James Bama

James Elliott Bama (born April 28, 1926, Washington Heights, New York)[1] is an American artist known for his realistic paintings and etchings of Western subjects. Life in Wyoming led to his comment, "Here an artist can trace the beginnings of Western history, see the first buildings, the oldest wagons, saddles and guns, and be up close to the remnants of Indian culture ... And you can stand surrounded by nature's wonders."


Born in Manhattan in 1926, he grew up copying Alex Raymond's Flash Gordon comic strip. He had his first professional sale when he was 15, a drawing of Yankee Stadium in the New York Journal-American. He graduated from New York's High School of Music and Art and entered the Army Air Corps, working as a mechanic, mural painter, and physical training instructor.

When discharged from the service, and back in New York City, he studied drawing and anatomy at the Art Students League. Beginning in 1951, he was an illustrator at New York's Charles E. Cooper Studios for 15 years. His first paperback cover was Nelson Nye's A Bullet for Billy the Kid (1950). Bama had a 22-year career as a successful commercial artist, producing paperback book covers, movie posters and illustrations for such publications as Argosy, The Saturday Evening Post and Reader's Digest, and his numerous clients included the New York Giants football team, the Baseball and Football Halls of Fame and the U.S. Air Force. Beginning with The Man of Bronze (1964), he did a powerful set of 62 covers for the Doc Savage Bantam Books paperbacks, often using as a model actor Steve Holland, star of TV's Flash Gordon (1954–55). He also painted the box cover art for Aurora's monster model kits, including King Kong, Frankenstein, Dracula and The Mummy.[2]

In 1964 he married Lynne Klepfer, a New York University graduate with an art history major. Two years later, in June, 1966, the couple headed west as guests of artist Bob Meyers at his Circle M ranch near Cody, Wyoming. Meyers had walked out on his career as a successful Manhattan illustrator with such magazines as True and The Saturday Evening Post to run his ranch and paint. After return visits in 1967, the Bamas left New York and moved during September, 1968, into a cabin on Meyers’ ranch. Bama began to paint contemporary Western subjects during the daytime while doing his freelance illustrations in the evenings. He recalled, "I never came out here with the idea to be a Western artist. It just happened, and that’s the way it should be."

In 1970 Bob Meyers was murdered, and his widow Helen moved from the ranch. The Bamas moved to a house on Dunn Creek, Wapiti, 20 miles outside Cody, in 1971. In May, 1971, Bama connected with a New York dealer, prompting his decision to abandon illustration and put his total concentration into the creation of easel paintings. In Wapiti, James and Lynne Bama built a home and studio, moving into it when their son Ben was born in 1977.

His work is collected in The Western Art of James Bama (Bantam Books, 1975) and The Art of James Bama (1993). Brian M. Kane's James Bama: American Realist (Flesk, 2006) has an introduction by Harlan Ellison.


Bama's art is realism. He sometimes takes advantage of his medium to use lighting techniques—such as butterfly lighting—that would not be practical in a photograph taken under ambient light.


Bama was inducted into the Illustrator’s Hall of Fame on June 28, 2000. At the Buffalo Bill Historical Center, when he was the first Honored Artist at the Buffalo Bill Art Show in 2003, Bama commented, "Everything I’ve done — the rodeo, the trappers, the mountain men — has been done around here. The fact that I’m from Cody makes this very significant to me. They’re really honoring Cody and the Buffalo Bill Historical Center."

He was inducted into the Monster Kid Hall Of Fame at The Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Awards.


  1. ^ Kane, Brian M. (2006). James Bama: American Realist. Santa Cruz, CA: Flesk. p. 160. ISBN 0-9723758-8-0.
  2. ^ The Art of Joe DeVito - Tim Lasiuta Interview
  • Kelton, Elmer. The Art of James Bama. Trumbull, Connecticut: Greenwich Workshop, 1993.
  • Kane, Brian M. James Bama: American Realist. Flesk Publications, ISBN 0-9723758-8-0, 2006.

External links

Arthur William Brown

Arthur William Brown (1881–1966) was a Canadian commercial artist, most known for his work as an illustrator for the Saturday Evening Post, American Magazine, and Redbook.

Carl Erickson (illustrator)

Carl Erickson (1891–1958), was a fashion illustrator and advertising artist who was well known for his work with Vogue magazine and Coty cosmetics. He worked for Vogue from 1916 to 1958 when he died; most likely from complications due to alcoholism. He was commonly known as "Eric," a name he used to sign his work, which was given to him by fellow students at the Academy of Fine Arts, Chicago. Along with fashion illustration, Erickson was also an accomplished portrait artist. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Queen Elizabeth II, Frank Sinatra, and Gertrude Stein are a few of the public figures who sat for him. During his early career he lived in New York City, and later moved Senlis, France, with his wife, the fashion illustrator Lee Creelman. They had one child, a daughter named Charlotte.

David Stone Martin

David Stone Martin, born David Livingstone Martin (June 13, 1913 – March 1, 1992 in New London, Connecticut) was an American artist best known for his illustrations on jazz record albums.

Frank McCarthy (artist)

Frank McCarthy (born 30 March 1924 — 17 November 2002) was an American artist and realist painter known for advertisements, magazine artwork, paperback covers, film posters, and paintings of the American West.

Fred Otnes

Frederick Joseph Otnes, Jr. (December 3, 1925 – July 28, 2015) was an illustrator. A resident of Redding, Connecticut, he was best known for his collage paintings. He was born in Junction City, Kansas and died in Westport, Connecticut.

Harrison Fisher

Harrison Fisher (July 27, 1875 or 1877 – January 19, 1934) was an American illustrator.

High Lonesome (Charlie Daniels album)

High Lonesome is the eighth studio album by The Charlie Daniels Band, released on November 5, 1976.

Many of the tracks pay homage to pulp Western fiction. The album’s title probably refers to the 1962 Western novel by Louis L’Amour. The album is dedicated to L’Amour and James Bama. Daniels concludes his dedication poem, “My sincere appreciation for the hours of honest pleasure you’ve both given me.”

Howard Brodie

Howard Brodie (November 18, 1915 – September 19, 2010) was a sketch artist best known for his World War II combat and courtroom sketches.

Jack Unruh

Jack Unruh (July 31, 1935 – May 16, 2016) was an American commercial illustrator whose works featured in advertising projects for all types of companies. Unruh won several awards from the Society of Illustrators. His work focuses primarily on the outdoors.

Joseph Bowler

Joseph Bowler (born 1928, Forest Hills, New York) is an artist and illustrator.

Bowler was a regular illustrator for the likes of Cosmopolitan Magazine and Ladies' Home Journal in the Second Illustrative Golden Age after the Second World War.

An apprentice of the Charles E. Cooper Art Studio in New York, Bowler was named The Artists' Guild of New York Artist of the Year in 1967. The award was a break for Bowler, who between 1968 and 1971 illustrated Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy for Ladies' Home Journal, and David Eisenhower and his wife Julie for The Saturday Evening Post.

In 1958, Bowler was stricken with Polio.

He was named in the Society of Illustrators Hall of Fame in 1992

Ken Barr

Ken Barr, working name of Kenneth Barr (17 March 1933 – 25 March 2016), was a Scottish artist who drew and painted DC and Marvel comics and magazines, Doc Savage magazine covers, science fiction and fantasy novel and magazine covers. His style evolved into powerful "photo-realism" depictions of heroes similar to the paintings of James Bama.

Mark English (illustrator)

Mark English (born 1933) is an American illustrator and painter, born in Hubbard, Texas.

Mitchell Hooks

Mitchell Hooks (1923 - March 2013) was an American artist and illustrator known for his artwork for paperback books and magazines.

Murray Tinkelman

Murray Tinkelman (February 4, 1933 – January 20, 2016) was an American science-fiction and fantasy illustrator. He won gold medals from the Society of Illustrators. He provided numerous book covers for paperback reprints of science fiction and fantasy novels for Ballantine Books in the 1970s, including the reprints of many of John Brunner's novels.

Peter Caras

Peter Caras (born April 11, 1941) is an illustrator. He studied at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh and the Art Students League of New York and was instructed by Frank Reilley, James Bama and Norman Rockwell. He is the creator of over 1,700 book and magazine covers.

Walter Einsel

Walter Einsel (1926–1998) was an American sculptor and illustrator from Westport, Connecticut.

Walter M. Baumhofer

Walter Martin Baumhofer (November 1, 1904 – September 23, 1987) was an American illustrator notable for his cover paintings seen on the pulp magazines of Street & Smith and other publishers.

Baumhofer's parents immigrated from Germany. His father Henry (Heinrich) came from Oldenburg, his mother Marie from Hanover. He was born and grew up in Brooklyn where his father had become a clerk at a local coffee company and then, in 1918, janitor at an apartment building, a situation which enabled the family to live rent free. Graduating from high school in 1922, Baumhofer went on a scholarship to Pratt Institute, where he studied under Dean Cornwell and H. Winfield Scott.

Yankee Pasha (book)

Yankee Pasha is a historical novel written by Edison Marshall and published in 1947, the full title is Yankee Pasha-The Adventures of Jason Starbuck.It is suggested that Yankee Pasha is probably Marshall's best-known work and one of the most popular. Yankee Pasha was indeed very popular and has seen seven different editions with many separate printings between 1947 and 1975 in the U.S.A. and Europe. Upon initial publication, the book received positive reviews including that of Fletcher Pratt, the American writer particularly noted for his works on naval history, that appeared in the December 6, 1947 issue of the Saturday Review.As in most of the novels of Edison Marshall, readers informed about local history and names can see references to his past life in Oregon in Yankee Pasha.One of the paperback covers of the book was realized by the American realist artist James Bama and another one was made by famous paperback book cover artist Robert Stanley.The book is made into a film in 1954, Yankee Pasha, starring Jeff Chandler and Rhonda Fleming, and featuring Mamie Van Doren. It was released by Universal Pictures.

This page is based on a Wikipedia article written by authors (here).
Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; additional terms may apply.
Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.