the artistic runway in Northwest Arkansas since 2016.
“I am particularly drawn to high drama,” Kellar said. “So when painting, I look for a dramatic fashion window, runway or great street fashion. If the drama isn’t there but the fashion is, I’ll find a way to input the drama.”
Fashion can be an avenue to self-recognition and create a space for people to see themselves represented as gorgeous and glorious. For Kellar, this is one of the most important components in her painting.
“I like to reveal something in my paintings that people will relate to,” Kellar said. “Quite often the thing that draws someone to a painting or drawing in particular is the hair that looks like theirs or the group of women that reminds them of their sisters or girlfriends. I love when this happens. I revel in the strength, individuality and beauty of all women.”
Kellar’s road to high-fashion painting started as a form of therapy. As a real-time court reporter, her work required close attention to detail and expected perfection, and she began taking classes at the Arkansas Arts Center in Little Rock to help alleviate the stress.
“I signed up for jewelry making because, hey, jewelry! But fusing tiny dots of silver proved to feel like work,” Kellar said. “So I switched to watercolor because it has a mind of its own. No sense fighting with it, just go with it. I still find it so relaxing and can totally lose myself when I’m painting.”
Throughout her career as an artist, Kellar’s talent has been recognized across the nation. Since 2019 she has won awards in multiple juried exhibitions, including those held by the Mid-Southern Watercolorists, the Artists of Northwest Arkansas and the International Society of Experimental Artists. Her work has also been accepted to a number of competitive exhibits including those held by the San Diego Watercolor Society, Watercolor West, the Watercolor Art Society of Houston, the International Society of Experimental Artists, the Mid-Southern Watercolorists and Artfields in South Carolina.
Kellar will exhibit work at Art on the Bricks in Rogers and in Interform’s month-long event Assembly as a part of the Yes. And… exhibit this June. She will further blend the worlds of high fashion and art through Framed in Fashion, a company she and her sister Kathleen Shwarz started five years ago.
“We print my artwork on fabric and Kathleen designs and sews the garments,” Kellar said. The duo debues their collection with a fashion show on May 29. “I can’t wait to capture as many great fashion looks as possible that evening.”
Beyond exhibits and accolades, Kellar’s happy place is simply her studio, where she draws and paints every day. Each year, Kellar chooses a word or phrase to live by. 2020’s word was gratitude.
“Wow, that was a big one for 2020. So much so that I forgot what it was until 2021 came along and I realized that in spite of everything, I had spent the year in so much gratitude,” Kellar said. “This year is inner peace. That’s easy to achieve when I’m creating, so that’s where my energy will be focused.”
Kellar is currently represented by Art Ventures in Fayetteville and M2 Gallery in Little Rock.