James was born in 1962 and studied Illustration at Brighton University where his lecturers included Raymond Briggs (The Snowman). He later studied life and portrait painting at Heatherley School of Fine Art, Chelsea, where he felt privileged to be taught the traditional manner of painting. As well as portraits and figure paintings James is inspired by the history of Hambledon Hill, an Iron Age Hill Fort in North Dorset, and takes this as a starting point in many of his landscape pictures. He often paints animals and birds in the context of the hill. He is a great advocate of working mainly from life to keep his paintings authentic and heartfelt and says "The best work is somewhere between what is directly observed and imagination". He has exhibited his work in galleries throughout the UK and Europe and his portraits have been exhibited in the BP Portrait Award at the National Portrait Gallery and at the Royal Society of Portrait Painters. His pictures are held in various collections, including the Royal Bank of Scotland and at Longleat House.