Symeon lives in Canada. He goes on pilgrimage collecting local-colour earths, works in his studio creating colourful pigments, and makes art.

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Paint Pots Pilgrimage

October 1st, 2016

I’ve wanted to visit the Kootenay Paint Pots since I first read about them a decade ago—and last week I did! Since a conference at the Banff Art Centre was bringing me to Alberta, I took the opportunity to cross into Kootenay National Park, and visit the Paint Pots on three different occasions. Arriving in Calgary early in the … Read more

“What van Donkelaar does is … have fun, learn from everywhere and teach as he learns.” —Mr. Stephen Strauss, CBC News.


My pilgrimages are the journeys I take to find and collect small samples of such local colours. All of my iconographic and artistic work begins with a place and its pigments. These, “local colours” come from an area’s soil, minerals, or even its plants, and fascinate me as an intersection between material colour and a community. Sometimes these trips are done by myself, but more often I’m with others who share with me their experience and love of a place. With their help, I come back from my local colour pilgrimage with a story and a bit of earth to begin my work.

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Latest Pilgrimage Entries


Finding the pigment in the earth, represents a very different part of my practice. My aim is to create a colour which is of good quality without loosing its connection to where it came from. To that end, the processes I use are not as much about purifying the colour as fulfilling it. My records which I keep from all these experiments often become artworks in their own right, and a number these have become the bases of ongoing projects and/or gallery installations aimed at sharing the potential of local colour.

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Latest Colour Entries

“[Symeon’s] unique style of art truly signifies how beautiful Canada is.” —Ms. Nicole Dupuis, Parks Canada.


Contextualizing the local colours I collect through art objects, collections, and diagrams allows me to share them as something more than their earthy materials. These works aim to open an experience of earth colour within the realm of the sacred—drawing from the experience of orthodox iconography and the stories embedded in the hieroglyphs of the First Nation Peoples. In this, the colours are understood to be revelational, and remains stylistically dominant in the work created.
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Latest Art Entries

“[Symeon] comes across as a really beautiful and knowledgeable and dedicated person. You can see in him what art must have meant in so many cultures in the pre-modern period.” —Fr. Dan Donovan, St. Michael’s College.


It’s only after a pilgrimage has been blessed with a handful of earth, and inspiration has breathed on it to become pigment colour, that my work as an iconographer begins.

I use the local colours to make my paint and create an icon. Finding the form for a saint in a place’s soil and minerals is very special—and success depends both on relating to that person as well as to the earth. The stylistic vision for an icon that is in harmony with our culture has been a long journey for me, but is one that I feel has been rewarding in offering a glimpse of what a North American style of iconography might develop into.

Click here to view the icon gallery …