Artist often become real yet intangible sources of national pride to their respective homelands, and their obtainable works of art serve as the direct links. Gyrth Russell cultivated this as an artist who traveled abroad in connection with the Canadian armed forces. As a young man, he witnessed the devastation and hope of World War I, and many of his earliest works are of landscapes and coasts traveled by the Canadian military in the conflict. He also made etchings and poster prints for sale to help popularize and support the war effort abroad.
Things turned light-hearted for the accomplished 30-year old Russell, as he returned to his first niche, illustrating books on the geography of Nova Scotia and Western Britain. His eye acclimated to capturing pleasant coastal harbors, all while he documented their changing natures.