St. Stephen on the Altar, photo © Sam Landry
St. Stephen on the Altar, photo © Sam Landry

Folk icons by iconographer Symeon van Donkelaar

Holy icons, created by traditional methods and local colours, which embody a joyful presence.

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About these icons

A long time ago, a monk handed me a palette knife and told me to come and learn to paint icons. I accepted his call, and today work as a full-time iconographer.

I make folk icons, a traditional form of iconography that doesn’t always strictly observe the canons of either the church or secular painting but embodies an innocence, candidness, and joy. My icons are more stylized and flatter than those of other schools—lines are bold, colour’s frank, and clothing rendered in a simple geometry.

All the materials I use in making an icon come from the land—my pigment colours most often being found around the village of Conestoga where I live and work. Foraging from the soil, plants, and animals, I take what I harvest and create a testament to the love of God which energizes the whole earth.

I make icons for churches, missions, and homes, offer workshops coast to coast, and regularly present on my iconographic work.


The work that goes into making an icon is pretty wonderful, with a vision of the heavenly made out of the rocks and plants found here in Conestoga, Ontario.

Click to see more about making an icon.


Local Colours

The colours found in the earth are special and beautiful. There are rocks, soils, plants, and bones which can be used to create such pigments across North America .

Click to read about foraging for new local colours.


Learning to paint an icon, or work with local colour pigments, has many benefits. For many people it is an oppertunity to connect to their faith in a new way.

Click to learn about classes and workshops being offered.

Symeon’s icons are a hymn of praise …

Drawing as they do on the local palette of each region of Canada, they calls each of us to a deeper regard for our fragile world, a deeper attention to the Holy Spirit who, “is everywhere present and fillest all things.”

—Fr. David J. Goa, Founding Director of the Chester Ronning Centre for the Study of Religion and Public Life

I find Symeon’s work fascinating …

His icons are a exploration of the more stylized threads of iconography. They embrace a joyful play we find in the transparent innocence of a good folk icon. 

—Jonathan Pageau, Editor of the Orthodox Art Journal