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Last updated: 10/22/07

What’s New:
Library Exhibit — November 5 - 29, 2007
Encountering Nature: Illustrating and Interpreting the Natural World by Frances Topping

The November 2007 exhibit in the University of Rhode Island Library Gallery is Encountering Nature: Illustrating and Interpreting the Natural World: Botanicals, Landscapes and Other Nature Subjects by Frances Topping.

Oak Leaves and Acorns

Artist’s Statement

Encounters with Nature

Take a closer look at a variety of nature’s offerings rendered primarily in watercolor. Included are botanicals, landscapes, birds, beetle and fungi. By taking a close-up view the artist hopes you will be encouraged to look more closely at the world around you; take time to observe, explore the endlessly fascinating way the natural world is created.

The artist’s passion for rendering these subjects in paint leads to a variety of styles from very realistic to more loosely rendered as the subject seems to require.


A Closer Look

Whether it’s the iridescence of a beetle’s wing covers, the intricacies of an orchid’s flower, the prey-catching mechanisms of carnivorous plants, the soft silent feathers of an owl or the alert watchfulness of a kingfisher, looking closely at the natural world opens up vistas of wonders not normally observed in the hustle and bustle of daily life. The artist hopes that the work inspires the viewer to take time to see, enjoy and appreciate these things and later to take a closer look at the world.

Tulip Tree Flower


Plants are so varied and fascinating; their structures, colors, forms and interactions with other creatures provide endless subject matter. Capturing their essence is a challenge. When used for illustration drawings are often better at providing the detail required for identification, as salient features can be emphasized and arranged where they are seen, whereas a photograph often has portions obscured by shadow or other vegetation.

Stormy River


The wider view one takes in painting landscapes, as opposed to a particular plant or animal, is triggered by a play of light, a sense of place, and extraordinary view or mix of colors. The urge to capture this is great. A painting, as opposed to a photo, can often focus better on this aspect and paint gives a different feel to the scene. For the painter there is the absolute involvement in observing the scene and translating it onto paper or canvas.

The Artist

Frances Topping responds to the challenge of capturing not only the beautiful but also the less noticed parts of the natural world. A watercolorist primarily she also uses graphite, pen and ink, and acrylic media. A B.S. in geography with botany and zoology; a B.F.A. in graphic design with illustration and photography; and a certificate in natural science illustration from Rhode Island School of Design have melded her interests in depicting the natural world on paper for scientific and general audiences. She hopes that viewers will be encouraged to look closer at the natural world around them, appreciate it and help preserve it.

She is a member of the Guild of Natural Science Illustrators, The American Society of Botanical Artists, and the National Association for Interpretation. Her work has been shown with these societies, venues in Ohio and Rhode Island and has been commissioned to do murals and interpretive brochures for several nature organizations including The Nature Conservancy, Cleveland Museum of Natural History, Cleveland Metroparks, Ohio Audubon, Cleveland Botanical Garden and South Kingstown’s Tri-Pond Park Nature Center.

New Mexico Cottonwoods

The Library Gallery is located on the main floor of the University Library, 15 Lippitt Road, Kingston, RI 02881. Library hours are:

Monday-Thursday 8:00 am - midnight
Friday  8:00 am - 8:00 pm
Saturday 10:00 am - 8:00 pm
Sunday 1:00 pm - midnight

For more information, please contact Karen Ramsay at 401-874-4625 or

University of Rhode Island Libraries

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