Eaton Hamilton

the problem with being trans is cis people. The problem with being queer is straight people. The problem with being disabled is abled people. The problem with being Black is white people. In other words, prejudice.

Tag: Paris

Ohhhh, pharting around

sketch: Jane Eaton Hamilton, March, 2018, mixed media, 9×12, paper

Pharting around at sketching today, late today because I had an ultrasound at the hospital–yay! stand down on cancer scare! When I arrive at the atelier (which, here, is upstairs at the Lion’s Club), the model is usually doing one and two-minute poses, and my hand warms up, drops its daily concerns, finding its lines, remembering how to draw into the body, remembering how to make lines occupy space. Today I was only there for two long poses (long poses are usually 20 minutes). Since I started with this group in Jan, I’ve done something I’ve wanted to do for a long time now–I’ve let myself play.

A long time ago, I started sketching in Bali. I was a photographer and couldn’t (from overseas) find a model, and so I signed up in Ubud for a day-long sketching session. I was really pleasantly surprised at what came out of my pencil, and I kept drawing. I’d drawn as a kid, a lot, and had been put into art classes which bored me to tears (perspective! it still bores me! I would fall down dead if I had to draw architecture!), but then I was told to do a self-portrait, which I did in front of my mother’s makeup mirror, above the mascara cake she always spit in, its little brush, her foundation and rouge, her pair of yellow earrings. I contorted my expression, and finally settled on horrified. I drew myself like The Scream, and I was really proud. I’d only ever been proud of horse drawings before that. But people were uniformly horrified. My mother, aghast. My teacher revolted.

So I quit. I must have been in grade six, so eleven, and I quit drawing for forty years. I was terrified of it, in fact. Any time someone said, “Pictionary?” I froze.

Until Ubud. From Ubud, I started taking night classes, some with James Picard. I started going to the Vancouver atelier which had just then moved to Main Street–what was cool about it was that it had sessions every day. What was uncool was that I was too disabled to park far from it and walk carrying a portfolio (not really a portfolio, just drawing supplies, which are heavy), so I had to stop. I kept taking classes, classes with Emily Carr, classes with artists I met through the atelier, and a shit-ton of classes with Justin Ogilvie. I liked Justin; I loved his work. One day, though, he said something very unkind–something like Well, you’ll produce something worth looking at in six years. On the spot, I quit for six years.

When I got over myself again, I started a certificate program at Emily Carr. But I kept having heart surgeries and not getting to class. And then I kept coming up against the fact that Emily Carr wanted me to have a broad education–which is to say, take that perspectives class again and a class on running a business, and these I had and have utterly no interest again. I want to draw figures, and I want those figures to be women or non-binary or trans. I have no interest in drawing cis men. When you are as sick and disabled as I am, you get particular. I started teaching myself at home instead, which made sense because I was mostly relegated, then, to a chair with my feet up against heart failure, and I could hold small drawing paper on my lap. I spent some time living in a friend’s apartment in Paris, and I found I was too disabled to use the transit system, so I was house-bound, and I gesso’d paper and painted on that, nothing too large to carry home in a suitcase (I was too disabled to get to the PO). I found some double sided tape and taped these (bright) paintings to the walls of the apartment, ceiling to floor. I only went out for two reasons: food, with a little cart/bag that I pulled, or art galleries, where I could borrow wheelchairs. I spent that time intensely engaged in writing and art/art history.

I’ve been seeking something in my fingers. It’s been inchoate–I guessed it was a “breakthrough,” but I don’t actually draw or paint often enough to have one of those. Still, suddenly, it seems far closer to me.

I’ve always previously been preoccupied with an accuracy I could never obtain, which kept my style stiff, and I have thrown that concern the hell out the window now. For a few years, mostly outside ateliers, classes and degrees, I’ve taught myself to draw lines. Over and over again, drawing without looking at the page, drawing without lifting the pen, drawing without lifting the pen while not looking at the page. Over and over, practicing lines, which is to say, rather than doing a figure with chicken-scratch, a thousand teeny tiny lines to get from armpit to waist, as is my natural wont, I’ve forsaken that for long lines in ink or paint and no chance to re-do. Committed, as you will. I’ve also tried to take poses to the fewest lines I could manage (a la Picasso’s animals). This was a very useful home-study. Now I’m just sitting in the atelier each week with my body screaming in pain (from the setup, from my auto immune disorder, from carrying in supplies), having fun. Not second-guessing my impulses, not thinking–in paper, in media, in line–just scribbling like a kid, making happy and occasionally felicitous mistakes. I don’t care what mediums I’m combining–I’ve put acrylic with charcoal with conte with pastels with watercolour blocks and back again. I just want my representation of a person to breathe on the page–and care nothing at all if the model is represented. (Partly I just don’t see well enough to do that sort of drawing any longer.)

All the while, I’m working beside actual artists who are honing their considerable skills. I watch with awe. And awe again at my luck in being able to be near people so talented. When I get over my shyness, I’ll ask if I can sit beside them to learn.

So, here is Marianne from today, hot off the presses, and some other sketches from other weeks from the 1-5 min bunches:



BC Books to Kick Start the Year

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Jane Eaton Hamilton; photo: Jen McFarlane

The Vancouver Sun ran this pic of me in Paris in conjuntion with Zoe Grams’ and Megan Jones‘ recommendation of the anthology This Place a Stranger: Canadian Women Traveling Alone (Caitlin Press). Thanks, Vancouver Sun!

BC Books to Kick Start the Year

C’est Tout Ce Que J’ai – by Jane Eaton Hamilton

acrylic painting Jane Eaton Hamilton 2014, Paris
Reprinted from Canadian Lesbian Fiction

I hobble along rue du Président Wilson, my skull a walnut shell of fleshy coils and confusions, taking it in, in, in, the Paris scene, the gusting wind and rain, firing synapses, maneuvering the running gutters, dodging the knobs of canes and dog paws, feet in running shoes or boots, sticky gum, spit. Can’t go straight, so I go crooked, go dyke, down the curbs, over the cobblestones, under the limestone palaces. Every place in me hurts—the gimp hips, the left knee, the two torn rotator cuffs, the narrowings in my heart, the turned ankle, the osteo-knuckles, the hot swollen feet. All the car tires, the horns, the shouting, the lampposts, the metro signs gothic or deco, the Eiffel Tower there across the Seine under which my wife and I once renewed our vows.

C’est tout ce que j’ai, shouts a woman into her phone. C’est tout ce que j’ai.

My wife. I gave her all that I had and then, after that, I gave her all that I had again, and afterwards I gave her all that I had again and again, and still she came at me, and after that I was a lover flattened.

I loved her ruinously.

I pass The Palais de Chaillot and its art deco exhibit, where I will go later with the Meet-up queers.

The Musée de Toyko: fermé.

But the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris is open. And here, after Derain, Picasso, Matisse, Fautrier, de Chirico, DeLauney, Dufy, Bonnard, Vlaminck and Rouault, after Dadoism and expressionism, and surrealism and fauvism, I come to a halt in front of one painting, La femme avec les yeux bleu. Modigliani, Dedo, and I go so sad, I go so happy. Come and heat the feckless wind, I think to him. This straining, uncomfortable mix of adoring whom, perhaps, I should not adore, a behaviour well known from marriage. Modigliani and I, we both know what it is to touch a woman. We know the hand and how it can move like eyes across lips, nipple, mons, soft as glove leather.

Closer, he whispers.

Relative to this painting, he once stood where I am standing, 96 years ago, his daughter Jeanne an infant, so I tell him that his arm is my arm and my arm moves in blues and greens and peaches, my arm pushes paint onto linen.

Phantom in Parisian oxygen, his brushes clack wood on wood handle, Prussian blue, Rose Madder, Aureolin, Viridian, Cobalt Violet, Emerald Green.

No one apprehends us. The guards, do they even notice?

Lesbians notice. Their nipples erect and between their thighs they dew. They wrench cries from me as they penetrate.

Fucking, Dedo breathes.

The inside of women, I tell him.

There is only inside, he says.

Ce tout ce que j’ai, I say. But is it? Is it all I have, now, and then for the dead time?

After a scoundrel life, Modigliani died painfully, from TB at 36. His wife, artist Jeanne Hebuturne, 21 and 9 months pregnant, was so distraught she jumped from a window leaving Jeanne, their older child, an orphan at 3.

No arms with which to paint. No lips with which to speak. No feet with which to walk. No hands with which to write.

The situation histrionic, obsessive, mentally fragile, unstable. Just like a woman, Dedo says. These women of the paintings of the Musée d’Art Moderne, these unknowable models who led their fragile penurious fraught and I hope precious lives after the painter’s last stroke fell.

Who cares for them? They might as well all be abstractions, unrecognizable cubes, used and then discarded, except that we have their likenesses, crude or realistic or just shapely. And don’t imagine that I’m above it: I ride that knife edge as an artist myself, hungering always to place the story above friendship, love, loyalty, resisting or giving in.

Am I disgusting? Should I be ashamed to love the art of these rogues and roués, these knaves, these mysogynists who betrayed and battered and knifed and molested and shot their women folk? TS Eliot who had his inconvenient wife institutionalized. Hemingway, Maugham, Updike, Mailer, blackguards all. Burroughs shot his wife in the head. Picasso was a batterer. Gauguin, a sadist. Louis Carroll, ee cummings and Gore Vidal all said to be pedophiles.

And anyway, where are the women? In all these salles, no Lucy Bason, Henrietta Shore, Emily Carr, Marie Bashkirtseff, Anna Boch, Rosa Bonheur, Olga Boznaska, Marie Bracquemond, Mary Cassatt, Camille Claudel, Marie Ellenrieder, Kate Greenaway, Georgia O’Keefe, Kitty Lange Kielland, Edmonia Lewis, Constance Mayer, Victorine Meurent, Berthe Morisot, Suzanne Valadon, Enid Yandell, Wilhelmina Weber Furlong, or Marie-Denise Villers, Frieda Kahlo.

No Romaine Brooks.

How is a radical dyke feminist writer to articulate a swirl of half-formed thoughts? All my thoughts are strangled vowels and nipped consonants. How am I to see, to touch, to feel, to absorb this terrible beautiful cruel situation where I love the art and hate the artist, where the women have been discarded like dirty tissues? Even here, in the city where the women worked. And why haven’t curators worked to change this?

I look out my Paris window and see, in these old buildings, an endless repetition of staircases and balconies. Birds sing at night. Why do birds sing at night? The world order must be flipped.

If we have extra-textual knowledge, and we do in this age of information, what are we to do with it? Can the man and his mistakes come together? Do we, should we, de-bifurcate?

We can’t, is the answer. He is one thing. They are one thing. He is the other. They are the other. Perniciously.

There are still no women.

And my body still hurts as if every thought I’ve had was on the attack: every punctuation mark acid, every word poison, every sentence a mallet, every paragraph a fist.

I drown in Parisian wind, going down in a glug of hopeless love for Hemingway, in adoration of Dedo. I choke on my love for Picasso, my head in the noose of his elbow. I bruise after Gauguin pummels me to the linoleum, after TS Eliot locks me away. Here I am dead after Burroughs puts a bullet through my skull.

It is not as simple in this world to be a woman as it is a man. It is not as straightforward in this world to be a lesbian, a feminist. It is nothing like elementary to be a woman artist, a woman filmmaker, a woman musician, a woman writer.

The streets of Paris are still the streets of Paris, still the streets where these men walked with determination and sorrow and backache and sore feet carrying the tools of their trade without understanding women. They are still full of potholes and filth and direction that plays tricks on you.

C’est tout ce que j’ai, indecision and worry, as I plaster myself up against these bastards of beauty who always, always whisper their clean and dirty seductions. And as with my wife, after they damage, I get pie-eyes, flowers, apologies, promises to do better, to be better. I still get joy.

Colour the world/What is art for?

Did you ever wonder where pigments came from?  This is a lovely resource for a peregrination into artists’ colours.


Jane Eaton Hamilton, Paris, 2014

The world in pigments.

Here is a video by Alain de Botton which I love very much.  What is art for?

What is art for?

My Paris essay is up

JEHEiffelTower2 JEHinParis2014 JEHParis3 JEH6

Here at Jennifer Pastiloff’s blog, the Manifest Station, is my essay on traveling alone to Paris.

The Manifest Station

Nuits d’oiseaux

Today editor Marilyn Hacker sent me the translation of my story “Bird Nights” into French for the Paris litmag Siécle 21 (translated by Cécile Oumhani).  I won’t subject you to it, but I will say it is my goal to be able to read it in French by the time of its publication in the fall.

Also, I am just kinda stoked.  I have always loved this piece very much, and I’m thrilled it was picked up from Numéro Cinq and given a second life in France.


I’ve never participated in any writing intensives, but this month I have been writing a poem every day for National Poetry Month.  It’s been fun experimenting at the edge of form and from intriguing prompts.   I would never have written these poems otherwise.  I have written on the Tar Sands, on being given up for dead as a 2-year-old, about being in NYC for Hurricane Sandy, about a magician on the metro in Paris, a poem made up of ten lies, a poem to something inanimate, and so on.  Catch the New York School prompt, below, for a great example of what we’ve been challenged with.

The other terrific part has been participating as a group member with 17 extremely talented Canadian poets–their support has been invaluable, their talent and skill breath-taking.  To read their work day after day?  Priceless.  (For everything else, there’s MC.)

This challenge has been completely and utterly exhausting.  I will be glad when it’s over next week.  Really, really glad.

To quote Thom Donovan, whose guidelines we used for the New York School poem:

“It is a “recipe” or constraint of sorts for writing a New York School poem (my class read James Schuyler, Bernadette Mayer, Charles Bernstein, and Dorothea Lasky—a heterodox selection, I realize; and listened to Eileen Myles, Schuyler, Robert Creeley, and Ron Padgett via PennSound).

“Students were encouraged to use as many of the following “ingredients” as possible:

  1. at least one addressee (to which you may or may not wish to dedicate your poem)
  2. use of specific place names and dates (time, day, month, year)–especially the names of places in and around New York City
  3. prolific use of proper names
  4. at least one reminiscence, aside, digression, or anecdote
  5. one or more quotations, especially from things people have said in conversation or through the media
  6. a moment where you call into question at least one thing you have said or proposed throughout your poem so far
  7. something that sounds amazing even if it doesn’t make any sense to you
  8. pop cultural references
  9. consumer goods/services
  10. mention of natural phenomena (in which natural phenomena do not appear ‘natural’)
  11. slang/colloquialism/vernacular/the word “fuck”
  12. at least one celebrity
  13. at least one question directed at the addressee/imagined reader
  14. reference to sex or use of sexual innuendo
  15. the words “life” and “death”
  16. at least one exclamation/declaration of love
  17. references to fine art, theater, music, or film
  18. mention of genitals and body parts
  19. food items
  20. drug references (legal or illegal)
  21. gossip
  22. mention of sleep or dreaming
  23. use of ironic overtones”


Hemingway (et al) and the Ritz

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