Welcome to the Local Colour Studio!

Working in the small village of Conestogo that was once famous for its pigment, outside of Kitchener-Waterloo in Ontario, Canada, the work of the studio follows three distinct paths—the seeking and collecting of local colour earth, researching potential pigment colours, and making conceptual and religious art.

Latest Blog


Up the Dempster

May 9th, 2016

The Dempster highway is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been. As it winds it’s way north, it would have eventually taken me to the arctic circle (although I never quite got that far!). The landscape changed with every rounded hill or crested mountain. At one point it was a winter wonderland, with every mountain covered white … 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

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


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] comes across as a really beautiful and knowledgeable and dedicated person. He seems to embody the classic tradition of the icon painter. 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 more art …

Latest Art Entries