Detail from "Water Glass"

Chipped Crystal

Celebrating another family treasure

Continuing with my new series of still life images that incorporate at least one family “treasure,” I created another bouquet still life with a water glass that used to be my Grandmother’s. She had two like this. I suppose she had one special glass each for herself and my grandfather, who died when my mother was still a very young girl. This one is chipped and I have never drunk from it, but it’s so precious to me, I’ll never willingly part with it.

We grandkids got jelly glasses for our  “crystal.” Growing up, I thought everyone drank either from jelly glasses or the “free with fill-up” glasses that ensured your parents would go back week after week to the same gas station in order to collect enough for each person in the family. It seemed everyone back then got their everyday glasses when they bought jelly or gas. No going to Pier 1 or Crate & Barrel so long as there was a way to get serviceable glasses free.

We got a lot of other things the same way. I don’t think my mother ever bought an iron or toaster with cash—she paid with Green Stamps. Almost every retail store gave out Green Stamps; the amount you got depended upon how much you had spent. We all pasted them into books and then redeemed them for something special. It was a lot more fun than using coupons. Green Stamps were a kind of savings account that always meant getting a treat for the house eventually. When my mother died, I found she still had Green Stamps in her wallet, even though I doubt Green Stamps had been used anywhere in decades. But to throw them out was to throw out money—my mom, the optimist, could hope that some day Green Stamps would enjoy a comeback. So of course, I still have them. One of these days, I’ll have to make a scrap art page with them.

Image of Green Stamps
Instead of cutting coupons, we pasted Green Stamps into booklets and redeemed them for common household items.

For this still life, I photographed the water glass on its side. I had learned that an empty glass tipped over symbolizes the transience of material things, as does so much else in Vanitas paintings, which have always been a favorite genre. To use the glass, I needed to extract it and decided to create a path with the Pen tool. I don’t use the Pen tool often in Photoshop since there are so many good ways to make quick selections. However, it’s worth learning to use that tool for times when the colors and tones of subject and background are close and the shape is reasonably simple. After I had a tight-fitting path, I converted it to a selection and jumped the shape (Cmd/Ctrl-J) to its own layer.

2 ways to turn a path into a selection
Convert a path to a selection either through the Paths panel menu, using Make A Selection, or by clicking on the dotted circle icon at the bottom of the panel.

I wanted the goblet to be partially transparent against whatever I put in the still life, so I added a layer mask and used a brush with low opacity to partially mask much of the glass. I usually paint at 100% opacity and then use the Masks section in the Properties panel to reduce the Density setting, but in this case, I didn’t want the same amount of transparency over the entire glass. I also just wanted to hint at glass since I planned to use Topaz’s Impression filter to make it look even more like a painting.

Thumbnails for the goblet and layer mask
You can use a mask painted with a brush set to low opacity to create partial transparency in a glass.

I worked with lighting and texture until I had a painting I thought was suitably vintage, made a flattened duplicate of the layered PSD file, expanded the canvas a bit (because I didn’t think ahead enough on this project) and added the frame. Now, even if an earthquake or a bit of carelessness destroys Gram’s glass, I have the still life painting preserving my memories.

The final image
The final image: credits go to the usual suspects, including Lorie Davison, Booland, Valentina, G&T Designs, Paprika, Feli, and many, many more, along with Adobe Photoshop, of course.
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