Saturday, June 6, 2020



Kriota Willberg
Right now, almost every aspect of our lives has been impacted by two major cultural/medical phenomena: pandemic and violence. COVID-19 and the murder of George Floyd is shaping our values, our behaviors, and our body/mind/spirits. 

This implies that practically any comics that you make these days could qualify as graphic medicine: comics about everything and anything to do with health, medicine, illness and our bodies.

Whether your interest is in protecting people from COVID-19, fighting racism, or just blowing off some tension by making gag cartoons about herpes, creating graphic medicine presents a range of challenges like - making arguments that will inspire people to make healthier choices; communicating intense subjective states like pain, grief, or fear; using humor to explore sensitive subjects; educating readers without being boring; or mastering techniques for drawing the perfect word balloon.

Are you making comics about graphic medicine? Looking for answers to tricky comics problems? Want to share your skills and knowledge? Have nothing to do on Tuesday evenings? 

Joel Christian Gill

The Graphic Medicine Confab is a roundtable conversation focusing on the challenges and techniques of making graphic medicine: comics about everything and anything to do with health, medicine, illness and our bodies. 

There's no charge.

Each meeting has a theme and a facilitator.

The GMC will meet four times this summer via Zoom, Tuesday evenings from 7-7:45 PM (ET).

June 16, Kriota Willberg – How can we make dangerous information less threatening? 
June 30, Joel Christian Gill –  Emotion and style in comics
July 14, Georgia Webber – Collaborating across access needs
July 28, Ben Schwartz – Humor, Comics, and Medicine

Join us to contribute ideas, ask questions, get feedback, and share resources.

Fill out this Google Form and we will send you the Zoom invite to each meet.

Georgia Webber

Joel Christian Gill™  is the chairman, CEO, president, director of development, majority and minority stock holder, manager, co-manager, regional manager, assistant to the regional manager, receptionist, senior black correspondent and janitor of Strange Fruit Comics. He is the author/illustrator of 2 books from Fulcrum Publishing Strange Fruit vol I Uncelebrated Narratives from Black History May 2014 and Tales of the Talented Tenth Fall 2014. In his spare time he is the Chair of Foundations at the New Hampshire Institute of Art and  member of The Boston Comics Roundtable.  He received his MFA from Boston University and a BA from Roanoke College. His latest work is a memoir chronicling how children deal with abuse and trauma: Fights: One Boy's Triumph Over Violence (Oni Press January 2020.) 

Georgia Webber is a comics artist, writer, and editor entirely occupied by the intersection of health and art, making music, comics, and facilitating health workshops.  Georgia is best known for her debut graphic memoir, Dumb: Living Without a Voice (Fantagraphics 2018), the chronicle of her severe vocal injury and sustained vocal condition which causes her pain from using her voice. This difficult experience lead her to work as a Cranial Sacral Therapist, a meditation facilitator, and as an improvising musician. She has extended her love of the voice into the community with a project called MAW Vocal Arts. MAW hosts a vocal arts showcase event and online practice sessions called Breathing. Georgia’s latest book is a collaboration with Vivian Chong, Dancing After TEN (Fantagraphics 2020).
Ben Schwartz

Ben Schwartz,  MD is a staff cartoonist for the New Yorker and an assistant professor of medicine (in surgery) at Columbia University’s Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons. After graduating from medical school at Columbia University and completing an internship in internal medicine, Schwartz decided to take the leap to becoming a full-time cartoonist. Though he no longer practices as a doctor, Schwartz has taken on multiple roles at Columbia, where he teaches comic storytelling in the school’s Narrative Medicine program, serves as Chief Creative Officer for the Department of Surgery, and provides communication strategy to various groups throughout the medical center. 

Kriota Willberg makes comics about the body sciences, medical history, and bioethics. Her book, Draw Stronger: Self-Care for Cartoonists and Visual Artists, is published by Uncivilized Books. Other comics have appeared in:,Spiral Bound (, Comics For Choice, The Graphic Canon, Intima: Journal of Narrative Medicine, and Strumpet 5, among others. Willberg writes a self-care column for the Comics Beat called Get A Grip!. Her comic Silver Wire was nominated for a 2019 Ignatz Award. She teaches graphic medicine and drawing in the Department of Humanistic Medicine at NYU. 

Hope to see you soon!

Sunday, July 7, 2019


Guy deChauliac gave detailed instructions on suturing techniques
in his Major Surgery (1363). I wonder if Guy had heard of or tasted bananas .
Hello! This blog post is for those of you interested the research involved in writing and drawing Silver Wire, an illustrated story of sutures and sewing, which you can find online at Spiral Bound

Because Silver Wireexplores some very sensitive topics like research ethics and the medical histories of enslaved people, women, and the “fathers” of medicine, I think it’s important to show my some of the research for the text and visual references that went into the drawing and images. 

In the comic, I list pages and panel numbers with citations and a bibliography. But here, you’re only getting the bibliography. Why? Because they are both so friggin’ long! It is likely you will give up from exhaustion before getting half way through the bibliography! The citations list includes wry commentary and references to artists and other thinkers who influenced the work. If you are a glutton for research (or punishment), you can buy the minicomic. The comic also has images of some of my medically themed embroidery, and I’ve included some of them here along with select panels from the comic. Pictures make everything better!
A diagram of venous ligatures from 
Bernard and Huette. Printed
on fabric and worked up with

darning stitch used in Blackwork
embroidery. Plus some cross stitch.

If you just want to know where you can find information and images about the history of medicine, and don’t care that much about a list of books or references, try the following sites -- 

Many of the books and images used in the research for making Silver Wire can be found through the New York Academy of Medicine Library Historical Collection from their online collections and at their reading room. Browse their database and make an appointment - they are open to the public! 

The National Library of Medicine Digital Collection is a wondrous site! is an excellent resource for pdfs of historical surgical texts, not to mention documentation of practically everything in all media.

I find the Wellcome Collection image search is a little difficult to maneuver through, but persistence will pay off! 

Annan & Sons, T.R. Joseph Lister, Baron Lister. Wellcome Collection, Glasgow.
Ashenden. Diorama of Listerian Operation . Image via Wellcome Collection.
Bauer and Black.Ligatures and sutures. Chicago: Bauer and Black, 1924?
Bell, Charles 1774-1842. Illustrations of the great operations of surgery : trepan, hernia, amputation, aneurism, and lithotomy. London: Longman, 1821.
Bell, John (1763-1820). The Principles of Surgery. Edinburgh: Printed for T. Cadell, and W. Davies, in the Strand, T.N. Longman & O. Rees, Paternoster Row, London; and W. Creech, P. Hill, and Manners and Miller, 1801-08.
Bell, John. Discourses on the nature and cure of wounds. I. Of generals. Of procuring adhesion. Of wounded arteries. Of gunshot wounds. Of the medical treatment of wounds. II. Of particulars. Of wounds of the breast. Of wounds of the belly. Of wounds of the head. Of wounds of the throat. III. Of dangerous wounds of the limbs. Of the question of amputation ... . Edinburgh: Bell and Bradfute, 1795.
Bernard, Claude, et al. Illustrated manual of operative surgery and surgical anatomy / by Ch. Bernard and Ch. Huette ; edited, with notes and additions, and adapted to the use of the American medical student, by W. H. Van Buren and C. E. Isaacs ; illustrated ... by M.J. Lévillé. New York: H. Balliere, 1855.
In 1626 Adriaan van Spiegel and Giulio Casseri (posthumously) published a book
on fetal development, depicting images of pregnant women standing in nature, their genitals discreetly masked by foliage. Their abdomens and uterine walls are peeled back like flower petals. I used silk, antique lace, bad-, darning-, and satin stitches on this women-are-flowers theme.
Bliquez, Lawrence J. and Ralph Jackson. Roman surgical instruments and other minor objects in the National Archaeological Museum of Naples: with a catalogue of the surgical instruments in the "Antiquarium" at Pompeii. Verlag Philipp von Zabern, 1994.
Board, Ernest. Robert Liston Operating. Wellcome Library, London.
Bock, Carle Ernst, 1809-1874. Atlas of human anatomy : with explanatory text . Wellcome Collection Images: https://wellcome , n.d.
Boyer, Paul S. and Clifford E. Junior Clark. “Textbook Site for: The Enduring Vision, Fifth Edition, Technology and cultrue: Chaper 18.” n.d. Cengage Learning.2018  23-July. < history/us/boyer/enduring_vision/ 5e/students/techcult/ch18.html>. What to expect. 2018 йил 21-February. 2018 11-June. <>.
Brunshcwig, Hieronymus (ca. 1450-ca. 1512). Liber de arte distillandi de compositis. Strassburg: Johann Gruninger, 1512.
Burch, Jon M., et al. “Single-Layer Continuous Versus Two-Layer Interrupted Intestinal Anastomosis A Prospective Randomized Trial.” Annals of Surgery231.6 (2000): 832-837.
Chartran, Théobald. Ambroise Paré using a ligature on an artery of an amputated leg of a soldier, during the Siege of Metz, 1553. Wellcome Collection.
Cheselden, William (1688-1752). Osteographia, or The anatomy of the bones. London: William Bowyer, 1733.
Colton, Virginia (ed.). Reader's Digest Complete Guide to Needlework. Pleasantville, New York/Montreal: Reader's Digest, 1979.
deBeche-Adams, Teresa H. and Jaime L. Bohl. “Rectovaginal Fisturals.” Clinics in Colon and Rectal Surgery23.2 (2010): 99-103.
Ethicon. "Ethicon Wound Closure Manual." 2005. Penn Medicine.Johnson and Johnson. 8 January 2019. <>.
Fandre, A. Le catgut, les ligatures et les sutures chirurgicales à travers les âges, préface du professeur Louis Bruntz ...Paris: Masson et cie, 1944.
Galen. Method of Medicine, Books 5-9. Ed. Ian Johnston and G.H.R. Horsley. Trans. Ian Johnston and G.H.R. Horsley. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2011.
I didn't plan on returning to Galen as often as I did during my residency but the guy
is magnetic. What a showman! 
Gilbert, C. Galen treating wounded gladiator in coliseum of Pergamon, 2nd century. Getty Images. Know Yourself, Notions of physology to youth and educated people by Louis Figuier. 1883.
Guy, de Chauliac and E. Nicaise. The Major Surgery of Guy de Chauliac. Trans. Leonard D. Rosenman. Xlibris corporation, 1363, 1890, 2005.
Guy, de Chauliac and Leonard D. Rosenman. The major surgery of Guy de Chauliac : An English Translation. Ed. Translation of Nicaise. Trans. Edouard Nicaise and Leonard D. Rosenman. Philadelphia: Xlibris Corporation, 2007.
Heath, William, 1795-1840. Wellington and Peel in the roles of the body-snatchers Burke and Hare suffocating Mrs Docherty for sale to Dr. Knox; representing the extinguishing by Wellington and Peel of the Constitution of 1688 by Catholic Emancipation.Wellcome Collection.
Hinckley, Robert Cutler. Robert Cutler Hinckley - “Ether Day, or The First Operation with Ether” - n.d. 5 October 2018.
Hunt, Tony and Frugardo, 12th cent. Ruggero. The medieval surgery / [commentary on the illustrations by] Tony Hunt. Woodbridge: Boydell Press, 1992.
Johnson and Johnson, Inc. Lister and the ligature, a landmark in the history of modern surgery, compiled by the research readers of the Scientific Department. New Brunswick: Johnson & Johnson, 1925.
Li, Guo-Cai, et al. “Single‑layer continuous suture contributes to the reduction of surgical complications in digestive tract anastomosis involving special anatomical locations.” Molecular and Clinical Oncology2 (2014): 159-164.
Mackenzie, David. The History of Sutures. Paper. The Scottish Society of the History of Medicine. Edinburgh: The Scottish Society of the History of Medicine, 1971.
Madden, John L.Technical Considerations in Gastrointestinal Surgery. Somerville: Ethicon, 1973.
Manigaud, C. Ambroise Paré (1517-1590). Wellcome Collection: Images.
Mattern, Susan P. The Prince of Medicine: Galen in the Roman Empire. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013.
An oophorectomy is the surgical removal of an ovary. This uterus, worked up in yarn on a thrift store doily, is stitched with the same darning  stitches as the Bernard  and Huette arm, above. I pulled and yanked on the yarn where the right ovary should be, to resemble the tugging of scar tissue.
Medford, Samuel. Father, Mother, and Boy. Smithsonian American Art Museum.
Milne, John Stewart. Surgical Instruments in Greek and Roman Times. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1907.
Nicaise, E. The major surgery of Guy de Chauliac : surgeon and master in medicine of the University of Montpelier : written in 1363, here re-edited and collated from Latin and French editions and complemented with illustrations, supplemented with notes and an historical introduction about the Middle Ages and the life and the works of Guy de Chauliac. Trans. Leonard D. Rosenman. Philadelphia: Xlibris Corporation, 2007.
NIH: US National Library of Medicine. Cesarean Section - A Brief History: Part 1 - Cesarean section performed on a living woman by a female practitioner. Miniature from a fourteenth-century "Historie Ancienne.". 27 April 1998. January 2019. <>.
Ogden, Margaret S. The cyrurgie of Guy de Chauliac. London, New York: Society by the Oxford University Press, 1971.
Ojanuga, Durrenda. “The medical ethics of the 'Father of Gynaecology', Dr J Marion Sims.” Journal of medical ethics19 (1993): 28-31.
Paré, Ambroise (1510-1590) and Francis R. (1870-1950) Packard. Life and times of Ambroise Paré <1510-1590> with a new translation of his Apology and an account of his journeys in divers places, by Francis R. Packard ... with twenty-two text illustrations, twenty-seven full page plates and two folded maps of Paris of the 16th and 17th centuries. . New York: P.B. Hoeber, 1921.
Paré, Ambroise.Dix livres de la chirurgie : avec le magasin des instrumens necessaires à icelle / par Ambroise Paré. (1510?-1590). Paris: Cercle du Livre Précieux, 1564.
—. Ten Books of Surgery with The Magazine of Instruments Necessary for It Translated by Robert White Linker and Nathan Womack. Trans. Robert White Linker and Nathan Womack. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1969.
—. The Workes of that famous Chirurgion Ambrose Parey Translated out of Latine and compared with the French.Trans. Th: Johnson. London: Th:Cotes and R. Young, 1634.
Parker, Rozsika. The Subversive Stitch: Embroidery and the Making of the Feminine. London: Women's Press, 1984.
This is a representation of historical research subjects.
The pig is making a sarcastic statement.
Planella Coromina, Josep or Jose (1804-90). "Galen assisting a gladiator, wounded in the circus of Bergamo." n.d. October 2018.
Porter, Roy. The Greatest Benefit to Mankind: A Medical History of Humanity. New York: W. W. Norton, 1997.
Queen Victoria visiting the Royal Infirmary, Edinurgh. Wellcome Collection. The Illustrated London News and Sketch Ltd.London, England, 1842.
Richardson, Ruth. Death, Dissection and the Destitute. London: Penguin, 1988.
Rose, H.F. Galen, standing in a glade, looks at a human skeleton on the ground. Wellcome Collection.
Ruysch, Frederik (1638-1731). Opera omnia anatomico-medico-chirurgica : huc usque edita. Quorum elenchus pagina sequenti exhibetur, cum figuris aeneis. . Amsterdam: Apud Janssonio-Waesbergios, 1702-1731.
Salazar, Christine F. The Treatment of War Wounds in Graeco-Roman Antiquity. Boston: Brill, 2000.
Savage, Henry. The surgery, surgical pathology and surgical anatomy of the female pelvic organs : in a series of coloured plates taken from nature, with commentaries, notes and cases . 3d. Philadelphia: LInday and Blakiston, 1876.
Sims, J. Marion 1813-1883. On the treatment of vesico-vaginal fistula. Philadelphia: Blanchard & Lea, 1853.
—. Silver Sutures in Surgery. New York: Wood, 1858.
This is a lace curtain worked over in wool, linen,
and cotton floss. The image is from a gynecological
surgery book by Henry Savage, demonstrating the
Sims Position for gynecological surgeries.
The floral pattern on thecurtain looked amazingly like a uterus.
Sims, J. Marion. The Story of My Life. New York: Da Cap Press, 1968.
Smellie, William. An abridgement of the practice of midwifery: and a set of anatomical tables with explanations. Collected from the works of the celebrated, W. Smellie, M.D.  . Boston: J. Norman, 1786.
Spiegel, Adriaan van (1578-1625) and Giulio (ca. 1552-1616) Casseri. De formato foetu liber singularis. Padua: Io. Bap. de Martinis and Livius Pasquatus, 1626.
Stamatakos, Michael, et al. “Vesicovaginal Fistula: Diagnosis and Management.” The Indian Journal of Surgery76.2 (2012): 131-136. 2018 йил 2-July. <
Thom, Robert. Sims with Anarcha. Southern Illinois University School of Medicine, Pearson Museum.
Unknown. "Harriet Tubman." n.d. Wikipedia.5 October 2018. <
Van Gogh, Vincent. Female Nude, Back View
           Accessed via Wikimedia Commons, 9/21/18. Reprography from art book. Paris, 1887.
Vauguion, de La. A compleat body of chirurgical operations : containing the whole practice of surgery ... Faithfully done into English.London: Henry Bonwick, T. Goodwin, M Wotton, B. Took, and S. Manship, 1699.
Wall, LL. “The medical ethics of Dr. J Marion Sims: as fresh look at the historical record.”Journal of Medical Ethics32 (2006): 346-350.
Whaley, Leigh Ann. Women and the practice of medical care in early modern Europe, 1400-1800. Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire ; New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011.
Wikimedia Commons File: John Bell from MPG.jpg. circa 1801. <>.
Ziegler, Paul F. Textbook On Sutures. 2nd Edition. Chicago: The Kendall Company, 1942.

Three Cheers for You! I can’t believe you made it through this thing!


The cover of the mini comic.
How many organs/structures can you identify?

Last fall (2018) I taught a Graphic Medicine course for the NYU School of Medicine's Master Scholars Program in Humanistic Medicine. It was a wonderful experience. I got paid to talk about comics to medical students and hospital staff! 

We read as many genres and artists as I could cram in to a six seminar series. Julia Wertz, Roz Chast, Grant Morrison, Caroline Pequita, Osama Tezuka, Bishakh Som, Iasmin Oma Ata, and oh-so-many-more cartoonists gave us plenty to consider and discuss.

We analyzed the  medical clinical encounter from the perspectives of patients, doctors, caregivers, and more. We explored issues like paternalism, miscommunication in medicine, professional burn out, gender identity, women's health... the list goes on. 

At the end of each class EVERYONE drew. It was fascinating to watch these talented doctors, students, researchers, and nurses, ponder my in-class assignments and create lively, funny, and touching comics in literally minutes!

We drew symptoms, wrote comic strips about personal clinical and academic encounters, designed cute organ mascots, and illustrated popular sayings about health and medicine. "Cute" is not an aesthetic that is usually explored in medical contexts. Illustrating and making (even silly) comics about medicine is a really interesting method for appreciating multiple pathways of communication. Plus it breaks up the intensity of creating uncomfortable narratives.

At the end of the course, we assembled the work into a mini comic. You can see some examples on the Lit Med Magazine site and check out their literature, arts, and medicine database.

Saturday, July 6, 2019


Page 6 of Silver Wire. I decided to
use soft colors for a hard topic.
Author: Kriota Willberg
Since my artist residency at the New York Academy of Medicine Library, I have been thinking a lot about the way I tend to be more interested or open to an intimidating subject if I have a connection to it though previous experience or knowledge. One thing that researching the histories of domestic sewing and of sutures and ligatures has taught me is that sewing was a universal skill for millennia. These days it may not be as common a skill, but practically everyone understands what it is and the basic techniques and equipment used.

My new comic, Silver Wire, explores the histories of surgery, unethical research, and slavery, by using embroidery as the medium for gaining a little more understanding of these very intimidating subjects. In the narrative, I go to the park with my doctor-friend Mollie for a lesson about surgery and suturing techniques. As we wound and sew up fruit, we explore the histories of medical sewing and decorative sewing, gossiping and joking about the great surgeons of history. But the same techniques that Mollie uses with her patients to relieve their suffering have a dark history that affects us all. 

Yes – my interests in embroidery and history changed my life by giving me a way to wrap my head around the debt global modern medicine owes to the American enslaved! I tear up just thinking about it.

Making this book really honed my understanding of the need for studying history to reconcile ourselves with the present. The following appears on the inside back cover of the book:

Silver Wire page 16.
Author: Kriota Willberg
You know, the New York Academy of Medicine Library changed my life. One day in the Rare Book Room I was reading an introduction by Charles Bell to one of his books (I forget which one.) In it, he addressed the reader and praised them for their curiosity and interest in medicine. He was inspired by his patients and his students who were “young men of science” or something like that. The guy was truly devoted to education. His language was so enthusiastic and welcoming, I felt like he was talking to me, specifically. At the end of the page, he wrote that through a shared interest in science, we are all comrades. His signature began with “Your friend…” 

I am pretty sure that Charles Bell, at the end of the 18thcentury, had no idea that a middle aged, childless, cis-gendered female, massage therapist, cartoonist(!) would read his words and then struggle to keep back her tears of gratitude, but that is what happened. I hope Bell would be pleased.

History is full of love, suffering, service, and cruelty, sometimes all coming from the same source. By weeding through the culture and politics of medicine of the past, we can understand and improve the state of public health today. 

We need voices like Bell, Boivin*, Trota**, yes, and even (that asshole***) Sim’s to be heard, discussed, and acted upon to help us understand the present with some anger and a lot of compassion for people suffering today. We need the past to make a better future.

If you made it through this book and all the crazy citations and comments, thank you! Please consider me…

…Your Friend,

*You probably never heard of her, look her up!
**If you’re one of those people who say she didn’t exist, then replace her name with someone she may represent to you.
***J. Marion Sims was a gynecological surgeon who experimented on enslaved women in the 1840s. His work is a major component of the book. And he was an asshole. His memoir is a huge ego trip where he talks about how touching women’s reproductive organs is the last thing he ever wanted to do. Oh yeah, there’s also the unethical research!

Page 20 of Silver Wire.
Lace and embroidery over an illustration of
"the Sim's position" from a 1876
surgical textbook by Henry Savage.
Silver Wire is a 19-page comic book followed by a whopping 8 pages of citations, notes, and pictures of medically themed embroidery. 

You can read it on (after July 8) and if you want your very own copy, order it from Birdcage Bottom Books or find it at Forbidden Planet or JHU Comics in New York City, or Chicago Comics or Quimby’s in Chicago. 

P.S. (Get your butt to the library!)

Saturday, June 29, 2019


Don't worry! This is the only
Ad for the book in this post!
If you are an artist, cartoonist, or other creative type suffering from repetitive stress injury and you have an extra $17, the easiest way start on a self-care regimen of improved work habits and corrective exercise is to go by my book Draw Stronger.

But, as many of you know, musculoskeletal injuries are not the only health issues that keep us from creative practice. Chronic illnesses like cancer, epilepsy, migraine (my personal fave!), and more, can keep us from being able to physically sit our artistic butts in a chair and get to work. States of mental health like depression, bipolar disorders, and more can also keep us away from creative time. The kicker is that these states are not exclusive! You can experience them separately or in various combinations with different degrees of severity. What combination(s) do you experience? PTSD and carpal tunnel syndrome? Lupus and bipolar disorder? Cancer, anxiety, and disc herniation? Oh, yeah – don’t forget eye strain! The possibilities are endless!

This is a slide from a talk I gave at the Massachusetts
Independent Comics Expo (MICE) in 2018,
called "Drawing Deep: Physical and Mental Self-Care Strategies
for Comics Creators." Art is Georgia Webber's.
Let us a agree to say that a drawing injury is ANY state of your body-mind-spirit that keeps you from, or affects, your drawing (in a bad way.)

Since finishing Draw Stronger, I have been involved in many panels and events, at comics conferences, bookstores, and colleges, exploring the definitions and parameters of “self-care”. I am thrilled at the work other artists and health educators are doing to help people care for themselves and live more creative and productive lives. And, of course I’m thrilled for me too! Not only do I give advice, I follow the advice of other people and am happier for it.

 On May 12, 2018, I was on the panel, Practical & Personal: Communicating Health in Comics, at the Toronto Comic Arts Festival (TCAF), with Iasmin Omar AtaJulie Rocheleau, and Georgia WebberWhit Taylor moderated.

During our talk, Iasmin and Georgia laid out a few universal truths about good health and making good comics:

  1. Every person has their own version of health.
  2. You have to be in touch with how you’re feeling.
  3. Know your limits because…
  4. The consequences of not learning health lessons fast enough can be extreme.
  5. Find a balance between passion and what’s right for you.

For the last year (or so) I have been writing a column for the called Get A Grip! It’s a self-care column that includes as many facets of healthy creative practice that I can think of. There are articles on Graphic Medicine, mental health, eye strain (coming soon!), using Styrofoam rollers, interviews with creators, and more! You can even find a transcript of Iasmin and Georgia’s discussion at TCAF. 

Saturday, June 22, 2019


It’s been awhile since I posted any needlework images. Here is a smattering of pieces made in the last year or two…

Flounce Sleeve. Artist: Kriota Willberg
The late great Rozsika Parker, in her fabulous book, The Subversive Stitch, described the way Enlightenment philosophers and scientists introduced the notion that women were essentially biologically driven to sew. At the same time, women were physically associated with flowers in some anatomical texts by Casseri and Van de Speigel. I decided to up the fantasy a notch by re-designing a flounce sleeve embroidery pattern from an 1855 issue of Godey’s Lady’s Book using anatomical images from The surgery, surgical pathology and surgical anatomy of the female pelvic organs : in a series of coloured plates taken from nature, with commentaries, notes and cases,by Henry Savage (1876). You can find this book at the New York Academy of Medicine Historical Collection

I worked up the pattern in cotton floss on linen. Then I accidentally burnt it with an iron when I had a migraine. It took two months to make.

Oophorectomy. Try saying that 5 times, fast! Artist: Kriota Willberg
An oophorectomy is a surgery where an ovary is removed. This is a free-hand image of a (somewhat cartoonish) uterus, fallopian tubes, and one ovary. I darned yarn into a torn lace…doily? Then stitched the uterus in darker yarn. I imagine the darned doily as a representation of the broad ligament. I pulled and puckered the yarn in the area of the missing ovary to represent scarring that might occur after an oophorectomy. 

Tissue slide cross stitch pattern
made in Photoshop. Kriota Willberg
Catgut tissue slide cross stitch. There's a typo in there! I'm not saying where-
find it yourself! Artist: Kriota Willberg
I thought you might be curious as to what a pattern for one of my cross stitches looks like.
The top image is a counted cross-stitch pattern, assembled in photoshop. It's a photomicrograph of catgut imbedded in dog tissue from Textbook on Sutures(1942) by Paul F. Ziegler, and is supplemented by images from The Gentleman’s Dog, his Rearing, Training, and Treatment(1909) by C.A. Bryce, and Trichologia mammalium; or, A treatise on the organization, properties and uses of hair and wool, together with an essay upon the raising and breeding of sheep. You can access these books at the Academy Historical Collection. The text forming the border of the images is liberally excerpted from the textbook on sutures and says,

 “…catgut is made from the first 6-8 yards of the stomach-end of the small intestine of sheep. The absorption rates of catgut sutures are regularly checked by suture implantations in muscle of laboratory animals (dogs and rabbits). Following implantation, the surrounding tissue reacts to wall off and digest this foreign body. A disintegration occurs, small fragments are phagocytosed by macrophages and are thus digested.” The delineation of the dog and sheep image have been redrawn to mimic clumps of macrophages, which white blood cells.

The catgut and macrophages are made with cross-stitch. The dog tissue is tinted by using a half tent stitch, and the areas absent of stitching are the forming granulation tissue.

This piece took about 4 months to make! (Okay, yeah, because I had to work and do other things at the same time, but still!)

This spring (2019) I traveled up to the Rochester Institute of Technology, spoke about graphic medicine, and lead workshops on injury prevention and Medical Imagery through Embroidery! Yup! The workshop was a blast. I presented a slide show on cultural and aesthetic messages that we can interpret from educational anatomical and medical imagery. We discussed anatomical symbolism used by artists in their non-medical work. Then I introduced the students (from the medical illustration, art, and English departments) to some basic embroidery stitches, gave them fabric with pre-printed historical anatomical images, embroidery supplies, fabric pens, and fabric, and let them transform the “academic” “professional” imagery into something more personal. They did some great work! I don’t have any examples of student work, but I can show you a piece I worked up using the image of a child’s skull from William Cheselden’s Osteographia, fabric pens, tulle, and embroidery.

My friend Tom had a thymectomy. His surgeon took a photo of Tom’s thymus with it’s (benign!) tumors and gave it to him. Tom knew I’d love to turn it into a needlepoint piece, so he gave me a copy of the photo and permission to work it up. I made it on monocanvas with wool yarn. One thing I like about many decorative projects is the way they label or name their subjects in the context of the piece, be it a painting, needlepoint, or a tattoo. So I did it too. 
Tom's Tumor and Thymus.
Artist: Kriota Willberg
This is not Tom's favorite of my work. (He is a little squeamish about it. Who can blame him?)

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.