Portrait of Us

Portrait of Us (Final)

Painting this portrait was a lovely experience because I knew I was painting a happy memory.  I recently finished the portrait of this couple on vacation in Santorini, Greece. My reference was a their vacation photo (shown below). It shows them them riding a motorbike along a coast road, and wearing sunglasses and helmets. I tried to capture the sense of the place:  the bright sun, blue water and sky of Greece.  I emphasized the scenery reflected in the sunglasses. Painting the helmets and sunglasses was a new challenge for me, but as I worked, I became increasingly convinced of the wisdom of choosing this snapshot for  a portrait because it is such a happy moment.  So above all, I tried to capture the happiness of the moment, and create a keepsake from this happy memory.

Version 6

Here is the vacation snapshot that I used for my reference photo.


Leni (Digitally Modified Photo)

Leni (Digitally Edited Photo)

This is an illustration for a book that I recently edited, about the late Leni Ohlbrecht, seen in the photo. The book, written by her mother-in-law Elaine Ohlbrecht, is about the experience of having breast cancer. It is based on Elaine’s interviews with Leni and her family and friends, but above all the book is Elaine’s tribute to her daughter-in-law. The image posted here began with a photo taken by Leni’s husband Tyler Ohlbrecht. Tyler’s photo showed Leni waving in the midst of a cure cancer fundraiser. In the image sent to me, filtering had already been applied so that the image was black and white with pink tones. It was already a great picture ! But because Leni was surrounded by other people, clearly identifiable but unknown to Elaine, it wouldn’t be possible to seek out permission to publish their images. So I said I would see what I could do. I opened Tyler’s photo in Painter and began by softening the focus on the other faces with motion blur and some posterizing, but leaving Leni’s face in clear focus. Then, where possible, I used some brush strokes in pink tones, taken from the photograph, to paint over some details. And then I used copy-and-paste to create additional balloons, positioning them to hide some of the other faces. This also highlighted Leni in the image, and reflects her positive spirit, so I was pleased with that. Finally, I cropped the image to get the composition shown here. It was an honor to collaborate with Tyler on this picture of Leni.

Thinking of My Dad on Veteran’s Day


Dad in World War II with Army Tent (Digitally Modified Photo)

On Veteran’s Day, I usually post an image of my dad, taken from the snapshots in my mother’s old photo album. My parents met because of World War II; my father was born in Brooklyn but was stationed in Pueblo, Colorado, where he met my mother at a USO dance. They were married a few months later, shortly before he was sent overseas. While he was away, my mother kept a photo album of pictures taken back home in Pueblo as well as photos my dad sent back from overseas. Sometimes there are notes on the pages or on the backs of the photos. But in this case, nothing is written on the back, but from some of the other photos, I can tell that this was taken in an army camp somewhere in England, possibly close to a village because other photos show a pub and a telephone booth. Probably one of his army buddies took this picture. I am interested in this photo because it shows him at work in the army, something I would like to know more about. This year I got a copy of his army records and I know he worked in munitions. I was curious about the bicycles in some of these pictures and found out the army used bikes for messengers and communications. I would love to know much more, but what I do know is that he left his parents, sisters and brothers, and new wife and traveled far from home to do his bit to defeat the Nazis and stand up to tyranny. Today I scanned the original snapshot into my computer, then used Painter to add color with digital pastel and color overlays.

Here is what the original snapshot looked like:


Dad in World War II with Army Tent (Original Snapshot)

Here is the original snapshot from my mother’s album. It is about 2″ x 3″ and black and white. He left home, joined the army, and did his bit to defeat the Nazis. So I post this to honor his memory, and in his honor will do my bit to stand up against bigotry. Because he didn’t go off to war so that I could stand idly by. . . .

Evening Out (Anniversary Plate)


Over the weekend, I made this decorate plate to mark my parents’ wedding anniversary. (They were married on April 4, 1943.) They have been gone for years, but working with old photos of them gives me a way to still celebrate. So this project really started with a picture of my parents taken sometime in the 1950s.* The original photo showed my parents sitting around a table with my grandmother and my aunt and uncle. Everyone look great, but my mom had blinked when the flash went off and her eyes were nearly closed — probably why I hadn’t seen the photo displayed anywhere. So a few years ago (in 2008) I cropped a closeup of my parents out of the original. I did some basic retouching and then used Painter’s digital pastel to draw into the photo and open my mom’s eyes a bit. I put in some subtle color: sepia, cream and pink colors. Here is how it looked when I was finished:

Evening Out (Posterized Photo)

I have been meaning to use this image to make a decorative plate. This past weekend, I finally had a chance to work on it. I cut the photo image to fit the inner circle of the plate, then used collage to attach the photo to the plate. I used dark brown tissue paper to create the border. I sealed everything with acrylic so the image won’t fade.

I love this picture of my parents and I have also used it to make a pendant:


Old photos and keepsakes can be such a good way to keep memories alive.  If you have a photo that you would like to rescue or a memory you would like to celebrate, we would love to help you.!

*(The photographer was probably my uncle, Ike Fitterman, a professional photography who took lots of family pictures.)

Colorful Memories


This is a Memory Imprints project that I recently completed.  I started with two photos sent to me by the clients. These were well-loved photos, but the color was quite faded.  The clients asked me to add color, and then mount the photos on jute board. I started by scanning the images into the computer, and got to work. After some basic retouching, I made the two photos the same size so they would look good together. Then I used Painter’s digital pastel to “hand-paint” the color back into the photos.  Once I knew that the clients were happy with the color, I printed the images.  Then I mounted them on some canvas boards that I had covered with jute, painted front and back with an “earthy” blue-green.  I added these wooden stands for easy display.

Here is what the original photos looked like:
Manheim Photo 1 - Version 2









Manheim Photo 2 Edited

Decoupage Box (Mom Reading a Letter)


This is a keepsake box that I made recently. This hand painted box is decorated with a photographic image and a ribbon border.  The image is a picture of my mother reading a letter. When I first came across this photo, it was a small black-and-white snapshot, out of focus, and scratched up.

Mom Reading a Letter

But I loved this image of my mother in the 1940’s, probably reading a letter from my dad, who was overseas. So I used some digital tools to rescue the snapshot.

Mom Reading a Letter (Rescued Snapshot)

Then I had fun adding color, drawing from imagination and memory.

Mom Reading a Letter (Posterized and Rescued Snapshot) - Version 2

The best part about doing a project like this is that it makes me feel as though I am spending time with my mother, even though she has been gone for 30 years now.

Randa Dubnick

Images by Randa Dubnick

All Rights Reserved

Mom and Lilacs (Decoupage on Jute and Board)


IMG_5920 - Version 2

Here is a project that I made last year around Mother’s Day. (You can sign up here for our workshops to learn how to make your own.) The image began with a snapshot of my mother that I found in her photo album. She is standing in front of the lilac bush and the house where I grew up. This is one of my favorite pictures of her. The original photo was a black and white snapshot, only 2 inches by 3 inches.(See below). A few years ago, I used Painter to enlarge it and to create a digitally modified and colorized version, also posted here. To make this project, I made a print of the image and then decoupaged it onto a jute-covered masonite board. I covered it with gel medium and pressed it down to get the texture of the fabric to show through. Then painted the fabric with a muted lilac color. I wanted something with the faded look of a memory. It’s nice to have this keepsake to remember my mother, who loved lilacs in the spring.

Here is the original snapshot:

Copy of Mom and Lilacs

And here is the colorized version that I created:

Mom and Lilacs color 2