Illustrating Inspiration with Bryn Barnard


Which disease causes dizziness, red spots, a black tongue, and a rapid heartbeat? The answer is “Chickaloo,” according to the creative young minds in 4RB.

The inventive diagnosis was inspired by a discussion about the book Outbreak: Plagues that Changed History by ISB Author in Residence Bryn Barnard.

Leading a class group in the Elementary School Library on October 25, the American author and illustrator asked students to suggest a range of symptoms. After they were all written down, he sketched a spotty, balding, dizzy, black-tongued man suffering the unusual ailment.

The only thing missing was the name of the newly created disease. After a vote, “Chickaloo” was decided as most appropriate.

Mr. Barnard has illustrated more than 20 children’s books, but his passion for storytelling goes beyond his vivid artistic creations. He has also written books that explore natural disasters, innovation in Islam, and the fate of our oceans.

In addition to his forays in art and literature, Mr. Barnard is also an experienced international educator; he is currently an International Baccalaureate art teacher at Busan International Foreign School in South Korea, and has previously studied, taught, and spoken at schools and colleges in Asia, Europe, and the Middle East.

His message to ISB’s elementary school students this week has been simple: creativity takes a little bit of sweat.

“Thomas Edison said genius is 99 percent perspiration and 1 percent inspiration, and I believe in that. In this exercise where I get students to come up with a dinosaur or a disease, I encourage them to go whatever direction they want. I want them to see what happens when you collaboratively combine lots of different things into something new,” he said.


It was during his junior year at high school that Mr. Barnard knew he wanted to be an artist. However, navigating that path quickly emerged as a challenge.

“I had no idea how to do it. The only real example I had seen was my art teacher,” he recalled.

Inspiration knocked, however, when a magazine art director visited Mr. Barnard’s high school.

“He showed us what he did and told us we could make a living out of being artists. Part of my hope is that I can share the same message to students who are passionate about writing or drawing. Anything is possible, and you can have a very enjoyable life if you have a job that doesn’t feel like ‘work,’” he explained.

In addition to his presentation to parents on October 26, Mr. Barnard will also teach middle school students in early November as part of his PTA-sponsored visit to ISB.