James studied Art to ‘A’ level and secured an unconditional offer to further his training at Goldsmiths University in London in 1979. However, his parallel interest in music prevented him from starting the course when he was asked to join the Two-Tone band The Selecter. He recorded two albums with the Ska band and toured extensively playing Hammond organ, keyboards and tenor sax. Before he had time to revisit his art training a career in music that was to last many years had taken over. He later played for the pop band Madness on piano, playing mainly TV work, festivals and, memorably, Saturday Night Live in New York. He then built a reputation composing and creating music for theatre, dance, radio, tv and film that was to span two decades.

To keep his artistic ambitions and love of paint alive during this time he learned the skills of specialist architectural painting and gilding. In 2001 he dedicated himself to this, starting a practice back in his home town of Lancaster.

Over the next fifteen years his work took him all over the UK and onto the continent painting murals and restoring interiors. His painted furniture was featured in many magazines notably Country Life who heralded him as a ‘Master of the Art’. 

He now paints full time.