Julia Roche has had two rounds of antibiotics this winter.
It's had nothing to do with COVID-19 and a lot more to do with suffering for her art.
Not that Roche is complaining.
The Riverina artist took a leap of faith and ventured out into the icy winter darkness to find the inspiration for her latest body of work, Under A Winter Moon, which has recently gone on exhibition at MAMA Albury.
Throwing off the shackles of conventional landscape painting, she sat in the still of the night armed with limited eyesight and a limited palette ... and let her senses take hold.
"The idea was to really relinquish control and let nature play a part in the process of art-making," Roche explains.
"The point was not to paint a pretty picture.
"It was to step away from what you think you see and to paint what you feel."
In many ways, choosing to paint in the dark takes away a lot of anxiety typically associated with the aesthetics of your work, Roche says.
And as her eyes adjusted to the darkness and the moonlight provided further clarity, Roche almost forgot it was night-time.
Shadows, shapes and colours, which she mixed blindly on her basic palette, emerged and morphed.
"It was like the trees were floating; they didn't seem to be anchored to anything," she describes.
"There was a series of floating gums ..."
She used found objects - sticks, leaves, bottlebrushes - and the raw charcoal she shaved as her tools to paint onto canvas and sheets of rag paper.
Then, throwing caution to the wind, Roche would leave her wet paintings out in the damp night air, allowing nature to add its mark - "inviting environmental elements such as mist, rain, sunlight, and debris to become imprinted onto her works".
"You could see where the moisture hit the surface and the oil paint resisted; it's like the wet dew distressed the paint," she says.
"A bug might crawl through the paint dragging the liquid behind it or leaves might fall, creating a subtle motif."
The mum of three divided her time between open-air work stations at her family's farm 'Wooroola', near Mangoplah, and Gillian Sanbrook's regenerative farm, 'Bibbaringa' at Bowna.
"It was really interesting to interpret two diverse landscapes," Roche says.
When she moved from Sydney to the family farm with her husband Mick three years ago, Roche jumped at the opportunity to attend several Earth Canvas workshops.
"The workshops help link regenerative farmers with artists and getting artists to interpret the farms," Roche explains.
Roche relished the opportunity work with some of Australia' leading artists in John Wolseley, Idris Murphy and Jo Davenport and it has helped challenge her own efforts as an interpretative landscape artist.
Under a Winter Moon is an extension of Roche's last series, Works from a Foggy Year, which went on exhibition at Wagga's art gallery in 2020.
"This latest exhibition has really pushed the boundaries," she says.
"I wanted to create an entire series out in the dark between Bibbaringa and our farm.
"It was so lovely to sit in the silence of the night and embrace the idea of feeling the environment around you beyond what you can see."
But it was cold, Roche admits, and she did get sick.
Typically she would set up at sunset and work into the dark.
The point was not to paint a pretty picture ... (but) to let nature play a part in the process of art making.Julia Roche
Some works were completed in one or two sittings on freezing nights with no restraints - "it was very intuitive and quick".
Her three big paper works came together over a month in seven sittings, each lasting up to four hours.
In the flesh, the works are thick and textured, according to Roche who just kept working over the top, layer upon layer.
"I never knew if I was finished or not," she admits.
"I really enjoyed it because it was messy and gritty; they are highly layered and a snapshot of each of those nights."
Roche balances her artistic endeavours with work on the family's mixed cattle and sheep enterprise and being a mum to Rosie, 6, Jimmy, 5, and Francesca, 3.
The constraints of COVID-19 have placed the usual strain on juggling day-to-day work with children learning at home.
So the 36-year-old rolls out big sheets of paper in the studio and sets them loose - "with my expensive oil sticks!"
"We encourage our kids to express themselves any way they feel," Roche explains.
"I feel life is so full of rules, restrictions and routines ...
"It's so liberating watching them mark make - there are no boundaries.
"Rosie is fiercely independent in the studio; she loves being there."
Apart from a couple of art school pieces and Year 12 works, Roche doesn't hang her own art in their home.
"I'd rather not look at mine," she states, although she now keeps an artwork each year "that I want to refer back to in the flesh".
Instead Roche saves up and invests in a few beautiful pieces; she ha several from The Art Factory (a Riverina art group supporting artists with a disability).
But it's the "gorgeous" creations painted by small, grubby hands and unfettered imaginations that take pride of place on this artist's walls.
- 'Under a Winter Moon' is at MAMA until October 3. You can take a virtual tour at www.mamalbury.com.au/visit/virtualtour