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  • Writer's pictureRoeh Art

Weighty Matters

Updated: Mar 27, 2022

The Story Behind the Picture

Panning for Gold - deciding what matters.

This is another picture that began during a sermon! Don't ask me what it was about; my mind was obviously mostly elsewhere. I was sitting in a service that had combined vibrant contemporary music with elaborate robes and anachronistic ceremony. A huge amount of time and effort had gone into the planning of it, but it was a bit like combining strawberry jam and Marmite: love them or hate them, it's hard to argue they work well in the same sandwich!

I'd had a difficult summer which had left me questioning whether the effort put into the ceremony (effort that had displaced many other activities) was appropriate. An earlier speaker had raised the issue of the interior being more important than the exterior, and sitting there, this all seemed a bit exterior for my tastes!

My mind drifted back to the topic I'd been wrestling with all day: how much of what we do really matters, and how do we distinguish this from the things that are trivial (but harmless), and most importantly, those things that we should just dump because they steal time and resources from the things that really do matter?

I found myself drawing a shallow pan being used to separate the silt from the gold. Panning for gold works on the principle of relative weight. Real gold is ridiculously heavy for its volume, so when you take a scoop of silt and swirl it in water, the lighter stuff is washed away, and if there are any flecks of gold, they stay in the pan. They remain, because they carry more weight than the other stuff, more weight than the grot and the grit.

If you look up the phrase: 'to carry more weight', the explanations talk about influence, so the question became: what are things that most influence my life, or: what are my core values - the things that are non-negotiable?

A little less than six months on from those doodles, I realised that life's events had swirled and rinsed away many things I had previously valued because I came to the point where I just didn't think they were important enough to use my time and energy to hang onto them. Some things, those that really mattered stayed: glints of gold, glimpses of what matters.

When we talk about someone or something being 'solid gold', we are describing them as reliable, true and valuable. It's the solid gold things that I found remained, because they carried enough weight to stay put rather than being flushed away.

Panning for gold is not a skill I've ever acquired, but the image it presents of separating the valuable from the worthless has stayed with me, and I really enjoyed painting it. Water and hands are both subjects I find challenging, but they are fun to work on, and because oil pastels are a very 'forgiving' media, you can fiddle with the picture until you get the desired result. The most difficult part (as with many paintings) was deciding when to stop because it was finished.


The picture 'Panning for Gold', uses Sennelier oil pastels on acid free oil linen surfaced paper. It has been fixed with Sennelier oil pastel fixative. The original is approximately 30cm by 42cm (A3) including a small border allow for framing without losing too much of the image. Both the original and fine art prints are available. If you would like more information, please email me at


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