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. . . .



The house in Colorado where 4 generations of my mother’s family lived. Digitally edited by Randa Dubnick

Today marks the end of an era for my family. My great aunt and her children and grandchildren are moving from Denver to Pikesville, Maryland. My great aunt is 97 years old, and though she’s traveled, this is her first time residing outside of Colorado. I’m very happy to have them closer by, and I still have many cousins (probably some I don’t even know about) in Colorado, but my great aunt’s relocation represents the complete disappearance of a fantasy that I have had of Colorado as my home state—of being from and perhaps someday returning to Colorado, where three generations of my family (including me and my brother) were born, where several branches of that family resided when they first came to the United States from Eastern Europe, and where the Brooklynites in the family (on my father’s side and my maternal grandfather’s side) eventually succumbed, at least for a time, to a Coloradan existence.

I didn’t actually live in Colorado for very long; we moved to Emporia, Kansas, when I was about four years old, and then later to Chicago, and then back to Lawrence, Kansas, where we stayed for about a decade. Until I was about 12 years old, we returned to Colorado every summer and some times during winter break. Those trips were the highlights and happiest times of my childhood, and not least because I had a large extended family there. After my grandmother died in 1984 and then my grandfather died in 1994, those trips dwindled, although I have been back to visit on occasion. For a long time, I had hoped to move back to Colorado someday, and that might still happen, although it seems unlikely at the moment. But I’m sure I’ll be back to visit.

The maternal and paternal branches of my family have often seemed just as at odds culturally as they are distant geographically, as though the Colorado side and the New York side were polar opposites. In reality, my maternal grandfather and his sister both left Brooklyn for Pueblo, and my father’s family moved from Brooklyn to Pueblo when he was 13; in fact, my paternal grandfather is buried there. I’ve even discovered that one of my father’s second cousins, whom he had never met, happens to have been buried in the same cemetery as my maternal grandmother, near Denver. Some of my family came through Ellis Island, some through Galveston, but in my family history all roads seemed to lead to Colorado—at least for a time. Now almost everyone has left, heading back east or farther out west.

As for me, I have lived in Massachusetts for the past 18 years, twice as long as I’ve ever lived anywhere else, and though I still dread the long winters (talk about polar!), a recent discovery that a paternal great grandmother entered the U.S. through Boston with Chelsea, Massachusetts, as her destination means that I finally feel like perhaps I have some roots to explore here in New England, too, and perhaps through genealogical research my family history will take on a whole new dimension.


My brother and I at our grandparents’ house in Aurora. On the wall is a portrait of my grandfather. Note the “I Love You Colorado” t-shirts.

New England Authors Expo + New Logo

We are very excited to announce that we will be hosting a table at the New England Authors Expo on July 27, 2016, from 4-9 pm at the lovely Danversport Yacht Club on Rt. 62 in Danvers, Massachusetts. Information about the Expo is available here. We will be offering information about our services, various giveaways and goodies, and the chance to win a free portrait (of a person, animal, or house) by Randa Dubnick.

Also, check out our new logo!


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

Create Your Own Mothers’ Day Gift Photo Art Workshop, Saturday, April 30, 2016


Using photo transfer and other techniques, make your own photo art heirloom to give as a Mothers’ Day gift. Options include boxes, planters, pendants, platters, magnets, and coasters.

Date: Saturday, April 30, 2016, 10 am to 1 pm.

Cost is $65, which includes cost of materials. Limited to 6 students per workshop.

For more information or to register, sign up here.