James Bama is considered by many as the most "realistic" illustrator in a galaxy of talented artists.Through his simple, yet powerful compositions, he breathes life and humanity into his subjects. Critics and collectors classify him as a Western artist. He calls himself an "American Realist."
As a child, Bama loved the comic strips of Flash Gordon and Tarzan, and knew even then he wanted to be an artist. After graduating from the High School of Music and Art in New York City, he studied drawing and anatomy at the Art Students League before launching his career with the Charles E. Cooper Studios in New York City in 1951.
Bama's artistic skills permitted him to continue drawing, despite a growing encroachment on the market from television and photography. In a profile piece about artists who have made the successful transition from illustration to painting western art in Art of the West , Bama says,"It was cheaper than having to build a set. I could do winter stuff in summer and summer stuff in winter. I was busy."
In an extremely successful twenty-two year career as a commercial artist, he produced book covers, movie posters and illustrations for such notable magazines as Saturday Evening Post, Argosy and Reader's Digest . In 1968, Bama moved to Wyoming to pursue his love for portraying contemporary Western subjects, saying goodbye to his career as an illustrator.