Ann James


Yellow and Black Photography Quote (1).p

"Since moving to Europe and living among the masters’ art I have long studied and admired, my artistic focus has sharpened, including a fascination with Europe’s marriage of history and modernism."

In 1970, my instructor at the El Paso Art Academy put a black wax pencil in my hand and my path in art was decided.

The Blessing of the Animals is a tribute to animals, family, and spiritual support in my life. This service in my church provided the perfect inspiration for the integration of these influences. Created by freehand, it is drawn from decades of my own source material and was 8 years in the making.

My light touch and patience married perfectly with the medium, and the works I created were well received, winning awards starting with the first exhibition I entered.

The Connoisseur


The backdrop of The Connoisseur is The Medici Fountain in The Luxembourg Gardens in Paris with my better half posing as the artist. I chose to portray a child in the role of connoisseur since I have often turned to find one looking silently over my shoulder when I’ve been drawing in the gardens.

Perhaps due to the engineering background in my family, I easily recognize relationship measurements and negative spaces allowing fairly accurate proportions to develop quickly. Beginning with a gestural drawing on vellum paper, I refine the image to a detailed fine line drawing. I transfer that rendition by redrawing the lines on the back side (seen through the vellum), then tape it to Bristol paper plate finish, rubbing the lines on the surface with a rounded blunt instrument thereby transferring a faint image to the final support. After daubing up any excess carbon with a kneaded eraser, I faintly redraw the lines. Next, I apply 40 plus light layers of black Prismacolor pencil lines using a needle-sharp point without any erasing or smearing, gently increasing pressure in the darkest areas.

Given my extensive art background, I quickly picked up the methods at the Schuler School of Fine Art in Baltimore.

After twenty years of drawing, selling, exhibiting, and teaching private lessons, I finally discovered the traditional oil painting method I had been searching for. Given my extensive art background, I quickly picked up the methods at the Schuler School of Fine Art in Baltimore. As with the Colored Pencil, this traditional handling of the materials and application inspired the same instinctive connection and subsequent recognition starting with my first painting. Though only measuring 8 x 12 inches, it won the Best in Show $6,500 Purchase award in a regional Art Association/Museum competition and the piece is in the collection of The El Paso Museum of Art.

Since moving to Europe in 1994 and living among the masters’ art I have long studied and admired, my artistic focus has sharpened, including a fascination with Europe’s marriage of history and modernism. That has become a primary factor in my subject matter with a juxtaposition of past and present. I am now adding into that mix the element of tribute for influencing factors in my life.


To create my compositions, I use the same steps as my drawing technique, then transferring the final line drawing to my prepared sapele mahogany board. Grinding my paints using powdered pigments and black oil (cold pressed linseed oil boiled with lead), I additionally place a thin layer of my hand made medium (black oil mixed with a gum mastic crystal solution) before each area I am currently painting. The first overall layer on the toned board is in burnt umber creating a sepia rendition to establish values and confirm the composition. That is followed by usually three layers of color. It is finished with a final layer of scumbling and glazing as needed. To achieve delicate, tiny detail I paint using jeweler’s glasses and utilize most often size 000 Winsor Newton Series 7 Kolinsky Sable brushes. Though I do not apply thick amounts of paint, with each successive layer affected by the prior layers, the final painting has a feeling of surprising depth.

La Maison de Poupées exists only in my imagination with most of the elements being autobiographical, including a wooden box my father made, the “get well” bear I made for a friend who later became my better half, my Olivia de Havilland bears, and other toys replete each with their own stories.

Often, I deliberately flatten and slightly distort perspective, as did the old masters, to create a composition more pleasing to the eye. Everything is created freehand with no mechanical or reproductive means.

The Marionette Theatre is based upon one in a park near the Champs Elysees. When I asked the puppeteer’s permission to recreate his image and theatre, he replied "What an honor for Guignol." Portraying a child in red is inspired by a family story when as a toddler my aunt gave me a red snowsuit.

Despite the tight realism, many of my pieces are not actual reproductions of anything I have seen, but rather a composite of various images I have taken over the years, augmented with sketches and imagination.

Prize Ribbon (1)

Prize Ribbon (1)

Describe your image

Though I’ve changed the configuration of the entrance and other details, The Marionette Shop is based upon a real shop on rue Saint-Louis en I’lle. While my rendition of the shop has remained the same, Clair de Rêve (still a marionette shop) has changed its façade often over the intervening years.

Among the honors my work has received are numerous national and international awards including 18 in New York and London group exhibitions. “From Here to There” was a 1996 retrospective at The Chamizal National Memorial selected from 26 years of my drawings and paintings. In 2004, The Art Renewal Center chose me among their initial 34 artists selected for The Living Masters Gallery in their online museum dedicated to traditional and realist art.

Eliza Ann Harker Bennion is my great grandmother. From a pioneering family, her parents were among those who followed Brigham Young to Utah.

I and/or my work have been in 24 magazines (including The Artist Magazine, American Artist, International Artist, Southwest Art) and 37 books (including Who’s Who in American Art since 1993, Best of Colored Pencil 1, Best of Colored Pencil 2, Best of Colored Pencil 3, Portrait Inspirations, Colored Pencil Basics, Exploring Colored Pencil, Strokes of Genius 2, and Colored Pencil Society of America Signature Showcase).

Loosely based upon a craftsman I’ve seen, The Woodworker is also a tribute to my father who found pleasure in working with wood. He even prepared the mahogany boards I use in painting. During his final illness, the first thing he asked me when he was able to speak was if I needed more boards.

Among my memberships are The Society of Women Artists UK, American Artists Professional League (Fellow Maxima Cum Laude), Catharine Lorillard Wolfe Art Club, Colored Pencil Society of America (Charter and Signature Member); United Kingdom Coloured Pencil Society (Charter and Silver Member, President/Honorary President 2004 to 2010) and Mensa. I owned and operated The Montwood Gallery in El Paso, TX from 1974-78 and Massey Fine Arts in Santa Teresa, NM from 1992-1994.

Morning Routine is inspired by a marvelous gentleman I saw in London. Creating this image freehand incorporating several images (taken with his permission) I made up the background and the face only to realize afterwards I had created an exact portrait of my grandfather, a great lover of squirrels.

Despite the tight realism, many of my pieces are not actual reproductions of anything I have seen.

Reuben McDaniel commissioned me to do his portrait specifically before he was to have major surgery on his hips. This extremely tall professor and administrator from UT Austin was walking with the use of fabulous wooden canes. I tried to capture some of the essence and pain in this remarkable man.