It’s taken a long time for Simone Read to rediscover what makes her tick. Not that she was sitting around twiddling her thumbs. In fact, she’s been very busy building a career and raising a family.
But it was a change in career direction that steered her back into what she loves doing most.
Simone loves painting, and has found her own unique niche in landscape painting that not only completely captivates her, but is also now captivating art lovers around Sydney.
So much so, she now has a thriving sideline career selling her artwork online, and is venturing into presenting her work in exhibitions.

## Design leads the way Simone began a career as a graphic designer and enjoyed that work because it utilised the art skills she had developed as a child, but then other factors came into play. “I got into graphic design and worked for myself for a number of years doing small business packages, some RSL promotional posters, and other design projects,” Simone told Sydney Hills Living. “Then I had my children and was a stay-at-home mum for five years, which was fantastic. In that time I decided to do my Dip Ed and for the past seven years I’ve been a secondary school visual arts teacher at Castle Hill High School. I love it!” For Simone, this perfect combination of children, teaching and art slowly built into a desire that last year became almost an obsession. “I never make new year’s resolutions, but last year I said to myself it’s time to give back to me. I’m always running around for the kids, which I love, and I’ve dedicated my life to doing that, but they don’t need me as much anymore, so we did a renovation downstairs last year and included a purpose-built art studio, and I thought I had to start painting. I keep telling my students that, so I thought I’d better follow through,” said Simone.
## A view of the land She found that painting landscapes gave her enormous satisfaction, but not just any landscapes. She developed her own particular style of presenting natural landscape features that is quite abstract — it captures the features of the landscape but reinterprets them in a unique way. “I started painting an aerial view image of the area around Webbs Creek, near Wisemans Ferry, and I enjoyed it so much. As it turned out it was quite abstract. My favourite artist is John Olsen, who does aerial view landscapes but quite different to what I’m doing. It was an inspiration,” Simone explained. “I like that different perspective. I’m not particularly a lover of typical landscapes, but I really enjoy that journey in looking down and seeing different things. I do that through researching areas by actually being there and then zooming in using Google Earth to see patterns and features, and then I add my own whimsical way to it.”
## Creating a visual style Simone enjoyed experimenting with media, paints and other materials, and found a style of painting that encapsulates her love of painting, her own views of the countryside, and a way of creating her own style. “I use gouache, acrylics, inks, and I also use a lot of rock salt. I love the way it absorbs a lot of ink and crystallises to create patterns. Then I use those to draw from,” she enthused. “I love gouache because it’s so opaque and a really dense pigment so it has vibrant colours, yet you can water it down so it looks like a soft watercolour. I can leave it for a short while and start painting again because it dries so quickly. “When I’m painting in this style I can paint for four hours and it feels like one hour. I lose myself in it, and that’s exactly what I was looking for. I’m just loving doing it.” That love is obvious on the canvas, and has touched other people. Simone has found success selling her artworks, and is keen to build a second career in art — after teaching. “Because I love it so much I’ve sold pieces, and people are interested in it,” she told Sydney Hills Living. “It’s getting out there, and that’s obviously the passion coming through. The reception I’ve had for these paintings is very exciting.” This passion is also apparent to her young art students at school. They’ll learn more about it as she guides them through the skills and thrills of painting landscapes. “This term at school we’ll be going on a learning journey through landscapes, and we’ll be doing an abstracted work, so I’ll show my students my work and materials, and hopefully they can be inspired to do their own. “It’s experimental, which is what I love about the inks. You don’t know how it will dry, you don’t know if there will be dribble or something, so it is different every time.” Simone has tried other art forms but while to your correspondent’s eyes her other works are outstanding, it’s the landscapes that provide the complete creative outlet for her. “I’ve done about six murals for McDonalds’ party rooms and murals for children’s bedrooms. That was wonderful because I was a new mum at the time. “I have done quite a few portraits for people, but they have to be highly detailed and photorealistic to look exactly like someone, which is very stressful for me, and not what I want from my art,” Simone confessed. Portraiture is nevertheless a part of her teaching, to involve her young students in its disciplines and many forms. “One of my Year 12 girls is an amazing drawer but lacking in self-confidence. I usually take them to the Archibalds [Prize] at the Art Gallery of New South Wales every year because portraiture is so fascinating to study, and to try to understand why the artist does what he does to get the subject’s characteristics out on canvas.”
## Weekend escape Simone finds time early on weekend mornings to put brush (and pen and salt) to canvas, but would love to devote more time to her art. “I usually paint very early on Saturday and Sunday mornings so it doesn’t affect the kids and their sport,” she said. “I go downstairs, put some music on and start painting, and I’m immediately happy. “But I want to get to a point where it’s more than an outlet for me. I would still love to teach, but perhaps part-time, and paint more. There’s something in me that has a real drive, and painting lets me get that out. “My husband Matthew is my fiercest critic. He loves the realistic things I do, but that’s not what art is about. You want people to understand the intentions of the artist and why they approached a subject a particular way to start a conversation.”
## A new venture Simone’s work was hung in the gallery Muse when she was involved in its opening exhibition, and was awarded People’s Choice Award. She is also presently preparing for her own exhibition in Balmain next year. These are dreams turning to reality for Simone. “I’ve recently had works hanging in a store in Hardy’s Bay called Moochinside and I have a booking for a personal exhibition at the Watch House in Balmain next May. I’d like to have 12 to 15 paintings ready for that. “It’s a beautiful building, all exposed sandstone and fireplaces, and little doors into small rooms. I’d like to think my paintings would look beautiful on those walls.” ☐