James was born in Ayr and studied painting and printmaking at Glasgow School of Art from 1956 to 1961. After a successful career teaching art, he has painted full-time for many years; working mainly in oils. James is an expressive painter, using the rich, luscious quality of the paint to great effect. He is a past winner of the prestigious Laing Landscape Competition and the Scotsman Art Competition. His work is represented in many public collections including those of the House of Lords, Glasgow University and the Maclaurin Gallery.