James was born in Scone Perthshire in 1954. He grew up in Lanark and studied at Glasgow School of Art and Portsmouth College of Art and Design. At Glasgow he studied painting under the late John Cunningham but, although inspired by the rich artistic heritage at the school of art, he went on to pursue a career in a non-fine art field. However, the influence of the Glasgow Boys, the Scottish Colourists and French Impressionism (Monet in particular) remains a source of inspiration to this day. After graduating in 1978 James became an art director in the highly competitive world of Advertising. In the 1980s he was creative group head at one of Scotland's largest agencies, and in the 90s was a director of an Ayrshire based design consultancy. For 4 years he also ran his own company based in Kilmarnock. By 2005 a burning desire to seek a more personal form of artistic fulfilment led him to wind up his business as a creative consultant.
James' favourite medium is oils. He finds them a wonderfully forgiving medium allowing the artist to overcome the trepidation of a blank canvas and easily correct and continue painting. Following a period of 'self teaching' and re-discovery, he took the decision to 'throw caution to the wind' and paint full time at the beginning of 2009. His early work was based on field trip sketches and digital references from his travels in Scotland and Crete, and then completing the artwork in his studio in an old barn in the grounds of his home in Lanark.
Lately he now actively seeks the challenge of working direct outdoors on field trips in his old campervan, finding the day long banter with the public an enjoyable and highly rewarding part of the process of painting. Like the old masters before him, light and colour are now an intrinsic part of James's inspiration to paint. In early 2011 he followed their footsteps through France to the Languedoc region in the south where he now has a base near Bezier. He now divides his time between the glorious painting climate in the south of France and his home base in Lanark where his studio now includes a fully operational framing workshop for himself and fellow artists.