Cartoonist, educator and Intima contributor Kriota Willberg creates graphic medicine artwork that deals with healthcare and illness in cleverly insightful ways. We look at her work that makes us laugh as we're thinking about the sensitive issues she brings so forcefully into view—like the ambiguity of a "Do Not Resuscitate" order ("Frankenstein," Intima, Fall 2017) or the thoughts of a therapist about her patient during a deep tissue massage ("Friction,"Intima, Fall 2015). As the first-ever artist-in-residence at the New York Academy of Medicine Library, Willberg brings her infinite knowledge of the human body with its attendant joys and woes into clear view in her art, offering an engagingly humane perspective on how it feels to be human.
Her useful and entertaining new book, "Draw Stronger: Self-Care for Cartoonists & Other Visual Artists," published by Uncivilized Books, takes her sense of mission into a more practical realm, one of explaining the many aches, injuries and strains our bodies suffer during our daily activities. Common complaints such as muscle spasms, tendon injury and nerve entrapment are explained in clear, humorous illustrations, so we understand exactly how these dreaded damages occur, and once we can see and understand their origins, Kriota Willberg gives us the ways to counteract them. She asks us to think about our pain and how we describe it, deny it or treat it—her book is a call for us to consider the benefits of self-care as well as a how-to manual for the ways to go about it.
Although the book's title pointedly calls out to those hunched over a drawing table, I suspect that many of us can relate to the bodily pain described—and indeed, should read and follow her well-laid-out prescriptions for fixing and preventing the types of injuries also caused by repetitive activities such as computer work or posting videos of cute kitties on our smartphones.
"Self-care is important!" she lightly admonishes us in her chapter entitled, "Think like a Cartoonist-Athlete" and as readers, we're probably giggling while we're following along with just how to do that as we read on to the next chapters, "Live like a Cartoonist-Athlete," and "Train like a Cartoonist-Athlete" where she demonstrates the many ways "to modify our daily activities to reduce the change of injury 24/7."
Particularly useful are her illustrated exercise chapters for different parts of the body, from the hands and wrists, to exercises for the neck, chest and shoulders and finally, workout routines to resolve the mother-of-all-pain part of the body, the back. What's appealing about her instruction is that it comes in the form of her amusing illustrations with accompanying commentary from a jagged-lightning bolt wise-guy that reminds the reader of those sharp jabs we experience when our bodies have been under stress.
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