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Conway artist chosen for first Toad Suck Daze poster

By Tammy Keith

This article was published April 3, 2011 at 6:00 a.m.


Heather Mainord holds the artwork she was commissioned to paint for this year’s Toad Suck Daze. Prints of the work will be sold, and the original will remain at the Conway Area Chamber of Commerce.

— Some of Conway native Heather Mainord’s favorite Toad Suck Daze memories are running the 10K, strolling around downtown while sipping lemonade and watching her two boys enjoy the carnival rides.

She can add being the artist for the first official Conway Toad Suck Daze painting to the list this year.

The Conway Area Chamber of Commerce commissioned Mainord to create a painting for 2011, the 30th anniversary of the festival. Limited-edition signed and numbered poster-sized prints of the painting — 200 of them — will be sold for $50 at the Toad Store, 1321 Oak St.

“I just was thrilled and very honored,” Mainord said. “It’s something to give back to my community that I love.”

Mary Margaret Satterfield, director of events for the Chamber, said the special artwork is something she’s wanted to do for years.

“We wanted to wait for a special year,” Satterfield said, and the 30th seemed the right time. She called Mainord and asked her to come up with something.

“We wanted a local artist, for sure,” Satterfield added. “I really like Heather’s stuff. First off, ... she grew up here,” and her artwork is known, Satterfield said.

“I didn’t want it to be my vision of what it should be — I left it up to her,” Satterfield said. “I’m very happy with it. I love it.”

Mainord, who describes herself as an “abstract impressionist,” looked at “tons” of event photos that Satterfield had compiled over the years.

Mainord chose Toad Suck Square as her focus and went downtown and took some of her own pictures.

She said she sat and sketched for a week; then she painted for about three days. The result is a vibrant scene — albeit an impressionistic one — of Toad Suck Daze that seems to jump off the canvas. The painting reflects the energy and activity during the festival, which brings thousands of people to downtown Conway.

“I can remember the first one,” Mainord said. “I was in sixth or seventh grade, and it was out at the river.”

The festival moved from Toad Suck Park on the Arkansas River to downtown Conway about 20 years ago, Satterfield said.

This year, it will be Friday, April 29, through Sunday, May 1.

Mainord, wife to Bill and mother to A.J., 10, and John Michael, 7, traveled the world before finding her niche as a painter.

“I was really more into sewing,” she said. “My focus really was to go to school in fashion design.”

After she graduated from Conway High School, she wanted to go to Denton, Texas, to the University of North Texas for its fashion-design program. Her father, Jerry Joe Harrison, told her she should get her basics first at the University of Central Arkansas in Conway.

By the time she’d done that, she was out of the mood for Texas and excited about New York.

Mainord set off for the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, where she received an associate degree in fashion design.

“It’s a very technical school, and it’s very well-respected in the industry, but I didn’t know that then,” she said.

“I loved it — absolutely loved it. However, I’m a Southern girl,” she said, laughing, and New York wasn’t the South. “I missed home.”

She was only 21 when she came back and finished her degree at UCA — a major in home economics with an art minor.

Mainord worked for Dillard’s, traveling and designing clothes for Dillard’s private label.

“I loved it. It was a great job for a single person,” she said.

“I came to a crossroads after about five years and got married,” she explained. “I was in the Orient quite frequently.”

When she was traveling to print houses, she would see artists drawing or painting the patterns to be used on fabric.

“I thought, ‘I’m on the wrong side of this table.’”

Her desire to be an artist was growing.

“Everything you do, it’s all a journey,” she said.

Mainord spent nine years learning painting techniques from professional artist and teacher Sheila Parsons of Conway, one of the women and painters who Mainord admires.

“I have a ton of her work,” Mainord said.

She listened to Parsons’ advice.

“She said, ‘You are trying to do too much bold, bright color, and watercolor is not working for you,’” Mainord recalled.

Mainord came across the art of Barry Thomas of Little Rock and took classes with him.

“I went into oil because I wanted to do some more drama, chunkier, heavier” painting, she said.

Had she not been exposed to Thomas’ artwork, Mainord said, she wouldn’t have fallen in love with oils.

“You become so intrigued, and then you start wanting to understand, and you want to touch it, and I’ve said you want to eat it,” she said, laughing at her description.

Mainord seldom paints in watercolor anymore. She loves painting landscapes and places she’s visited, including Rosemary Beach, Fla., her family’s favorite summer vacation spot.

“I love to do beach scenes,” she said. “I’m also very seasonal. I paint to the season. With all the colors coming out now, my mind is going that way.”

Mainord is also doing more cityscapes these days, and she was working with friends on a mural at Fellowship Bible Church, using Conway buildings and scenes as her inspiration, when Satterfield called her.

“I was already inspired,” Mainord said.

She said there may be slight variations between the Toad Suck Square logo in her painting

and the one on the street, but that’s OK.

“I’m an impressionist,” she said, laughing.

For more information, call the Chamber at (501) 327-7788 or the Toad Store at (501) 327-TOAD (8623).

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