Keith Drury: When I looked in the mirror and saw a packet of Pringles looking back at me, I knew I had to be radical with my diet

Gail Bell asks experts and people in the public eye what keeps them going. This week: Crossgar artist Keith Drury

Keith Drury pictured in his studio in Crossgar, Co Down. Picture by Mark Marlow
Gail Bell

1 Up and at it – what is your morning routine?

My morning isn't something I particularly welcome, but once I'm up, I usually do a cursory check of my phone to see if there's any business emails or requests for art commissions. Getting dressed is challenging enough without chores, but I sometimes help out by emptying the dishwasher. Breakfast is more snatched than savoured, then it's a quick dash for the van, with Harvey, our cocker spaniel, beside me on the front seat on the way to the gallery.

2 What might you eat in a typical working day for....

Breakfast? Usually, breakfast consists of homemade granola with fresh fruit and natural yoghurt. If I'm feeling uber-healthy, I might have a blueberry and melon smoothie or a 'green power bowl' which contains avocado, pineapple and spinach.

Lunch? Home-made soup or a greens and tomato frittata – both served with my wife's lovely home-made bread.

Dinner? I call myself 'vegetarian light', although my wife is a radicalised vegetarian, which means dinner is usually pasta or rice with vegetables. Both of us do have fish now and again, so our diet is not too restrictive.

3 Is nutrition important to you?

I've had a passionate affair with every flavour of Pringles available and no tubular package was safe in the house... however, when I started to resemble a super-sized Pringles tube, I decided action was required, which is largely when the vegetarian diet started.

4 Best meal ever?

A few years ago, in my pre-vegetarian days, we visited a restaurant in Stone Mountain, Georgia, in the USA and the waitress literally threw the bread rolls at us – it was a very memorable experience. The Southern fried chicken was the best I've ever had, though.

5 Do you have a guilty pleasure?

Not really – all the fun is gone since Pringles were banned but I am partial to the occasional butterscotch nut sundae.

6 Have you ever been on a diet?

Yes – I've been crisp-free for over a year now and I've lost two stone. I had an app on my phone and it told me what my weight loss equivalent was in different animals. So, according to the app, I lost a guinea pig, a hamster, a chihuahua – and this kept going until I had lost the average weight of two newborn babies and a house cat.

7 Do you take health supplements?

No – I try to keep my diet healthy instead.

8 How do you relax?

I find doing anything creative is relaxing for me, so my art serves as a kind of therapy. I'm really fortunate to have a job that I enjoy so much. When I'm not doing art, I tend to be more stressed. I would like to get into oil painting again at home and I'm currently exploring new styles and ideas.

9 Teetotal or tipple?

Tipple – I enjoy an occasional glass of red wine (an Argentinian Malbec is a firm favourite) to help to wind down after a hard day’s drawing.

10 Stairs or lift?

Depends which is going faster...

11 Do you have a daily exercise regime?

Our art gallery and studios are located deep in a forest surrounded with walking trails, so, before going home, I often go there for a half-hour walk.

12 Best tip for everyday fitness?

Try to fit in a walk at any time of day or night. I often try to take a midnight walk through the countryside before bed – but these don't come without certain perils. Two roe deer once leapt right out in front of me and another time I stood still on hearing what was the mating cry of a fox – it sounded exactly like a banshee.

13 On a scale of one to 10, how fit do you think you are and how fit do you want to be?

I think, I'm probably a five – very average, but I'm content with that.

14 Have you tried, or would you try, alternative therapy?

No, I've never tried alternative therapies, although I thought the Pringles worked well as an immediate mood enhancer.

15 Were school sports happy times or do you have a memory you would rather forget?

My school was Annadale Grammar for Boys (now Wellington College, Belfast) and I was a member of Belfast Rowing Club which I enjoyed while at school. I also ran marathons for a few years when I was at Queen's University. Generally, these were happy times, and I enjoyed the camaraderie of taking part in sport.

16 Did you ever have a health epiphany which made you change your lifestyle?

When I looked in the mirror and saw a packet of Pringles looking back at me, I knew I had to be radical with my diet and exercise regime, so that was a sort of epiphany.

17 Best health/lifestyle advice you were ever given and would pass on to others?

A saying I came up with some years ago is ‘Why dream in black and white when you can dream in colour?’ Having a positive mental attitude in life is just as important as looking after yourself physically. Along with quirky humour, the vibrant colours in my urban cityscapes, hopefully, share some of that optimism and zest for life.

18 Who inspires you or who would you try to emulate in terms of fitness/attitude to life?

I have a good friend who has been very disabled from birth but has an amazing, upbeat attitude to life, despite all of his physical limitations. I once wrote an article about him which was entitled, 'The man who couldn't walk, but taught me how to fly'. He is truly an inspiration.

19 What time do you normally get to bed and do you get enough sleep?

Six hours sleep is normally plenty for me. You might find the studio lights still burning at 3am, as I find I find this is my most creative time.

20 Would you say you have a healthy attitude towards your own mortality?

I've already purchased my grave in a churchyard cemetery and it would be a pity not to get good use out of it some day.

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