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Lina Liberace: The Art of Motherhood [elan magazine]

by Hope Katz Gibbs
elan magazine
February 2006
Portrait of Lina by Robert Liberace

The phone is ringing. Her daughter is crying. And Lina Liberace has a deadline. The Vienna artist needs to finish six more illustrations for a book she’s working on. She’s guessing the voice on the other end of the ringing phone is her publisher calling to ask if the artwork is finished.

What does she do? “I stop, take a deep breath, and try to laugh,” she says. “What else can I do?”

Lina says hers is the plight of the stay-at-home/working mom. Since she had her first child, Celia, in 2000, she’s realized it was a juggling act to balance motherhood with a thriving career. When daughter Ava came along in 2003, Lina’s life got even more complicated.

But this award-winning illustrator, whose colorful, whimsical images have graced the pages of dozens of magazines, books and brochures, says she tries not to sweat the small stuff.

“Throughout my career, I’ve just gone with the flow,” Lina explains. “It’s tougher with kids because I am responsible for little people now. I believe that if you take life one day at a time, everything will work out.”

Case in point: When Lina was a young artist looking for her first break, she sat down with the telephone book and a tall vodka-and-tonic and started making calls. It was 1986 and the Rensselaer, Indiana, native had followed her sister to D.C., hungry for a big-city adventure. With a marketing degree from Saint Joseph’s College and experience working as a typesetter at a community newspaper, Lina thought surely someone would hire her.

“So I pulled a lawn chair and the phone book outside on a beautiful spring day and figured that I’d sit there and go through the entire thing,” she says. “By the time I finished, I knew I’d either be employed—or really drunk.”

It turns out she never made it through the letter A. She got the art director for a
design firm called Arts & Words on the line, and he was in need of a good typesetter.
Lina landed the job, but instead of setting type, she learned production work and got to create a few illustrations for the company. “It was an incredible learning experience,” she says.

Then in 1988, a position came up at Mortgage Banker magazine when the art director went on maternity leave. “It was a short-term assignment, but I hoped that in addition to production I’d get to do some illustration,” Lina says.

Early in her stint there, an illustrator called to say he couldn’t meet his deadline for artwork, and Lina was tapped to fill in. Other assignments followed, and by the time the art director returned from maternity leave, Lina had an entire portfolio to take around to other art directors-thus launching her freelance illustration career.

Since then, Lina has worked regularly for The Smithsonian, Procter & Gamble, American Airlines, Cricket magazine, The National Geographic Society and the U.S. Postal Service, among others. She’s also illustrated a handful of children’s books including “Polly Hopper Pouch,” for Dutton Children’s Books and “Charlie Muffin Miracle Mouse” for Crown Publishers.

In the carly’90s, The Illustrators Club of Washington began taking notice of her work and awarded her numerous ribbons at their annual shows. The Society of Illustrators in New York City installed one of her pieces in its permanent collection, Women Illustrators, Past and Present, and her work was included in an annual exhibition of the Society of Illustrators of Los Angeles. Lina was also one of eight Saint Joseph’s College alumni featured in a brochure called “Success.”

Perhaps most proud of her success is her husband, prominent fine artist Robert Liberace (read his profile in the May 2003 issue of elan).

The two met in 1995 when Lina signed up for a drawing class that Rob was teaching at the Torpedo Factory in Alexandria. “I thought he was cute, but so did every other woman in the class,” Lina recalls. “During the semester we got to be friends, and then we started dating.”

The couple was married in 1997. On a sunny afternoon in May, their reception was held under a white tent in the middle of her sister Lynn’s giant yard in Vienna, VA.

“It was a beautiful wedding, and like most things in our life, we pulled it off by the skin of our teeth,” Lina admits with a chuckle. “We just aren’t planners, and I think that’s typical for creative people. So what if I forgot to put out all that nice sterling silverware that I’d ordered—or the 150 sets of teacups that my mom shipped to us from Indiana for a coffee / tea bar? The band was great and we danced until it got dark. It was the perfect day.”

Best of all, Lina says, life with Rob has been a dream come true.

“It is so easy to live with him,” she says. “We never fight, and I think that’s because he has the same attitude as I do. We both just let life happen and hope for the best. He does his art, I do mine, we raise the kids and we try to laugh a lot. My only complaint is that every now and then some of my art supplies go missing.”

For more visit: www.linaliberace.com.

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"I get by with a little help from my friends," says Hope, who gives special thanks to:

• MICHAEL GIBBS, website illustration and design: www.michaelgibbs.com
• MAX KUKOY, website development: www.maxwebworks.com
• STEVE BARRETT, portrait of Hope on Bio page: www.stevebarrettphotography.com

Contact HOPE KATZ GIBBS by phone [703-346-6975] or email.

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