We are showcasing the creations made during CREATIVE CONVERSATIONS Pen Pals Project Session #8 ~ From Dec. 22nd, 2021, to Jan. 10th, 2022.

Creatives participants were matched in a back-andforth creative expression over the Holiday season. The prompt for this Round was ‘Yuletide-Comfort & Joy,’ and all interpretations of this & anything in-between.

With only 24 to 48 hours as the turnaround goal for each piece, Creatives challenged themselves to create in a quick timeframe using their Match’s part for inspiration.

The Creative Pen Pal journey reveals much more than artistic pieces alone ~ This experience can be a tool for self-reflection. Shared experiences and friendships blossom along the way. Like connecting with a great selection of art, connecting with a new person can be daring, frustrating, surprising, comforting, and awakening.

For all Creatives and Artists at any stage in their careers or practices, this project serves as an exciting chance to develop and expand in their artistic discipline or to try a new medium.

An online social activity group has many benefits, including discovering and developing skills, increased well-being and creating social connections.

For many, it’s an exercise in personal growth ~ trusting strangers to contribute to a shared goal. Something beautiful begins to grow as the creative conversation takes on a life of its own and a new unspoken understanding and connection emerge.

This culminates in a linear exhibit showcasing each unique conversation followed by an artist group chat over zoom. Creatives are encouraged to discuss their emotions and inspirations for each piece and their creative process. We share tips and advice about all things creative.

Please send us a message to learn how to get involved.

If you enjoy the experience, please consider donating to help fund the continued delivery of social art-based therapeutic rec programs and services.

Enjoy the exhibit.


Rhiannon Barry, Project Coordinator

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Tickets are available for ‘Elements of Art & Nature Wellness Retreat’ May 17-20th in a lovely resort in  Killarney, On  The Creative Wellness Haven Art & Wellness Retreats

Round 8:

Paloma G. St.Catharines, ON & Rhiannon Barry (St.Catharines, ON) 

1-PalomaG.-Shining Evergreens

I enjoyed the lights, and they helped get me into a Christmas mood. Sometimes the beautiful lights show me how important this holiday is for the people there. I took this photo in front of the city hall and increased the contrast. The spirit must be high for those working there and the hydro bill too.

2.R.Barry-Stary Night

My response to my matches lights in City Hall is the starlight strung in a downtown alleyway. The city went more extensive this year with their decorations, for sure.

3-PalomaG.-Who’s Shadow is This?

There are so many decorations in my city that I go for walks and find new ones. This shadow was interesting of the Grinch and I wanted to share it with you. I left out the real decoration because the shadow was more interesting to me.

4-Even the Grinch Can’t Stop Christmas

One Christmas, when I was very young, Santa visited me in the warehouse my father and stepmother owned.

We put Rudolph and Yogi on the Beta max, put out some milk for the fat man and carrots for his reindeer, rolled out sleeping bags, and the oldest kids even made pretend Santa footprints around the back to create more excitement for us in the morning.

I don’t know why this happened exactly, maybe a snowstorm got us stuck there. Maybe our hydro went out in the main house.

Whatever the reason…when I think of it, the stale smell of bags of beer cans and campy sleeping bags comes back.

I think Christmas started meaning much less for me that year. The comfort was gone, and intuition drugged up a lot of questions that I never asked and suspicions about Santa.


Lego makes a great gift and a good subject matter. My friend’s son received this in his stocking. I felt his joy! Keep the Christmas joy for your kids as long as you can!

6-R.Barry-The Giver

I did a quick painting with acrylic and ink to illustrate the act of giving and receiving gifts. Some people give more than others, and others receive more than others.

Sometimes it’s the most inexpensive, and the smallest gifts have the most meaning; or is that something we tell ourselves?

7-PalomaG.-Out With The Old

People driving out of town on New Year’s Eve are symbols for letting the old year out. Goodbye to the season and a promise of good things to come. It’s a time to let go of the past and look forward to future gifts.

Stacy Somerville & Matteo Monteleone (St.Catharines, On)

1-S.Somerville-Wreath Moon

I thought a lot about the theme of this round for this piece. I brainstormed what brought me comfort and joy. I was thinking of circles of love, like family and friends, when completing this piece. 


I was inspired by my partner’s artwork and used similar colours and imagery. I was also inspired by how my area felt like spring during its creation, so I made it like the sun was shining bright.

3 – S.Somerville – Window

When I saw my partner’s piece, I really loved the bright yellow of the moon/sun. At that point, we were finding out that the holidays weren’t going to be what we had hoped for, and the weather was dismal. So, the grey was really speaking to me as well. I wanted to play with multiple mediums the day I made this, so it was time for collage!


I was inspired by my partner’s works imagery and used the prompt comfort and made all the places I felt comfortable. I tried to make it a window, but it didn’t go as planned.

5 – S. Somerville – Winter Walk

My partner’s piece made me think of places that bring comfort and joy. At this point, I was starting to feel more closed in with the pandemic and found myself wanting to be in each of the places shown in my partner’s piece. I thought of what place brings me peace and joy, as this is what I needed at this point. My family and I had gone for a walk, and I used a photo I took at night to reference this painting. 


I made this when my neighbours were shooting fireworks. I enjoy watching fireworks and thought I should do a piece on it. I wanted to do it entirely with watercolour, but it changed somehow.

7- A. Somerville-Burst

My partner’s piece’s fireworks had me longing for July and Canada Day fireworks. Maybe this year?! I had just seen an interview with Katy Perry on New Year’s Eve, so her Firework song was also in my head. I wanted to create something bright plus tap into joy. So, I dusted off my Spirograph and played with pen and paint to make this. 


I was inspired by my partner’s works imagery and how I feel comfortable sitting in a flower field, so I thought about drawing a large area, but I had to change it to just a few.

April Garrison, (St.Catharines, ON)  & Liz Tessier (Hamilton, ON)

1-April Garrison-Cosy

Having suddenly lost my dog just days before Christmas, the Yuletide Comfort theme appealed to me greatly.  I was longing to feel comfort after the recent loss. This scene is inspired by memories of gathering around the fireplace in my cottage growing up as a kid. I painted Kayla into it because she was the best comforter.

2-Liz Tessier


Her tail assailed me at the door

reminded me what life

is for.

She sighed beside me

knew my smell

could tell when I was calm

her body was a balm 

What did she know

of covid fear?

except to find me

often here

beside her soft and 

solid joy. 

I sing her now with

fur and fire

light and heat

hearth and dark.

In this cold season


death has taken

her from me.

Ten years she lived

beside me here.

I knew this time would come

to pass. Her years were short

and mine the task 

to live to comfort her in death

She was a sweet

soul in life so though

I suffer now the grief

I’m glad I was there for her end.

My constant comfort

and my friend.


3-April Garrison-Memories All Around

In response to Liz’s tribute to my darling Kayla, I was compelled to incorporate images that revealed her utter sweetness. I layered these as transparencies in a collage format over a photo of our Christmas tree this year. The image represents how her loss overshadowed our family’s Christmas this year and how we experienced comfort over the season of Yuletide by memories of her.

4-Liz Tessier

The Tree

Lit ribbon flirts string lights

beads tier branches

Here memories glow

like blown glass ornaments.

Traditions give a resonance

of all that came before.

Like notes of an old song

They carry the face of a beloved,

a belly laugh, a tail swag,

our Mother’s breath, a death.

We measure our given years

In boxes opened and closed

Reflection is in the

string of moments a glow

This we can keep of

connection this moment

to sing what is, was and

will be ours to hold. 


The Hunt

Packed together in the family vehicle

Holiday melodies air to set the scene

drowned out by excited chatter

Blissfully unaware of parents’ rising stresses

From habitual directional impairment 


at last

Bundled with puffy and knitted insulation

Protection from the biting, crisp air

Loud crunching underfoot 

We run free










Who will be the one?

Who will make the find?


Strong limbs

Shapely fullness 



Top within reach

Fierce sibling rivalry

Too sparse

Too thin

Too brown


Keep on 

Past the clearing

Here she lies

At last




Full of life

Full of Promise

Unanimous agreement 


Hard blow 


Her chips fly

All eyes on her

as her life source ends

She drops

Bustle her all up 

for the journey to at last fill her destiny


In death she will be dressed lavishly



with remembrance of those before

Here as the centre

She shines. She dazzles.

She captivates. 

She has been found. 

She is adored. 

Continuing with the themes of tradition and the tree itself, this is loosely  based on childhood memories of going to a nearby Christmas tree farm to select and harvest our tree. My Kayla was a rescue, and I liked the similarity of both the tree and her being adored and loved once brought home. Also that there can be beauty, even in death. She will remain beautiful in our memories.

6-Liz Tessier


Dinner ready

lights on tree 

the kids all home, 

you and me relaxed

as we can be

in this omicron

rapid test of

patience slowed

with discontent

and double lines

of disappointment.

We eat unmasked

and make our stilted

conversations break

with talk of dog and chocolate.

Another covid Christmas will pass.

Tonight the ghosts will visit

three and you will still 

be here with me for

this I know I am lucky.

The virus hosts 

or holds hostage

holiday plans

We will not eat with

Aunts and cousins.

Is it alright to revel in

the luxury of your

hand in my hair though

it comes for us I swear

I will appreciate the great

love that we have.

Tonight the electric 

blanket sings a silent song of

comfort if not joy.

7-Liz Tessier


Our dog enters the house

with glee. Rescued, now

she rescues me. This beast

found matted and with fleas

now gives a sense of family

She knows who’s welcome

in the pack and curls her

body in the back

behind our knees as we lay

down. She is a joy to

have around. How often 

do we zoom around?

Unleash the joy of

being found? Run around

our chosen home

to celebrate our safe

return. How much we

have to learn from her

this little bit of bark

and fur.

Kai Kristoff (St.Catharines, ON & Tina Marie Jones

1-Kai-Bodies – Mind and Spirit

I was thinking about what a lovely holiday would look like – and for me, it involves setting time aside for reflection and then being focused on the present and inspiring positive energy out into the world, allowing myself to dance and feel and exist without analyzing things.

2-Tina Marie-
9×12 Chalk pastel on paper. What’s in the Box?

I took inspiration from your use of colours and the coloured lights on houses and the colours on wrapping paper and gift boxes during the holiday season.

3-Kai Leaving the Box.

I used coloured pencils and stickers. 
My inspiration came from the idea of having to think outside the box when it came to how I was celebrating holidays. I had to let go of the expectations and focus on and appreciate who and what I did have.

4-Tina Marie-Give and Take

Wool felted onto hand-dyed batik cloth.
I love nature, so I took your butterflies as my inspiration and our previous interest in colour and made this piece. The energy of your butterflies emerging from the box made me think of the power and rejuvenation that I always feel in nature. On wintery dawn in a new year, this piece represents my hopefulness for the year ahead and new beginnings

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