Friday, May 13, 2022

Some way back...

“Every child is an artist. The problem is staying an artist when you grow up.” Pablo Picasso

“I was 19, I was happy, wasn’t sure where I was going. Not much has changed in 30 years.” 

Those were the first lines written on this blog, Touches of sense…

Here I am in 2022, starting a new adventure, a web site, to be entitled: 

Some way back… 


I have always known that I was an artist.

My father used to ask me to illustrate his sermons. 

My mother told the school I painted like Lowry (I didn’t).

"I have come to believe that a great teacher is a great artist and that there are as few as there are any other great artists. Teaching might even be the greatest of the arts since the medium is the human mind and spirit."

John Steinbeck.

My art teacher was a great teacher, he would give me excellent marks and then fail to convince me to do some work. 

Others told me to concentrate on more serious subjects.

Below is a drawing I knocked off for homework when I was 16 years old. 

The art teacher’s comments have been nagging me ever since.

I am writing now as a 60 year old Anglo-French artist, driven by a single question:

“What happens when I really put my mind to developing a body of visual art?” 

Some way back…

is a means to document and share responses to that question. 

“An artist without faith is like a painter who was born blind.”

Andrei Tarkovsky

As an artist, I have been working passionately for the past 34 years as an English teacher with thousands of students, exploring the medium and discovering the desire and the means to transform it. I have spent years studying and adapting my actions to the complexity and unpredictability of human interactions and learning. Faith and hard work has enabled this artist to see further…

Art has always been a way to lose myself and to find myself elsewhere.

Along the way, 

I have developed my voice as a blogger in Touches of sense…, connected and collaborated as an educator and as an artist with kindred creative spirits from around the world and employed more or less academic genres to communicate and to publish radical educational messages. The 482 blog posts that I have written since 2010 have become progressively more and more concerned with visual art. The last one, Touches of light, preciously preserved marked some sort of epiphany.

“A page escapes to leafy paths[...]Ephemera rendered eternal.Taking a moment to contemplate. Pause, gaze, breathe in, remember. Moving, losing sight, feeling loss.

Ever since I was born, I have been acutely aware of the ephemeral nature of life and the infinite value of artistic expression. My father’s work was rhythmed by life’s passing seasons and the rituals of baptism, marriage,and death. My mother shared her love for music, poetry, gardening and nature,and an eye for beauty to be found in driftwood, pebbles, and bric-à-brac. 

Some way back…

Is made up of moments of figurative and abstract meaning making. I find flow and express emotions by letting myself be moved by the moment, the media, making marks intentionally or serendipitously. I am drawn to gaze at distant horizons and to investigate universes glimpsed through close focus. At times, images emerge organically with no apparent source. Certain motifs are  recurrent: nature, landscape, seascapes, mountains, rocks, trees, paths…the objective is always to discover new lands to be able to perceive what lies beyond the self, the subject, the page.

"The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes."

Marcel Proust

Touches of sense… has been a means to map out areas I want to explore and to excavate and to study the reasons why they are important.

Each collection, each image has its back story. Some way back will build upon these foundations. 

Between 2014, and 2018 much of my artistic work was multi-media,collaborative and digital, combining poetry, spoken voice and images in assemblages. I owe much to my friends of #clmooc.


Since 2018, starting with “A vine branches wildly…”  I have concentrated my art practice predominantly on watercolor painting, ink, charcoal and graphite drawing. 

The more you learn, the more you realize how little you know and how much you need to learn.

When I speak to those who I consider to be master artists, I am comforted when they agree with this quote of George Leonard:

“We fail to realise that mastery is not about perfection. It’s about a process, a journey. The master is the one who stays on the path day after day, year after year. The master is the one who is willing to fail, and try again. For as long as he or she lives.”

I have stayed true to my path day after day, year after year. 

To my surprise it appears that this is its latest twist. 

I am working now on some way forward.

Simon Ensor

Artist exploring the ephemeral nature of life via figuration & abstraction, flow & scribble, intention & serendipity.

I have no idea whether this will be the last post in Touches of sense...
It has been quite a while since I felt moved to write here.
The words just wouldn't come...


  1. Good luck with this next step on your life's journey. I've valued the connections we've made here and on Twitter since we first met.

    While you may not add any new posts, the 482 you wrote since 2010 will always remain and at any time in the future, you, myself or others can gather around one or more of them.

    Has the website been launched yet?

    1. Thank you so much Daniel. I too have very much valued the connections we've made and will continue to do so. It would not surprise me if I wrote more posts here in the future. I don't know at the moment. I rediscovered the pleasure that I have had in the past writing this.

      I do have a plan to include a blog on the website which will accompany the journey. I have always had a vague idea that I would write a book of some sort one day which will combine words and images. I don't know how that will pan out.

      I haven't launched the website yet. This post will be an initial biography and then be archived in the blog as the journey evolves.

      I decided to post it here as a means of making a transition and also as a public draft so that I can benefit from any feedback and mull it over.

  2. Hi Simon, What a pity your art teacher at age 16 looked more at what you did not draw than what you did. Criticism for the sake of criticism. I admire and respect your shared outputs and your words here, even if they are not flowing (and I am in a deep rut myself).

    Happy art making, don't cease.

    1. Hi Alan! Thanks for dropping in here! Over the past couple of years, I have done four academic conferences a book chapter and an article in French which took for ever. I haven't ever been a career academic/teacher or anything else. I didn't have much desire or energy to write here, I could only draw or paint. Then this year, turning 60, I thought to myself what is there left that I really want to do? Well this is my answer. Thanks for the encouragement, I have always admired you and your outputs. I might have told you the amazing story of connections with Nepal if I had found time. Maybe we can catch up some time. I would like that. The art teacher was right to be frustrated with me. I am happy making art. I can't cease (unless I decease) as I haven't really got started yet.

  3. Great to have an update on your direction of travel. You clearly have artistic talent and I am happy you are taking this further xx

    1. Hi Teresa, thanks very much for commenting here. I am happy getting this moving. Will DM as will be in UK in July xx

  4. Simon— a wonderful post on your continuing journey— great quotes for learning and reflecting. I especially love how you’ve arrived at you: “ Artist exploring the ephemeral nature of life via figuration & abstraction, flow & scribble, intention & serendipity.” Much of your sharing in #clmooc shows that flow— the scribble, then intention and a sudden serendipity with a slip of the ink.

    Please do continue to post here. I look forward to some embedded Stellar stories of your art as well as your annotations. Each of your pieces takes my own learning further as I am in awe of how you are able to make such beauty. Take care, friend. ~ Sheri

    1. Thanks Sheri very much, it has taken me quite a while of thought to get to this point. I may well post here but I will above all be posting on the website that I hope to get up an running in the next month. We learn together, at the moment I am learning a lot very fast. Thanks for all your encouragement. You take care too xxx

  5. Simon, my friend ...
    You write: "Art has always been a way to lose myself and to find myself elsewhere. "
    I've had your words in my head since yesterday, just letting this sentence bounce around. It resonates with me, and the way I see my own journey into art (music, poetry, etc.)
    One of the most enjoyable regular moments on Twitter has been to see what kind of art you are up to -- it's always so evocative and interesting, and makes me pause in a good way.
    I think being on another chapter of an artistic journey is a good thing, and know there are many of us out here (there everywhere) who will be supporting you with encouragement and engagement, and maybe collaboration? (we've done our share of remixing over the years).
    Let us know where the site of your journey begins when you get there ...

    1. Thanks for you comments Kevin. I have had that sentence bouncing around my head too - I'm wondering whether I shall update it by replacing "elsewhere" with "otherwise"... I am so fortunate to have met you and other kindred spirits. The world feels more meaningful somehow. We all need encouragement and the knowledge that we are not just a voice crying out in the wildnerness. I am sure that you are all present in different ways in my artwork as you play such an important part in my journey. The response to this post exemplifies how an object takes on new life in dialogue with others. Hope the Dukes will be rocking a long while....

      The site is gradually evolving in the background as I let it organise itself.

  6. Feeling compelled to paint as you express in this post for the last 6 years and having not only the energy, but also the desire to write is awesome. Crossing 60 can be liberating. I appreciate your question about naming what you want to do most. Reading that helps me to feel courage to continue to paint:)

    1. It is a curious compulsion - this need to paint.

      It is only now becoming apparent just how much my writing and painting indissociable (oh dear I think that is French).

      The question which guided my actions over more than 12 years: "What can I do to change an education system?" has been resolved. I have mapped out what I feel needs to be mapped and attempted to communicate what I have learnt.

      It has been a wonderful adventure allowing me to meet so many extraordinary people and experience amazing stories of connection. One of these is ongoing today in Nepal, enabling young people to learn and play together.

      I know no better metaphor for what has happened than rhizomes.

      Young people, given the opportunities to do so and an attentive audience who pay attention to them are the best teachers that we can find.

      Now I am in a period of phase change, it is energizing.

      It reminds me of arriving in France and being unable to speak or understand the language.

      60 is a weird milestone, there are so many people that are close to me that are no longer "of this world".

      Making art, for me is giving them/us some way back, to show respect not only to my ancestors but to those quite unknown, who have left a mark, perhaps just a hand-print on a cavern day.

  7. I so appreciate the openness of your exploration of words and art and direction. I have appreciated your visual art these last few years and wish you the best in this more concentrated excursion into creativity. And I look forward to what you produce. And what you write.

    1. Thank you so much Geoffrey for your words here. Much of my time has been spent in education...probably mostly of myself. I am taking my bearings now to venture into unknown territories. I am reminded of a collaboration between myself, Kevin and Terry a few years back "No maps for these territories..."

  8. Ephemeral nature of life and process - strangely enough preoccupations of mine. My sister has been teaching art in secondary school for 35 years. Yesterday we were talking about how to reveal the value of Art as a subject in a school with students focusing on maths and sciences for an alleged ideal career. We talked about the value of artistic process, not able to be rushed or faked, and how Art was more intensely involved in this process than most subjects. Where is the value of living in this process in education? You have found this, as you say, way of losing and finding yourself elsewhere. Can we expect this ability of high school students with minimal life experience? Reading about Australian Indigenous peoples and their worldview, so different from the western worldview, convinced me we’ve lost our way as a civilisation if we buy into the pressure of success, turning our focus away from our connection with nature, communities and art/storytelling and dance. I’m not capturing what I want to say, but you’re doing it, Simon. I’m watching and feeling nourished by your process journey. We take that one teacher’s comment to heart and if it’s critical we allow it to cast a shadow on our light. Or else we break free.

    1. I am not the slightest bit surprised that we share the same preoccupations.

      I am absolutely convinced that school has everything to do with the deliberate occupation of the minds of children and nothing to do with liberation or democracy.

      Children are made playthings for a colonizing elite's games.
      It is an crime against humanity, and against the ecosystem.

      For reasons, I know not, (though I could probably explain with time) I have been able to resist many of but not all of the dominant discourses.

      I think perhaps, I was able to protect the child by going under cover.

      Years later, I am pretty sure that being faced by the question: "Do I want to live or die?" gives one a glimpse of freedom.

      When you are climbing high up a vertical rock wall, attention on resting in life is heightened.

      Given the means to transform the relationships I had with others and myself thanks to 15 years of psychoanalysis enabled me to become another.

      One major problem is to be able to differentiate between those who want us to act as their subjects and those who recognise us as their fellows.

  9. Coalesce. I write this as a response to your ongoing mentorship.

  10. Karen Young sent me this new comment: As a teacher I always tried to "squish" children as lightly as I could into the box we call Western Civilization for all subjects. Art is a very "squishy" subject for many teacher's as art is both a combination of science (light/colour theory), technique (medium/application styles- the tools of the trade) as well as personal expression and what brings the student joy or an opportunity to express frustration and anger. Many teachers, particularly in elementary school, just don't have the background (or the time given how it's being squeezed out of the curriculum) to actually allow students to explore both the science, technique and range of expression art allows. Too many times, I have seen teachers prep an art class by handing out already precut or partially built exercises in order to complete the assignment in a single class. I was considered a "messy' teacher because I allowed art projects to take weeks to develop and complete.
    On my own artistic journey I find that I jump from medium to medium, oil, watercolour, pen and ink, wool, crayon, sewing or a blend of them all. Projects are started, sometimes finished and sometimes left as I either have decided I have done all I can with it or I am afraid I will overwork it (that dreaded need to make it "perfect.") Sometimes I worry that I am not focused enough but I find that it keeps me engaged as I explore techniques and ideas.
    What is consistent is my love of colour and pattern and learning new ways to do things.
    As well, I find I have become immersed in the art of textiles as this was often the only medium of artistic expression women had in the past. I have examined nun's habits for their fancy repair stitches on their "work" habit to looking at early Canadian quilts of the 1830s as well as young girls’ samplers from that time period. I saw absolutely beautiful fabric and dress displays in the Baltics. What is so amazing about dyed textiles is that the colours don't blend/bleed the way paint does. So your "paint box" of fabric has to be premade so making art with fabric is completely different than painting but you can still "paint" with threads and wool. Fascinating stuff. Enjoy your journey Simon. I have enjoyed seeing all of your art on Twitter.
    P.S Also can't post using my account on your blog. Sorry!

    1. Thanks a lot Karen for your interesting comment!

      As a "teacher", I have spent a good while distancing myself from typical expectations of what constitutes "a teacher".

      I have always enjoyed deconstructing/opening/ignoring/reimagining boxes. I have always seen boxes/cells/pages/frames/rooms/ as both a reason and a means of escape.

      I am not the slightest bit interested in perfection, only in being present in the making of meaning.

      Learning, working and play are all part of the same process for me.

      I have tended to use a small range of media and to dig deeper and deeper with what I can do with them. I pick up whatever is at hand. I intend to continue making art in the same way.

      Over the past months, in life-drawing, I have changed from ink to charcoal to sanguine and pastel and doubled the dimensions of the paper used and for landscapes I have almost entirely used watercolours and ink, again I am gradually increasing the dimensions of the pages...

      I am no way near the end of my exploration of using these media.

      There has been another strand which is the use of digital media often combined with analogue media to manipulate and create collages. Static pieces may well become translated into analogue pieces in the future (apart from multimedia pieces).

      I suspect that in the next months/years I shall be working with larger dimensions, no doubt mixed media, (as I have in the past, using spray paint and masking techniques) and quite probably acrylics. One intermediate step for me has been the use of oil pastels combined with collage.

      Subject matter tends to be drawn from a dialogue with the surrounding world and/or from an internal world stream of consciousness.

      In all cases my focus/unfocus is pretty unwavering.

      I am, and I aim to be, subsumed in the act of creation, if not I am doing something else.

      I don't go looking for "inspiration".
      I am not sure I am fan of the concept "inspiration". I just do stuff.

      At times or from time to time I will take a few steps back and take a more critical stance. This may appear in form of sketch-book notes or writing of a blog post. Reflection in ongoing, I am constantly reviewing what I am doing and tracing strands back. I suppose this is what this what I learnt from how I have used this blog. Strands are more or less entangled. While I can untangle them from my own perspectives, they also can lead people in all sorts of directions and the assemblage may be more or less illegible for others. That's how I make meaning, I find it an interesting intellectual challenge to write academic prose but it's also pretty restrictive in what it can communicate.

      Whatever I do is done with the aim of learning something new, of exploring new worlds, new means, new perspectives.

      Having let this get out here, I shall review it at a later date to see what I can take away from it.

      Enjoy your journey too Karen, thank you for accompanying me thus far. I very much welcome my fellow travellers' feedback.