Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Painting Parents - Rob and Lina Liberace

A watercolor of Ava by Rob, 9”x12"

How many children do you have? What are their ages?
Celia 15, Ava 13
How did your artistic career begin?

Rob received a baseball scholarship to attend George Washington University and graduated with an art major then went on to get his Masters there as well. He was teaching even before he graduated and soon branched out from there with teaching, commissions and gallery work in the DC area. I graduated with a marketing and art degree from Saint Joseph’s College in Indiana, then moved to DC and became a full time illustrator, working mainly for magazines at first, then doing both corporate Illustration and children’s books.
What is your Parenting/work/art situation?
Fortunately we both work from home when Rob is not teaching, which allows us to spend a lot of time with our kids. We both have studios here at the house.
In a Dual Art Career family how do you each support the other's artistic career?
It helps to have a solid marriage where we both respect one anothers opinions as well as one another's artistic abilities. That and wanting the best for everyone goes a long way. We have always been super supportive and do what we can to help each other find the time for creativity.

When do you make time to do your art and do you have a regular art routine?

Rob keeps busy with teaching and painting, but is very good at dividing his time between work and family, where he is very much a hands-on dad. I only illustrates occasionally these days, turning down bigger projects, and fit in sculpture and painting when possible. We tend to take on too many extracurricular projects (we’ve done three home renovations since we were married 19 years ago) so there is never enough time to do everything.
Do you Lina, wish that there were more time for you to focus on art pursuits or do you feel content with the current balance?
Like many mom" artists, I would definitely like more time to focus on art pursuits. It is not uncommon while raising a family and keeping the household going. However, I put the much of the blame on myself, since I seem to have too many interests! The good thing is that most of my interests involve creativity, and I am able to release much of that creative energy by doing things such as tiling a mosaic floor patterned after floors I’ve seen in old Italian churches, designing and building a playhouse or even creating a flower bed. While the artistic fulfillment might not be exactly the same as painting or sculpting, it seems to satisfy that same need for creating things. I also tend to do a lot of the business side of things, which is the bane of every artist!

Do your children get involved with your art? We have always encouraged them to draw and work on their skills. It is inspiring to see them grow and their artwork progress.
Do they inspire aspects of your art? Rob has enjoyed using the girls as models from time to time since they were little. They are wonderful, natural models who seem to instinctively know how to pose. 
How has having children changed your artwork?  Rob has an extensive amount of work which focuses on the girls and never ceases being inspired by them. It got me off of the full-time illustration track, but I think was ready for that change.
How does making time for artwork influence other household tasks?
Rob tries to keep to a routine of painting during daylight hours when possible, and then has his evening open. He is better at switching gears more easily than I am.Most non-art related projects and work get done on the weekends if possible. I tend to work intensely on projects and finish them quickly, but end up spacing them further apart then Ilike to, with all that needs to be done with the house, kids and business.
How do you make decisions about division of family, household responsibilities?
I think we can safely say that we both give it our all. There are things he doesn’t do well and things I don’t do well so we compensate for one another and we both do what is needed. Rob tends to be the fixer and I tend to be the cleaner. I help the kids with their English and he helps with Math and Science. Rob will step in and make dinner any time I am obviously working hard on any project, artistic or not. By the same token, I try and lessen his burden when he is busy.
We can each be a bit scattered at times, but we figure that is the way artistic brains operate so we are very forgiving of one another when something gets overlooked (which happens more than we’d like to admit!). Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have a secretary and housekeeper!

Have different ages of your children been more difficult to make time for artwork and in which ways?
As the girls get older, they are more self sufficient and there is more time for artwork. But even though we’re no longer changing diapers, the years of slumber parties and rides have taken over, so it is still not easy to find large blocks of time to paint. It all still requires time and energy, but in different ways. We both feel that having spent so much time with our kids earlier is paying off now, in that they both had a lot of love and a solid foundation. So while the teenage years certainly bring on new challenges, the ride so far is not as rough as it could be - knock on wood!
How do you encourage your children to be artistic? We encourage by example, although we have no need to try. Both girls seem to have it in their genes. They are always creating something. We are a family of mess makers!
Do you feel extra pressure as an artist to raise your children to be artistic? It is a nice bonus that ours are artistic, but you never know when a child will be interested in art or have natural artistic ability. Our youngest made miniature models of all sorts of things when she was younger, and our oldest even made a dress out of newspaper one time. They are definitely self motivated. We are lucky that both our girls are natural artists so all we do is gently encourage them to develop their skills. We will have occasional family drawing sessions, which is always fun and inspiring. And, of course, Rob is a natural teacher, so his opinions are always in demand. We certainly do not feel pressured to do so. We have the philosophy that the girls should do what makes them happy, whether it is art or something else.
Ava’s copy of an illustration from the book “Giants
Have you seen your children take inspiration from your artwork?   Like most artists, our children are inspired by artwork, whether it is ours or from seeing art on the art museum trips we take each year. When they see something that pleases their eye, they want to emulate it. Or not… once we were at the MET and the Rob had the girls doing some drawing. Celia was busy sketching a copy of some 15th century great master’s drawing and Ava was sitting next to her finishing up a nice likeness of Spongebob Squarepants! 
In addition, both girls are asked to “illustrate” their assignments at school regularly (it seems to be stressed due to the fact that it helps children memorize the material) and take great care to do a high level of work, even if it is just illustrating cells for a science class. It has definitely helped them with good grades and certainly hones their skills. 

Two of Celia’s self-styled outfits.

In what ways does being an artist make being a parent harder or easier? Rob is very good at dividing his time between work and family time. Lina has a more difficult in transitioning from one to another, so when she paints, which is not nearly so frequently, Rob will try and fill in to keep the household going. Being an artist is like any job in that it takes time. The good thing is that it is something we can do at home.

Some of Lina’s sculptural pieces.

How has having a spouse that is also an artist affected your career and also your daily life?

I think it affects our connection to one another, our home and how we live. Our lives are rich and full, in no small part from our artistic vision.
Do you draw inspiration from each other in your personal work? Definitely. It would be pretty difficult not to be inspired by Rob’s work. He is always surprising us with beautiful paintings, inkings and watercolors. On the other hand, he recently painted a lovely watercolor after seeing something I was working on, saying he was inspired by the sensitivity of my drawing. He also saw the quick pace I had to keep for illustration jobs and realized he didn't need to take so long to finish a painting.

Lina's oil painting of a wren, 9”x12"

Do you think being a parent affects the way you are perceived as an artist? Our family life is first and foremost. Being good parents is more important than being successful artists to us. As intense as Rob is with his art, he is probably even a more intense and caring dad. If we go to any sort of art related function, we bring our kids with us if it is at all possible. This may or may not always be the ideal thing for people who invite us, but with us, if you want us, that often means the girls will be in tow. They have always been well behaved and at home among adult artists so it never seems to be a problem. We’ve had at least one overseas art trip with students each year for the past decade. I think we all (including the students) believe having the kids along enriches the trips.
People who know us all often tell us that we have it all since we have a great family life but also the ability to work on our art. I think people respect the fact that we are putting so much of our energy towards our children, but still maintaining a balance.
Are there any other things about balancing painting and parenting that you would like to share?  In an earlier interview, I (Lina) said that “You can have it all but not all at once.” at least from the mom point of view. I still think that is mostly true, although as the kids get older, it gets easier to mix the two. All artists who are making their income from their art have to be able to juggle two very different elements - art and business. Having children just adds a third ingredient to the mix, which keeps us grounded in real life.

One of several of Robs paintings of Ava as a harlequin, 16x20

1 comment:

  1. I really loved reading this article! It's so encouraging to read about other artists who struggle with finding a balance between parenting and art-making. It makes me realize I'm not alone. I like that they put parenting/ family first, but still are able to professionally and passionately pursue their art careers. I love this quotation: "We both feel that having spent so much time with our kids earlier is paying off now, in that they both had a lot of love and a solid foundation. So while the teenage years certainly bring on new challenges, the ride so far is not as rough as it could be - knock on wood!" Thanks for this article, I really needed it!