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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Warsaw Trees

Warsaw Pilgrimage

August 9th, 2016

I doubt if the previous camper at the site knew that she’d been collaborating on an art project with me … Last week my family and I headed to Eastern Ontario, in Canada, to explore the area around the village of Warsaw. While there I went out on a few pilgrimages, purposefully looking for certain … 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. 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.

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Latest Art Entries