Monday, February 28, 2011

Would you want an asphalt plant in your neighborhood?

Would you want an asphalt plant in your neighborhood?

Would you want an asphalt plant in your neighborhood? You probably never gave it thought, to be honest, neither had I until a local company filed for the proper permits to build and operate one approximately one mile from my home. Since the company’s announcement to build I have acted like a mad man studying the effects and “what ifs” of a hot mix asphalt plant on local citizens. My studies reveal a reoccurring theme; asphalt plants release millions of pounds of chemicals in the air during production each year. These toxins are unhealthy to breathe and present a problem for citizens living within six miles of a plant. I even joined a local organization of concerned citizens called the PON Foundation (PON), an acronym for “Protecting Our Neighborhoods”, to help in the fight to stop this plant from being built at the proposed location. Asphalt plants should not be allowed to operate in residential areas. I have donated time, money, and service in this fight to protect my family and way of life on this issue.

On February 23, 2010, the Onslow County Board of Adjustment voted to issue a Special Use Permit to Morton Trucking Inc., which will allow the company to build a 200-ton-an-hour asphalt plant near Halltown Road and U.S. 17 (Maps). Areas within a six mile radius that will be affected include: Piney Green, Wolf Swamp, Kellum, Pumpkin Center, Country Club, and the Commons. Largely populated housing developments affected are Country Club, Country Club Hills, Highland Forest, Regalwoods, Fieldcrest, Sunset Acres, Fox Horn, and Jacksonville Commons. Several schools, preschools, apartments, churches, and businesses are also included in the six mile zone that will experience implications from this plant.

A 200-ton-an-hour asphalt plant will release millions of pounds of chemicals to the air during production each year. These chemicals include many cancer-causing toxic air pollutants such as arsenic, benzene, formaldehyde, cadmium, lead, volatile organic compounds, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, and very fine condensed particulates (BRENDL, BRENDL - Asphalt Plant Fact Flyer Sheets). Asphalt fumes contain substances known to cause cancer, coughing, wheezing or shortness of breath, severe irritation of the skin, headaches, dizziness, and nausea. Louis Zeller, science director for the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League (BRENDL) stated in an interview with the Daily News that, “Arsenic, benzene and formaldehyde are very harmful to children, the elderly, the infirm, and those who work and play outdoors”. Zeller added, “Asphalt pollution is big pollution and exposure to low levels of benzene and other pollutants in the toxic soup emitted by an asphalt plant have been known to cause Leukemia and negatively affect the immune system and bone marrow” (Dewitt). The U. S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reports that very fine condensed particulates called particulate matter can pose the greatest problems because they can get deep into your lungs, and some may even get into the bloodstream. Scientific studies have linked particle pollution, especially fine particles, with a series of significant health problems, including: decreased lung function; aggravated asthma; development of chronic bronchitis; irregular heartbeat; heart attacks; and premature death in people with heart or lung disease (EPA).

Cedars at Northeast Creek
8x10" oil plein air
Bernie Rosage Jr.
 Asphalt plants bring other concerns to communities beyond health issues. Local landowners will suffer adverse impacts to their property values. A 2003 study by BREDL on property values around a North Carolina asphalt plant showed a 27 percent average drop in property value and a 56 percent decrease in areas closest to the plant (BRENDL). Environmental issues cause another concern, especially how run-off from the plants aggregate piles can affect our rivers and drinking water. The proposed plant site adjoins a protected area of wetlands on the Little Northeast Creek. Heavy rains from hurricanes and nor’easters, common to our area, could prove devastating to our local rivers as the Little Northeast Creek feeds the Northeast Creek which runs into the New River. The water and river concerns have brought the New River Foundation and the White Oak-New Riverkeeper Alliance organizations into the fray. All their hard work protecting and cleaning up our rivers over the past decade could easily be wiped out with a single hurricane. Our rivers and coastline draw tourist from all over the state and beyond, one can only imagine the economic impact on Onslow County if we lost these prized resources.

Most people embrace new industry which bring jobs and revenue to our area, myself included, but there are cases where the costs outweigh the profits. An asphalt plant in a populated area is such a case. The proposed plant is said to employ four to ten people on site. The county revenues generated by these salary numbers will not come close to offsetting the loss in county property taxes due to the 27 to 56 percent decrease in property values. There have been claims that we breathe in toxins every time we fill our car’s gas tank. This is true but the two minutes a week it takes to fill our tanks cannot be compared to the twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week that an asphalt plant releases toxins into the air. Some may argue that the North Carolina Division of Air Quality has the responsibility of keeping our state’s air clean and monitoring asphalt sites to make sure they follow proper guidelines. This is true, but the unabashed truth is that they are underfunded, under staffed, and cannot monitor all the state plants in a timely fashion.

View from my driveway.
Plein air oil on canvas.
 The fight to stop the proposed site of this asphalt plant is a personal one for me. I am a landscape artist and the idea of not being able to paint outside in my own yard frightens me. As an artist, I know the dangers cadmium and lead can present since they are incorporated in many oil paints. I make sure I use the utmost care when handling them. I am also aware that toxins do not have to smell to present a problem. They can be odorless as in the odorless mineral spirits I use to clean my brushes which is extremely dangerous if not properly handled.

My daughter and
painting buddy,
Art is my passion and my livelihood. The real cause for my fight goes beyond passion, livelihood, and property values; I fight for my daughter’s health and way of life. My nine year old daughter has asthma and an asphalt plant in our neighborhood means that she will never be able to play outside in our yard again. I’m not against asphalt plants; I enjoy driving on paved roads, I merely have no use for them in our neighborhoods. A simple solution is to build the plant in an unpopulated area where people could have the choice to live near it. When the bottom line and a handful of jobs are more important than our quality of life, we are in a sad state of affairs.

All paintings in this blog post were painted en plein aire near my home. All are within the area that will be affected by the proposed asphalt site location. Most of the locals will recognize these scenes. Sad to think that if the permit is granted by North Carolina Division of Air Quality (public hearing March 1st... click HERE for details) I will never be able to recreate these paintings on location ever again without adverse health effects!

A concerned citizen, artist, and father...

More paintings...

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Critique of Van Gogh's... Wheat Field and Cypress Trees

Wheat Field and Cypress Trees
Vincent Van Gogh
Vincent Van Gogh is one of history’s most influential artists. His work and style is easily recognizable, even among those with a limited interest in art. I chose his painting, Wheat Field and Cypress Trees for a recent critique assignment. Van Gogh used oils as his medium and canvas as his support for this landscape which measures 28 ½ by 36 inches. The original, painted in 1889, is on display at the National Gallery in London, England. The painting depicts a natural landscape consisting of a wheat field, cypress trees, distant mountains, and a cloudy sky. The painting is impressionistic in style matching the new bright palette of colors used by the Impressionist artists of Van Gogh’s day, but he takes Impressionism to the next level with his use of expressive color, texture, and line.

The majority of the painting is painted in middle tones with the exception of the dark contrasting cypress trees. There is cool color dominance throughout the piece except for the warm yellows of the wheat field. Van Gogh uses an analogous color scheme of yellow, green, and blue with green being the dominate color. These colors next to each other on the color wheel plus white give the piece a color harmony with a limited palette. Arial perspective is evident in the mountains as the cool pale blues push them back into the distance. The horizon is set on the lower third of the canvas and the elements are designed in such a manner to lead the eye throughout the painting and straight to the focal point… the cypress trees. The eye travels along the color contrast of the grass up the right and then to the left where it slows at the subordinate element of the smaller rounded bushes… From there the eye moves along the diagonal line of the mountains and stops at the strong vertical of the cypress trees. This point is the center of interest and is emphasized by being the darkest point on the canvas. The eyes then dance a while in the circular strokes of the clouds only to be funneled back to the focal point of the cypress trees. There is an asymmetrical balance to the painting created by the tall dark conical shape of the cypress trees and the small rounded shape of the bushes to the left. There is a rhythm in the sky area with the repetition of swirling strokes.

As I view Wheat Fields and Cypress Trees, I get the sense that I am there standing in the field feeling the wind blowing on my face. I can see the wheat swaying and the clouds rolling. This effect is echoed in Van Gogh’s brushwork as each stroke seems to move. The impasto texture only adds to this sensation for me. It’s as if Van Gogh wants me to feel the sensations he felt while painting this! I do not know if he painted this “en plein aire” (on location) but I’m sure that it was at least done from plein air studies and/or memories of the open air… it suggests that to strongly not to have been experienced firsthand.

Wheat Fields and Cypress Trees and other works by Vincent Van Gogh stand out in a crowd as compared to other works of his and our time. Van Gogh’s use of impasto texture, linear stokes that followed the contour of shapes like clouds, grass, hillsides, etc., plus his uses of expressive color make his work unique. These techniques impacted his work so much that it became an easily identifiable style… his style. His work wasn’t accepted in his time because the public had never seen anything like it but it has had a major impact on the world and art ever since. I feel this painting was successful even though it was ahead of its time. Would I change anything on this painting to make it better?... Heck no! It speaks to me as is!

Some say Van Gogh was crazy but I call him a genius. For me, Wheat Fields and Cypress Trees embodies enjoying nature at its fullest. It has a “stop and smell the roses” attitude. Was that what Van Gogh was trying to convey? I think so!

Thanks for dropping by...

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Bernie's Ramblings: How might the human race be different if humans had evolved a dominant right hemisphere?

How might the human race be different if humans had evolved a dominant right hemisphere?

Imagine a world with more John Lennons’ and fewer Vladimir Lenins‘, it's easy if you try. If the human race were right-brain dominate thinkers our world would definitely be different. It would be a place where intuitive, holistic, and creative thoughts would abound with acceptance and credibility. We would see the whole picture more often, placing greater value on human life and our environment and less on the bottom line. What’s in it for us would replace what’s in it for me. We would question things more... Common Sense and Common Good would be motivating factors in all we do. By now you can tell I’m biased when it comes to this subject, after all, I am a right-brainer!

Can right-brain thinking change the world?

As long as I can remember art has been a part of my life. I was one of the few people in high school who took art class seriously and didn't consider it a crypt course. I was fortunate enough to have a great teacher who really worked with those of us who were serious about art. Unfortunately, growing up in the 70's where left-brain thinkers seemed to rule... us right-brainers were often told... "Oh that's a pretty picture... but you have to get a real job if you want to eat". As a grown up I now realize I was caving into false teachings and letting someone else tell me what to dream.

Today, thank goodness, there is a shift, the right-brain revenge per say. Logical and precise left-brain thinking gave us the Information Age... now comes the Conceptual Age, ruled by artistry, empathy, and emotion. According to best-selling author and business analyst, Daniel Pink, not only can right-brain thinking change the world… it is changing it! In an Issue Post online news article, linked below, the author uses Pink’s book, A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future, to support this statement.

Can Right-Brain Thinking Change the World? (2009).

I selected this website because the title hooked me. Once hooked, I read the article and Pink made many valid points about his thoughts on right-brain thinking. He mentions society is learning to better appreciate the non-linear, creative work of right-brain thinkers such as artists, musicians, designers and storytellers while the logical, linear, spreadsheet abilities of left-brainers still matter, but they matter less. Many left-brain professionals are becoming vulnerable in that they can be easily replaced. Many professions like accounting, law and computer programming are being exported to cheaper workers overseas or are being performed by computers.

Pink’s conclusion and mine are the same, right-brain and left-brain thinking need to give way to a new order of whole-brain thinking if we are to be at our best. We are seeing signs of it in the workplace, however, we need to start introducing the value of right-brain thinking at an earlier age so it can catch up with its counterpart. For that to begin, schools need to give equal weight to the arts, creativity, and the skills of imagination and synthesis. Balance and harmony are fruits of the whole-brain thinker.

You may say that I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one, I hope someday you'll join us, and the world will be as one.

Food for thought...huh?

Are you a right-brainer? Take this online quiz to find out...
Thanks for dropping by... please feel free to share you views on this topic in the comments...

Pink, D. (2006). A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future. New York: Riverhead Books.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Six Functions of Art: 6... Refresh our vision and help us see the world in new ways.

Six Functions of Art:

Claude Monet (1840-1926)
Meules, effet de neige, le matin
Oil on canvas

6. Refresh our vision and help us see the world in new ways.

Claude Monet was a painter of light. He gave us a momentary glimpse in time that can never exist again. For me… his artwork gave us a fresh way of seeing and thinking. This painting from his “Haystack” series exemplifies my comments by allowing us to visually see a light on an object captured in a moment of time.

I hope you have enjoyed this series... The Six Functions of Art!

Haybales Near Todd
8x10" Oil on Canvas
Bernie Rosaage Jr

Nude Pear
8x6" Oil on Panel
Bernie Rosage Jr.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Six Functions of Art: #5... Give tangible form to feelings and ideas.

Six Functions of Art

5. Give tangible form to feelings and ideas.

Art is full of emotion and feelings. Many times it is created with emotion and evokes emotion… that is how art often speaks to me personally. I am not much of an abstract painter (as seen in this piece) but I did this painting several years ago in dealing with some feelings I was having. The piece is titled "Tired of Being Angry" and was my cry out from the total exhaustion of being stuck in the angry mode of grief. My friend/sister was killed in an auto accident in 1998. 2004 was an especially rough year for me for some reason... I couldn't explain it... how was I doing so well and then five years later I was getting angry to the point my family was suffering because of it? This painting came as a result of it... it was my way of letting go and letting God take care of it.

Tired of Being Angry
8x10" acrylic on canvas
Bernie Rosage Jr.

Monday, February 07, 2011

Concord Pastor, Austin Fleming, uses my painting to convey important message...

Concord Pastor, Austin Fleming, contacted me the other day to ask if he could use an image of my painting "Salt and Light" as a visual for an upcoming sermon and blog post. I granted permission and thoroughly enjoyed his touching sermon! I have included a few of his words so you will thirst for the rest... Drop by his blog and listen to the rest... link at bottom of this post.

Salt and Light
6x8" oil on panel
Bernie Rosage Jr.
Note carefully what Jesus says here - and what he doesn’t say:
he doesn’t tell us to become the salt of the earth,
he doesn’t tell us to be like the salt of the earth…
and he doesn’t tell us become the light of the world
or to reflect the light of the world…

Rather, he says:
we ARE the salt of the earth
we ARE the light of the world.

We are the salt…
Salt brings out the flavor in food it brings out the best in what it seasons. But when salt goes flat, or when there’s too little, it’s of no use; or, if there’s too much salt it ruins what it tries to season…

We are the light…
Light allows us to see what there is to be seen what is beautiful, what is true. and light brings the warmth of the energy which is its source. But when our light dims, we see only in shadows and when we hide our light it no longer serves anyone and the warmth begins to chill…

These are strong and vital images Jesus uses and he uses them to describe us, to speak of what he sees us to be.

In any year or season these are good and challenging words to hear.

Click HERE to read and/or hear the rest of Pastor Fleming's sermon. Be sure to subscribe to his blog at

Friday, February 04, 2011

Six Functions of Art: #4... Give tangible form to the unknown.

Six Functions of Art

4. Give tangible form to the unknown.

William Adolphe Bouguereau
Une âme au ciel (Translated title: A Soul in Heave)
1878 ~ Oil on canvas

Art helps us see things we can only imagine. Artists have been taking us into the unknown since the beginning. I chose this painting by Bouguereau as my example. He depicts angels carrying a young deceased woman into Heaven. This painting has always appealed to me since the passing of my sister who was about the same age as Bouguereau’s subject.

Stay tuned as I share my thoughts and examples on function #5... Give tangible form to feelings and ideas.

"A Pondering Heart" after Bouguereau...
7x5" Oil on Canvas Board by Bernie Rosage Jr.

I was inspired by Bouguereau's painting, "Le Baiser" and Luke 2:19 to produce this cropped version as a head study.... "But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart"...

"The Cross Set Before Him"...
Bernie Rosage Jr.
20"x16" Oil on canvas, 2004,
Inspired by Hebrews 12:2.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Six Functions of Art: #3... Record and Commemorate

Six Functions of Art

3. Record and Commemorate.

The Arc de Triomphe ("Triumphal Arch"), Paris, France
Art records our progress and deeds in many ways. Ancient civilizations are often defined by their art through ARTifacts found by archaeologists. The Arc de Triomphe (Arc de Triomphe de l'Étoile) is one of the most famous monuments in Paris. It stands in the centre of the Place Charles de Gaulle at the western end of the Champs-Élysées. The "Triumphal Arch” was built to honor those who fought and died for France in the French Revolution, and the Napoleonic Wars and houses the vault of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from World War I. It is the larger of two arch’s built (Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel stands near the Louve). This monument immediately came to mind for my example as I remember my uncle describing the feeling of pride he got riding past this arch while serving in France during World War II.

Stay tuned as I share my thoughts and examples on function #4... Give tangible form to the unknown.

Tribute to Gold Star Moms
10x8" oil on linen panel
Bernie Rosage Jr.