Sunday, April 15, 2018


Sure, I've been telling you to buy my book, Draw Stronger: Self-Care for Cartoonists & Visual Artists, but now you don't have to take my advice. Frankly, I don't blame you for not paying attention to mercurial me. But listen to your pain, and consider the reviews from these reliable sources.

"Artists, designers, writers, and anyone else who spends their days hunkering over keyboards, squinting at screens, or posed over a drawing board will appreciate Willberg’s nerdy, pun-heavy advice for better self-care...This practical, handy volume is a worthy addition to many workplace bookshelves—preferably high up, requiring a standing stretch to reach it." (Apr.)

Intima: a Journal of Narrative Medicine
"What makes "Draw Stronger" different from other self-help books is Willberg's sense of humor that infuses every drawing, tip, fact, exercise and quip with originality and a lightness of being. While there will be pages you'll want to photocopy and tape up near your computer or sketch table for easy reference and reminders to stretch throughout the day, the book will also be a useful reference guide whenever a lightning bolt of raw pain shoots up your arm, neck, or back." —Donna Bulseco

Library Journal 
"Willberg’s straightforward yet lighthearted delivery makes her advice enjoyable and easy to follow. This lively self-care guide should wake up artists, amateur and pro, and also apply to anyone who sits at the computer all day".—MC

This is an interview, so I'm not going to quote myself. That seems a little.... weird.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018



The cover

Get set to Draw Stronger! With my new injury prevention and self-care book for cartoonists and artists. 

How do liniments mask pain? One explanation is called The Gate Theory.

How is this book different or better than the mini comics (No) Pain! and First Aid for Drawing Injuries? MORE COMPREHENSIVE INFORMATION. Understand how injuries happen and what types of injuries commonly affect drawing professionals. Use practical first aid to help manage pain in the event of injury. Learn what types of symptoms should be diagnosed by doctor. Practice simple exercises to help correct posture and reduce fatigue and pain. The book also explores stylus grip, has expanded its exploration of types of repetitive stress injuries, and added exercises and info specific to back pain. 

Changing your grip for different types of lines 
can help reduce stress to the hand and wrist!

Publisher's Weekly interviewed me about health culture amongst artists and the new book. I'm curious to hear from anyone (you) about their attitudes about pain and creative practice. Talk to me! Comment, please!

Interested in purchasing a copy of Draw Stronger? You can find it online through the publisher, Uncivilized Books (okay, yes. Amazon, too.)

Friday, October 13, 2017


Who is going to want an introduction to embroidery that uses historical medical imagery for its patterns? Us! And here it is!

Embroidery Lab! is a component of my “Embroidering Medicine” workshop at the New York Academy ofMedicine Library. In this book are the basics of hands-on embroidery skills and stitches. The patterns in this book range from very simple to moderately labor intensive. The images come from the Academy’s Historical Collection. These pictures represent the evolution of the pursuit of biological knowledge. Yes, even a basilisk is a part of that evolution!

As an experiment, I had some embroidery patterns printed up on fabric. Here's one of the gravid uterus all stitched up.

You can find this little tome at comics stores like Forbidden Planet in NYC, and Chicago Comics. Birdcage Bottom Books will be selling it soon. You can also find it at the Massachusetts Independent Comics Expo (MICE) October 21-22, 2017. Find me at table B81.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017



How do I process research as I work on a large project? By making small snippets to help me process narrative priorities, explore media, and transform vast amounts of data into digestible pieces. One of these pieces has been transformed into my mini comic, Stitchin' Time!

Was Galen really bossy? Maybe not, but historians 
consider him a bit of a "showman." 
(Buy the book if you want this citation! - I am shameless!)

Stitchin' Time! is a ridiculous historical fiction based on factual medical history. Aulus Cornelius Celsus (c. 25 BCE – c. 50 CE) was a Roman writer of De Medicina, an important medical text.  Aelius (or Claudius) Galenus (129  – c. 200 CE) was a famous surgeon and one of the most influential writers in the history of medicine. In this minicomic, for the first time ever, Celsus and Galen team up to stitch a disemboweled gladiator back together! Could these men have ever met? Heck no! Would this type of surgery have taken place in the 2nd century? Heck yes!

Yes, Celsus wrote about a double-handed suture! 
Who needs robotic surgery when you can get so fancy with a needle?

Yeah, it's a pretty silly story and I'm giving you links in this post to Wikipedia, but the historical research is sound! This is the first comic resulting directly from my residency at the New York Academy of Medicine Library. There are notes about each panel and a citations list at the back. You don't have to read them if you don't want to, but they may help you get a joke or two.

A surgery panel inspired by a 17th century anatomical 
illustration from the Academy Library Historical Collection.
The mini will be debuting at the Small Press Expo in Bethesda Maryland, September 15-16.

After SPX you will be able to purchase this tome (and more!) at Birdcage Bottom Books.

Sunday, July 30, 2017


The San Diego Comic Con had a lot to offer: comics, movies, games, more comics, cosplay, panels, and more! But now that I'm home, the visual memories I have are of the amazing amount of breast art there. OMG the breasts!


Saturday, July 29, 2017



Interesting reading from my own collection.

I am excited to announce that at the end of my artist's residency at the New York Academy of Medicine Library I will be offering the Embroidering Medicine workshop! This four week course is open to participants with all levels of needle working skills.

Embroidery adapted from an anatomical image from
Hieronymus Brunschwig's Liber de arte distillandi de compositis.

Using the Library’s historical collections we will focus on the areas of the collection invoking the ideals of femininity, domesticity, and women's health, as well as the medical practice of needlework (stitching of the body).
One of the texts we will use.
Using the collections we will:

  • Explore some historical concepts of femininity and domesticity
  • Examine images of female anatomy and fetal development 
  • Each select an image from a natural history, botanical, or anatomical text to use as an embroidery template
  • Examine diagrams and descriptions of how to perform basic suture techniques

An illustration from the Bernard book, above.
We will also:

  • Transfer an image onto fabric for embroidering
  • Learn and practice basic embroidery stitches
  • Learn and practice historical suture stitches, on fabric
  • Discuss relationships between medicine, needlework, and gender.
  • Discuss the differences between sewing the body, sewing clothing, and decorative stitching.
  • Have some fun (yes, fun!)

The natural history books have some adorable animals to embroider, too!

Why all the "discussion"? Embroidery takes time. A lot of time. We could sit in stony silence, but why not have some interesting conversations facilitated by a couple short presentations? 

The workshop will be held-
Thursdays, September 14 - October 5, 2017
6:30-8:30 PM
1216 Fifth Avenue at 103rd Street, New York, NY 10029
$290 General Public | $250 Friends, Fellows, Members, Seniors, Students with ID
Supplies will be provided, but you are welcome to bring your own.
Click HERE to be directed to the Academy workshop description and link to register.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017


BEST SUMMER, EVER! (Next to the time I went to Paris for my birthday.)

Le Catgut! Guess what it's about!
(Catgut is made from sheep intestine, BTW.)

You know why this is such a great summer? Because I am spending it reading centuries-old books on the topics of sutures, ligatures, and the materials they were made from. And then I use what I've learned as inspiration for embroidery, drawing, comics, and writing. 

A few artists have asked me how I became A.I.R. at the Academy Library's Historical Collection. The joking answer is that I haunted the library so much that it was easier to make me official than to charge me with loitering. But this statement is also partially true (not the the not the charging me with a crime part). The Academy is this incredible vault of treasure and I have been mining it for years. The best part is that anyone can mine it. Before becoming A.I.R. I got to know the Collection and the staff at the Academy through research and by attending (and presenting at) some of the great programming there.

My first presentation was at the Academy's Vesalius 500 celebration doing what I do best, blathering on about anatomy. I also drew on a live model using the 16th century anatomist Vesalius' illustration as reference material.

For more about drawing on the body see this post.

Shortly after that I used the collection to assist in the adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson's The Body Snatcher. The story takes place in 1830's Edinburgh around the time that the anatomist, Knox had hired the infamous Burke and Hare. The incredible (librarian) Arlene Shaner found books and articles from Edinburgh published at the time; dissection textbooks written and illustrated by two Edinburgh brother (John and Charles Bell) from the late 17- and early 1800's; and visual reference for anatomy theaters and labs. My version of the story spends a little more time at dissecting than the original. It will be published in the Seven Stories Press' Graphic Canon:Crime series. I don't know whether it is in volume one (coming this fall) or volume two (to follow).

A page from my EC Horror Comic-inspired version of 
R.L. Stevenson's The Body Snatcher.

I just finished teaching my second Visualizing and Drawing Anatomy workshops using the Library's collections and live models. You can read more about the workshops here, and here.

I enjoy exploring medical history and I enjoy researching needlework so why not do both? To that end I'm studying the history of sutures and ligatures, which is sewing, after all. Galen's* instruction on stitching up the body was my earliest area of focus. Then I went on to read the "Major Surgery" of the French medieval surgeon Guy de Chauliac*, published in 1363. From there I am staying in France to read the works of Ambrose ParĂ©*.  After him I will continue on to Edinburgh and John Bell*, and then... we shall see!

What I see at my desk. 
I am using illustrations from the collection to experiment with 
different methods of depicting these images on various fabrics.

For each surgeon I'm reading biographical information, background on the general state of medicine in that time, and works by that surgeon (or their translations). I'm also researching modes of production of the materials for making stitches such as flax, silk, catgut, etc. Additionally, I'm doing some reading regarding gender roles in textile production and gender roles in medicine over the centuries. To my surprise there are even books that discuss textile production during different eras! I'm also pouring over visual reference from the Library's collection as well as sources from the nefarious internet when I've come to a research impasse or just need a quick fix. 

Ultimately all this data and inspiration will coalesce into a graphic narrative, much of which I hope to render in (you guessed it!) needlework.

*Yes, I'm giving you their Wikipedia links. For more interesting information about these people, visit the Academy Library!