Nuit Blanche Toronto 2017

New Art

Chocolate Brown, from Conestoga
2017, 51cm (20″) x 183 cm (72″)

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

Local Colour Artwork


Voicing the local colours of the land is the aim of the artwork I create. Each colour has a story—and my artwork weaves a visual hierogyph of each from myth, history, and my personal adventures.
See more …

Revealing Canada’s Nighttime Local Colours

Toronto, 2017.

As the sun sets on Toronto on September 30th, daytime colours will fade to black but new brilliant hues will appear … read more …

Atlas of Canada’s Local Colours

An ongoing publication that takes the rocks, soils, plants, and even some animal-bones, from different communities across the provinces and territories of Canada and documents their potential as pigment. Each colourful step … read more

Pilgrimage: Finding Canada’s Local Colours

Halifax, 2015.

100 mile ART: Cambridge

Cambridge, 2007

This project culminated in the creation of an icon called, The Naming of the Animals, created entirely from natural materials found within a 100 mile radius of the Cambridge Centre for the Arts. Both this icon and the method … read more

“[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.

Making local Colours

Making local colours is about creating pigments that are of good quality but still connected to the land. The processes used aim to fulfill the colour rather than purifying it.

Firing Ochre and Bone

This week I fired some ochres and bones at my studio in Conestoga. I love this process, and was excited to see the results of heating a few different soils and clays from here in the village in my outdoor firing pit. I’d also been given a large bag of bones last… Read more

Getting Ready to Grow Woad Blue

Last weekend, with the help of the whole family, we got to work setting up for growing a new batch of woad here in Conestoga. Using old tires from the garage beside my studio, we set up fifty planters for what I hope will create an ideal place for last year’s… Read more

Found Wanting Black

  Last week I had the opportunity to work with a wonderful bunch of people out in Edmonton, Alberta in celebrating, finishing, and perhaps resurrecting Betty Spackman’s Found Wanting exhibition. I was lucky enough to attend the exhibition when it appeared at the Reach Gallery Museum in Abbotsford, British Columbia… Read more

Luiseño Red

Last week I had a magical experience in San Diego … It involved beautiful people, a red landscape, and ancient tools! It was a joy to meet up again with Dr. Norrie—she is an amazing combination of child-like enthusiasm with deep knowledge! Together we headed back up to the mountains around the La Jolla… Read more

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

Hunting for Local Colours

Yukon · British Columbia · Alberta · Saskatchewan · Ontario · Quebec · New Brunswick · Prince Edward Island · Nova Scotia

My journey begins with foraging local colours from land. All of my artistic work begins with the resulting pigments. These local colours come from an area’s soil, minerals, or even its plants, and fascinate me as earth colours that are imbued with story.

New Colours and Stories from Cobalt

Cobalt is an amazing town to visit for local colours! A century ago it had a floating population of 12,000 people living in it, mined almost 1,000 tons of silver in a single year (30,000,000 ounces), and even had the cheek to dub Toronto as, “the place where you catch… Read more

Paint Pots Pilgrimage

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… Read more

Warsaw Pilgrimage

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… Read more

Up the Dempster

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,… Read more


Pilgrimage: Finding Canada’s Local Colours
The Craig Gallery, Halifax, 2015.

What Remains
Leder’s Farm, Edmonton, 2015.

Connecting the Dots
Arnica, Kamloops, 2012.

Seeing Local Colour
Fergus Grand Theatre, Fergus, 2011.

Open Art Venue, Mitte, Berlin, 2011.

A Local Colour Project
Minarovich Gallery, Elora, 2010.

The 100 mile ART Project
Cambridge Centre for the Arts, Cambridge, 2008

The Craftsman’s Studio
Contemporary Art Forum Kitchener & Area, Kitchener, 2007.


Beauty of Soils: The Nexus of Soil Science and the Arts
Soil Science Society of America Symposium, Minneapolis, US, 2015.

Soil and Spirit
Ronning Centre, Alberta, Edmonton, 2015.

Painting with Soil Pigments
Canadian Society of Soil Science, Montreal, Quebec, 2015.

Making Pigment
La Sanio People, La Jolla Reservation, San Diego, 2015.

Creating Paint From Soil (ART 398/898.3)
University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, 2014.

The Atlas of Canada’s Local Colours
Soil Science Society of America Annual Meeting. Tampa, Florida, 2013.

Making Local Colour
Edifide Educators Convention, Ancaster, Ontario, 2013.

Local Colours: Pigment and Art
Kitchener-Waterloo Gem and Mineral Club, Waterloo, Ontario, 2013.

Pigments: Places, Processes, and Paint
The Kitchener-Waterloo Society of Artists, Kitchener, Ontario, 2012.

Crayons And Ice Cream Children’s Workshop
Old Kamloops Cultural Centre, Kamloops, British Columbia, 2012.

Creating Paint From Soil (ART 398/898.3)
Emma Lake Kenderdine Campus, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, 2012.

Artist in Residencies

Klondike Institute of Art & Culture, 2016

Pukaskwa National Park, 2014

Interdisciplinary Centre for Culture and Creativity—Visiting Scholar, 2014.

White Rabbit, 2013.

Cambridge Centre for the Arts, 2008.

Homer Watson House, 2006-07.


Paint Pots, British Columbia; Conestogo, Warsaw Caves, Ontario; Dawon City, Dempster Hwy, Yukon.

Londonderry, Joggins Cliffs, Nova Scotia; Tea Hill, PEI; Trois-Rivières, Quebec; Conestogo, Elora, Ontario; Prospector’s Point, Alberta, La Jolla Reservation, California.

Conestogo, Agawa Bay, Pukaskwa, Wawa, Marathon, Pebble Beach, Ontario; Christopher Lake, Saskatchewan; Edmonton, Alberta; East Sooke, Victoria, British Columbia.

Conestogo, Kirkfield and Lowville, Ontario; Vermillion Bluffs and Blakeburn, British Columbia; Trois-Rivières, Quebec; Chaplin Island and Sackville, New Brunswick; Lochaber, Sunnybrae, Paint Brook, and Upper Economy & , Nova Scotia; Edmonton, Alberta and the Sunset Cliffs & the La Jolla Reservation, California.

Glencoe, New Brunswick; St. Malo, Laurentien Hills, Quebec; Conestogo, Hell’s Gate, Ontario; Kenderdine, Meadow Lake, Saskatchewan; Britannia Beach, Kamloops, Hat Creek, Monte Lake, Spencer Bridge, British Columbia.