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This is part one of a two-part interview with Monique van den Hout and Andrea Cook (right), two talented ladies who share a passion for the sea.


Andrea Cook was born in England where she studied Architecture at the University of Sheffield. Since 2003 she has been working as a professional artist in the Netherlands where she runs a gallery and art centre together with Francesco Antonietti. Andrea is inspired by the power of simplicity and the play of colour. Coastal scenes and nature often feature in her paintings and etchings.



‘Eb’. Oil painting by Andrea Cook – 150 x 50 cm.


Let’s start with the obvious question: how did you two meet?

Andrea: we were both invited to participate in a Kunst Symposium here in Tholen where we both live. It was an afternoon and evening of storytelling with an exhibition of a few local artists in one of the historical churches, with accompanying music… that was me too: :) We played some jazz standards and bluesy French chansons to create a warm atmosphere which suited the theme: Fire.



Painting in the palm of your hand, oil painting by Andrea Cook – 10 x 10 cm.


You even go swimming in winter. Really?

Andrea: I love to swim in open water and bought a wetsuit a few years ago to extend my summer swimming season, from May to October, then I heard that Monique wanted to go for a New Year’s dip. I was definitely up for that! No wetsuit, and it was freezing! But afterwards your whole body tingles with energy. Sometimes afterwards a deep relaxation falls over you. I started to join Monique around February this year for weekly plunges in the sea.


What’s the secret to keeping warm?

Andrea: I don’t think there really is a secret. Every time is different. It depends on whether the sun is shining, if the wind is cool, how calm the water is, how you feel that day. You do get used to not paying too much attention to the sense of panic when you step into the cold water. Obviously you have to take notice of what your body is telling you, but the mind can really be a drama queen! It’s very empowering to go beyond boundaries. When your mind says, ‘You can’t do that! It’s too cold! It hurts!’. Obviously it feels cold, but then you try to relax be aware of what you actually feel.

It’s quite magical to feel the water on your skin with the expansive sky above. One time I was admiring the setting sun. Surrounded by the water which was getting warmer with spring, and turned around 180 degrees to see a rising full moon opposite the setting sun. That was really special. A constantly changing moment, a dance of light as the sun disappeared behind the western horizon and the moon rose further in the eastern evening sky. And I was standing right between the two, a part of the movement.



The sun never sets on love.


There is, of course, the tea and biscuit ritual to look forward to afterwards, to warm you up. I make a chai from star anise, cinnamon, cardamon, clove, ginger, black pepper with black tea and milk and Monique makes ginger and sage tea. I just bought a new thermos a couple of weeks ago and was pleased to discover ginger biscuits fit neatly in the lid. Now, that’s the perfect accompaniment to a Sunday plunge!



Tea for two, and ginger biscuits.


What makes the sea so inspiring? It also features in some of your work.

Andrea: We live in Zeeland, literally sea-land. A province consisting of islands joined together with dams and bridges. So the sea and water are very much a part of life here. I love the way the light changes all the time. It does that everywhere of course, but over water the effect is more dramatic. The sea is reflecting what the sky is doing. It is also a very open and expansive place to be. Nothing between you and the horizon. Sometimes that horizon is out to sea, sometimes one of the other islands. I love that sense of space. And I like to try and capture that in my paintings and etchings; the light, colours and space.



Etching and aquatint by Andrea Cook, 10 x 15 cm.

Have a look at Andrea’s shop:

All images: © Andrea Cook.
Thanks, Andrea!
Next week: Monique van den Hout’s side of the story.