James studied Fine Art at the University of New Mexico and then worked as an illustrator for the Los Alamos National Laboratory, pursuing painting in his spare time. He participated in many juried art shows and earned awards at the New Mexico State Fair in 1968, 1970, and 1975, and the 1982 Purchase Award. He has also won the Purchase Award at the 1972 Southwest Watercolor Society's Eight Annual Membership show. In 1971, Jim and three other artists founded the first art gallery in Los Alamos. His illustrations and artwork have been published in Southwest Art Magazine, Popular Science, Aviation Week and Space Technology, and Laser Focus magazines.
In 1988, Jim left the lab to pursue his career as a fine artist and now works only in oils. His work is found in many collections, both private and corporate, throughout the U.S. Jim describes himself as a romantic realist landscape artist. His architectural background influences his desire to capture the character of old adobes, farm equipment, and landscapes of New Mexico with a bold use of light and shadow.