Conway artist paints Toad Suck Daze scene for festival posters

By Tammy Keith Published April 15, 2012 at 2:30 a.m.
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— Steve Griffith of Conway said he’s “a big fan” of Toad Suck Daze, so he quickly agreed when he was asked to create this year’s artwork, which will be made into limited-edition posters.

“It’s a huge honor to be asked to do a commemorative painting,” Griffith said. “It came out of the blue.”

This year is the 31st anniversary of the festival, which will be held May 4, 5 and 6 in downtown Conway.

Griffith, 53, said he and his wife, Vivian Noe Griffith, also an artist, have been to “pretty much all of them.”

It’s only the second year that artwork has been commissioned by the Conway Area Chamber of Commerce. Conway artist Heather Mainord created the first official festival artwork.

Griffith said he was asked to paint something that symbolizes Toad Suck Daze to him, and toad races are prominent in the vibrant painting.

“We’ve taken a lot of pictures of toads,” he said of him and his wife.

The predominant scene in the painting, called Might As Well Jump, is two blond boys racing toads, with one amphibian in mid-leap.

“I have two grandkids, so it could be my two grandsons, I guess,” Griffith said. “It’s kind of an impressionist, loose painting.”

The scene also includes festival tents, including one for Centennial Bank’s Stuck on a Truck contest, and a Ferris wheel, representing the carnival. The red caboose in Simon Park is depicted, as well Toad Suck Square and the historic Halter Building.

“It’s not a realistic painting. I’m kind of taking bits and pieces of things that are important to me,” Griffith said.

“I was trying to capture the different parts of it,” he explained, standing in front of the painting, which was propped on an easel in his garage-turned-art-studio.

“I’m still contemplating putting in the logo that’s painted on the street - I’ve put it in there and painted it out.”

Seconds later, he picked up a paintbrush and started adding the Toad Suck Daze logo.

Griffith said he spent many hours thinking about the composition of the painting and between 20 and 30 hours working on it.

A former psychotherapist, Griffith said he has been making a living as an artist since 2001.

He grew up in western Arkansas, and his artistic talent wasn’t always appreciated.

“I stayed in trouble as a kid for coloring on the wall - maybe that was a precursor,” he said, laughing. “And, I stayed in trouble a lot in school for doodling instead of paying attention.”

He came to Conway in 1977 to attend the University of Central Arkansas, where he majored in psychology and minored in journalism. He also has a master’s degree in psychology from UCA.

Griffith had a psychotherapy practice in Conway and did consulting throughout the state.

“I enjoyed it immensely and did it for 15 years,” he said, but the pull to be an artist was stronger.

“I started getting a little bit of burnout doing [psychotherapy], but not as much that as this art thing is just so much fun.”

Griffith’s artwork is in private collections throughout the nation, as well as in galleries in Hot Springs, Virginia, New Mexico and Texas.

He was to deliver the artwork last week to the Conway Area Chamber of Commerce, which will have the posters produced.

Mary Margaret Satterfield, director of events for the chamber, said the limited-edition posters are “something we started doing that will be a continued item. It brings out the fine-arts aspect of the festival.”

The posters, at $35 each, will be sold in the Toad Store on Oak Street.

Senior writer Tammy Keith can be reached at (501) 327-0370 or tkeith@arkansasonline.com.

Niche Publications Senior Writer Tammy Keith can be reached at 501-327-0370 or tkeith@arkansasonline.com.

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