Covid-19 inspires Russell Eddy’s artistic side, at 85
With nothing else to do during shelter-in-place last year, Russell Eddy picked up a paintbrush and got to work at his easel.
“It’s relaxing. It takes my mind off other things,” the 85-year-old said.
“I’m sure there are lots of people out there [exploring] different hobbies now. If there’s something you enjoy doing just do it now, with all the time that we now all have on our hands.”
He has completed about 20 paintings since Covid-19 hit. In his home are pictures made with acrylics, pastels, graphite and chalk – pretty much “everything” he has come across.
Mr Eddy’s only lessons came while he was still a student in his native New Zealand. A teacher in high school suggested he consider art as a career but he instead became a quantity surveyor and carved out time to hone his skills in multiple sports.
He left New Zealand to “travel the world and see what’s out there” and made Australia his first stop. In 1968 he was set to lift weights at the Summer Olympics in Mexico when he “had an accident and couldn’t compete”.
Although disappointed he decided to make the journey and support his friends. On his way back he stopped off in the United States and decided to stay.
“New Zealand is way on the other side of the world. A lot of New Zealanders are like myself, they get qualified in something and say let me get out of here, travel the world and see what’s out there,” Mr Eddy said.
“I applied to the United States to let me stay there. I got my Green Card and was just short of getting my citizenship when I came to Bermuda [in 1974 and] an island girl took me up and I stayed.”
Five years later, he wed Maureen. The two have been married for 44 years.
“I painted throughout that period,” Mr Eddy said, adding that an exhibit he held in the US, of South Sea Island paintings, was very well received.
He thinks he may have shown his work at the Bermuda Society of Arts many years ago but he was sporadic with his output and mostly shared it with friends and family at home.
His children, Melanie and Jason, occupied his time as did the Pink Beach Club, where he was the tennis pro for 25 years. Once he gained Bermuda status he opened a quantity surveying business, Russell J Eddy Associates. Charity work also kept him busy.
First he got involved with The Committee of 25 and then he served as co-ordinator for the Trunk Island Swim. The brainchild of Stanley Paris, the managing director of Deepdene Manor, it was the first of its kind here.
Said Mr Eddy: “I did all the organising – a line of safety boats, the police, Sub-aqua Club members who swam below the swimmers and legal papers to cover non-liability etc.
“This was Bermuda's first ‘thon’ which, as you know, has expanded to walk-a-thons, spell-a-thons etc. I guess, indirectly, I’ve been responsible for raising millions and millions of dollars.”
The Habitat for Humanity board member went to Botswana on a build with the charity many years ago. He was so inspired he “subsequently paid off the mortgages of several houses” and funded the studies of the Habitat for Humanity representative.
“Now that I have retired I paint,” Mr Eddy said, adding it kept him out of the way of his wife and her 106-year-old mother Myrtle Edness with whom they live. “I’ve really just taken it up in the last couple of years I guess and I’ve got more into it because of this lockdown and all the rest of it. It keeps me out of mischief. Every so often my wife tells me to go paint.”
Seascapes are usually the subject of his work. Most often they are copied from photographs or images he finds in a magazine or newspaper.
“I haven’t got time to sit out there in the wind and the rain to paint from nature,” Mr Eddy said. “I can do a painting in a couple of hours. Some of the more detailed ones take a little longer.”
Although they have now all been vaccinated against Covid-19, for the past year he and his wife and mother-in-law have mostly been “stuck inside”.
“We can get out and about more now having had our shots,” he said, lamenting the problems caused here by people who were not as cautious as his household.
“They partied and just made a real mess of things. But if everybody had knuckled down and did what the recommendation is we probably could have got rid of this damn thing.”
Aside from his painting the restrictions brought on by Covid-19 have given him time to keep up with another of his loves, fitness.
Said Mr Eddy: “I’ve got a gym at home and I still do it. I don’t lift heavy, heavy weights any more it’s mostly an exercise routine I use about three times a week.”