The need to belong

Series ‘be-longing’ by Daniela S. Herold at Cowichan Performing Arts Centre in Duncan

'Lemonisity' by D.S. Herold

Oil on board by D.S. Herold

In 1970, American psychologist Abraham Maslow pointed out that belonging was an essential and prerequisite human need that had to be met before one could achieve a sense of self-worth. 

I immigrated to Canada in 2004 after having lived in different countries for the last 20 years. The theme of migration and identity has concerned me for years – I know what it is like to leave ‘home’ and move to a new place, where unfamiliar people become neighbours, colleagues and friends.  However, I have always moved by choice with a job, a loving partner or a place waiting for me. I was the fortunate one – unlike hundreds of thousands of refugees who know about displacement, having moved out of their native home and country due to civil wars, persecution or natural disasters.

the essence - long

‘The essence’ by D.S. Herold

Today, my friend Rosemary and I finished hanging 35 paintings from my latest series titled ‘be-longing’ at the Cowichan Performing Arts Centre in Duncan.  The show is close to my heart because it focuses on growing roots, being connected and belonging with others. The exhibition can be seen until the end of January 2016.

‘Humans have a natural need to belong with others.
To belong means to be connected.’

Why is the topic of belonging such a common theme in literature, music and the arts?

The need to belong is rooted in evolutionary history. Human beings are social animals who have always depended on having close connections in order to survive and reproduce. In our daily life, we seek out those who are most similar to us because we feel that we can relate to them and they can understand us.

As an immigrant, I wanted to belong and to grow roots here in Canada – I have been longing to be part of this culture while at the same time needing to stay close to my European roots.

Humans have a natural need to belong with others. To belong means to be connected. As for me, the word home is connected just as much to a place as it is connected to a person. In that sense I felt I could take the word ‘belonging’ apart (BE-LONGING) as in ‘I am longing’ for something that makes me whole.

'Camouflage’. Oil on board

‘Camouflage’. Oil on board by D.S. Herold

Every time you are taken out of your ‘heart community’, there is a void that yearns to be filled. For me, the alienation was caused by my move to another country. For many, the feeling can be the result of the scattering of their families, the break-down of traditional groups or the disappearance of a village familiarity where everyone knows everyone. Millions of people are taken out of their heart communities as I am writing these lines – the stories of their suffering during the current refugee and migrant crisis in Europe are enormous.

‘I am longing’ for something that makes me whole.’

A friend asked me whether ‘the artist and nationality’ are a central theme in my art. About a year ago, when I started the series ‘be-longing’, I was wondering how important nationality would (have to) be? At one point it confronted me with quite a dilemma: how could I – as a German-Canadian artist – portray ‘Germanness’ in general if all symbols of Germany are tainted by the past? The artist Anselm Kiefer already asked that existential question in the 1960s.

as a bug - long

‘As snug as a bug in a rug.’ Oil on board by D.S. Herold

When I was reflecting on my own sense of nationality and what it means for me as an artist, I came across a quote by Saltire Award winner Meaghan Delahunt that I really liked. She wrote in 2003: ‘It is not the responsibility of the artist to present a comfortable or ‘identifiable’ picture of the nation in which they were born or in which they live, and they should be free to write about whatever they see fit in whatever language they see fit.’  

This project left me with the interesting question: how important is my nationality in the context of belonging when I compare it to other staples of my life, e.g. my family, my friends, networks, groups, environment etc? As it turned out, nationality has been only one aspect of many.

Belonging has a lot to do with getting recognition and developing self-esteem. According to Maslow, we only develop self-esteem when we are anchored in community. At the end of the day it is the community that gives us the recognition for our achievements, and it is the community that respects us for our mastery in a certain field.

How we portray and express this human need of belonging, so deeply ingrained in our nature, is very individual – as is the artistic presentation of the topic around it. I want my viewers to create their very own story of my art – that is why my paintings leave a lot of room for imagination and assumptions.

Of course there is ‘my’ story behind every painting, but what would art be if it doesn’t reach out and touch your life? What makes me tick is when my paintings manage to hold your attention for a while, when they can inspire you or make you wonder.

Why art? Because.

Daniela S. Herold


Further information : Cowichan Performing Arts Centre

swirls - long

‘In unison.’ Oil on board by D.S. Herold



Paintings/Photographs by D.S. Herold  / Copyright 2015


On woodcuts and wood engravings

The graphic work of Maurits Escher

Have you ever seen the amazing video clip showing one of Europe’s most original graphic artists, Maurits Escher (1898-1972), creating his last great woodcut print ‘Snakes’ in 1969? I have loved this image ever since I was a teenager, but it wasn’t until I saw the original in the Dutch city of The Hague last Summer that it really sank in: ‘Snakes’ is a perfect work of art.

Snake woodcut by M.C. Escher Escherhaus in The Hague

Snake woodcut
by M.C. Escher
Museum Escherhaus in The Hague

For many centuries woodcuts and engravings remained the only methods of reproducing more than one copy of a design. Maurits Escher mastered the technical processes after devoting decades of enthusiastic research into the characteristics of graphic materials.

Usually referred to as M. C. Escher, the Dutch artist is known for his often mathematically inspired woodcuts, lithographs, and mezzotints.

“Anyone who applies himself, from his early youth, to the practice of graphic techniques may well reach a stage at which he begins to hold as highest ideal the complete mastery of his craft.” (M.C. Escher)

What is a Woodcut?

The design is drawn on to a flat block of wood and the areas between the lines of the design are chiselled away until they stand out in high relief. The block is then inked and the design is printed. If more than one colour is required, different blocks are used to print successively on to the same piece of paper, each one being in careful register with the preceding ones.

What is a Wood Engraving?

The woodcut was primitive, limited and tended to be crude. The wood engravings is the natural and exquisitely refined development of it and as with other forms of engraving reflected the subtlety of design and execution flowing out of more civilized taste and the use of finer tools. With this subtractive technique fibers from the end-grain of a woodblock get removed, whereas a woodcut is cut on a cross grain, or plank-side of a woodblock. “A wood engraving allows a variety of cutting techniques and is extremely durable. It lends itself well to illustration in publications as well as limited edition prints. It has a most interesting history of usage as well as an active contemporary application.”*

Difference between the 2 methods

In 1922, Escher left the School of Architecture and Ornamental Design in Haarlem, (Netherlands), having learnt graphic techniques from Samuel Jessurun de Mesquita – a teacher whose strong personality impressed him deeply. From him, Escher wrote, ‘I inherited his predilection for side-grained wood, and one of the reason for my everlasting gratitude to him stems from the fact that he taught me to how to handle this material.”

The main technical difference between the woodcut and the wood engraving is that the woodcut usually produces black lines on a white background, the wood being cut away from both sides of the line to be printed black, whilst the wood engraving gives an effect of white lines on a black background. Each cut of the engraving tool prints a white line. Great care must be used in inking the block and taking off each impression. This method of printing gives a desirable individual quality to each print.

More information about

*The Wood Engravers Network:
Since 1994, a group of printmakers, especially interested in wood engraving, have gathered and formed an organization called the Wood Engravers’ Network with over 200 members from the US, Canada, Europe and Asia.

Woodcuts and Wood Engravings from the Lloyd’s Collection

The Official Escher Website published by the M.C. Escher Foundation and The M.C. Escher Company.

Escher’s Biography

Samuel Jessurun de Mesquita (Amsterdam, 1868 – Auschwitz, 1944) was a graphic artist active in the years before the Second World War. He was born into a Jewish Family in Amsterdam and devoted himself to various techniques and mediums. He is primarily known for his woodblock prints, etchings, watercolours and drawings of birds, exotic animals, plants and flowers, and fantastical representations, both humorous and grim.

Life through your lens – Wildlife photographer of the year 2013

Mark Steichen (Luxembourg) Badger dream scene

Presented for a third year with all new photographs, this visually striking exhibition from the Natural History Museum, London (NHM), showcases the world’s best wildlife and nature images.

With 100 new photographs found in 18 categories, visitors to the Royal British Museum in Victoria, B.C. can now enjoy the wonders of nature through the lenses of prize-winning photographers. When I visited the museum yesterday, I was truly impressed by the selection of photographs, beautifully displayed in sleek back-lit installations, each photo and accompanying caption telling the inspirational, astonishing and sometimes humorous stories of our fascinating natural world.  The exhibition runs until April 6, 2014.

“An image can alter the way we see, think and feel. Whether captured in the most remote wilderness or taken in the intimacy of your own backyard, a truly great image of nature can change our world view forever.” (NHM London).

To mark 50 years of the Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition, the NHM wanted even more young photographers to get involved, offering three age group categories for images of any subject matter covered in the adult competition.

‘It takes courage to put your photos forward, but the rewards for those who do are enormous’, says Jim Brandenburg, chair of the jury. ‘When I won Wildlife Photographer of the Year 25 years ago, it opened doors for me. The publicity it generates is astonishing, so I really want to encourage every professional and dedicated amateur to think about entering. It can be a career-defining move.

For almost 50 years, Wildlife Photographer of the Year has pushed boundaries. ‘In the 60s we raised wildlife and nature photography from a simple scientific record into an art form’, says Jim Brandenburg. ‘In the 80s we conveyed environmental and conservation issues through a single image of startling clarity. And in this new century, by using technology to explore nature more deeply, we’ve piqued global curiosity with new ways of seeing a world otherwise lost in a blink. Now, as we launch our 50th competition, we are setting the stage for the future.’

More information on the website of the Natural History Museum in London, and the Royal BC Museum

On good and great art – thoughts by Yehudi Menuhin

Have you ever read the book ‘Conversations with Menuhin’? The collection of informal, fascinating conversations in which the famous violinist, conductor and teacher Yehudi Menuhin talks about himself, is not just a book about making music. It is – as the Evening Times called it – ‘a rewarding lesson in humanity’.

I have been fascinated with the chapter about the purpose of the arts, particularly the following quote, which I would like to share with you today:

“There is an indefinable element which transforms, makes a work of art beautiful, and in its own way, perfect. (…) But the crucial difference between good art and great art – whether in literature, or music, or painting, or sculpture – is to be found in the quality of the original inspiration. The inspiration of genius is more deeply experienced, has greater unity, and is more far-seeing. The workmanship of genius has a natural sense of proportion; speaks of human elegance and understanding; and deeply touches our own life, thoughts, and dreams.”

When was the last time you dove into the arts and let yourself be inspired?  Visited a museum, went to the opera, explored local galleries, listened to music with your eyes closed, cried and laughed reading an outstanding novel? Why the arts? Because – as Auguste Rodin once said – “the main thing is to be moved, to love, to hope, to tremble, to live.”


Robin Daniels: Conversations with Menuhin. First Futura Publications Edition. 1980. p. 108/109

Art – more than instant gratification

Surrounded by beauty

“Surrounded by beauty” by D.S. Herold / Copyright 2013

The American Poet and Essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) once wrote

“Love of beauty is taste.  The creation of beauty is Art.”

About one hundred years later – in the 1960s – the German Artist Joseph Beuys (1921-1986) formulated his concepts regarding the social, cultural and political function and potential of art. Motivated by a belief in the power of universal human creativity and confident in the potential for art to bring about revolutionary change, Beuys said:

“I not only want to stimulate people,
I want to provoke them.” (1)

Beuys’ art works and performances are not about entertaining and amusing the audience. It is an awakening message from the tradition, a recognition of the whole based upon a new concept of beauty that extends beyond the instant gratification. It is a movement from the tradition, the expected, and the established for an inclusive openness. (2)

Why Art? What does it mean to you? Self-expression, a career path, big business, a mean for problem solving or a way of communicating? All of the above or none at all? My art not only motivates me and gives me focus, it somehow supports my emotional intelligence and helps me to discover my own self.


SOURCES: (1) Bastian, Heines and Jeannot Simmen, “Interview with Joseph Beuys,” in the catalog exhibition, Joseph Beuys, Drawings, Victoria and Albert Museum, Westerham Press, 1983, no folio;  (2)