Doing the research for How Groundhog's Garden Grew
Information About Doing Research from Lynne Cherry
Do you ever wonder how an artist makes the illustrations in a book look so real?
I make sure everything I draw is accurate--that it is so true-to-life that a scientist could identify the plants and animals from my drawings. The way I do this is through research.
When I'm researching a place far away I will travel there. For The Great Kapok Tree I travelled to Brazil in South America. To research Flute's Journey, I went to the Belt Woods and the forest at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center (both in Maryland) and observed the wood thrushes and listened to their beautiful song.
For How Groundhog's Garden Grew, my research was easier. I used my own garden as research.
First I planted seeds indoors in March. As they sprouted I drew them every day in different stages of development. It took careful observation to see how the flowers started to grow on the vegetable plants and, then, how after the flower petels fell off, the beginning of the little vegetable underneath which grew and grew--until finally there were big vegetables ready for picking and eating.
As I was illustrating the book I would go out into my own garden and pick vegetables for all my meals. Almost every day I found a different animal also enjoying my garden. One day I found a tiny baby black rat snake and I drew it into the book. Another day my dog, Jasper, brought me a box turtle (carefully carrying it in his mouth without harming it a bit!) That turtle became a character in the book. So did the toad, the frog, the chipmunk and the shrew!
Sometimes I did my painting up at my farm in Maryland and sometimes I worked at my office at Princeton University. One day my friend Eric Larson came to visit so his two girls, Grace and Eleanor, could see me working on the art for the book. The girls had been collecting colorful fall leaves--so I drew the leaves around the border on the Thanksgiving page.
In all my books I have acknowledgements to thank people who have helped me by giving me a place to work. Some I thank for helping me with my research--showing me places that I can get photographs for reference. Some people take photographs that I can use for reference like my photographer friend, Gary Braasch.