Born 1957 in Fort Payne, Alabama, James Dean spent the majority of his early years watching his father, a self-taught artist, reproduce the art of the masters as a hobby. James, only in first grade, began drawing from cartoons such as Disney and Snoopy. His grandmother was the first to hang a James Dean original on the wall, a well-done drawing of Yogi Bear.

In 1997 James became a full-time artist, giving himself a year to be successful. He could be found in Athens drawing landscapes and local businesses.