Born in San Francisco, Jim graduated from Art Center College of Design in 1969. He had a successful illustration career in Los Angeles and New York, with a steady flow of work ranging from automobile ads, movie posters, and romantic and historical/action book covers.
By 1978, Jim and his wife had moved to Seattle, where Jim's work gradually shifted away from commercial illustration to primarily historical aviation, automotive and military art. Today his work is internationally known and collected, and his style, with its emphasis on depth of story, is recognized by collectors of historical art. His list of clients includes Boeing, Bell Helicopter, Federal Express, Allison, Cessna, Flying Tigers, the Indianapolis 500, BMW, US Air Force Documentary Art Program, Wingnut Studios, Meadowbrook and Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance, the National Guard and many U.S. Army organizations and associations to include: the 82nd Airborne Division, the 101st Airborne Division, U.S. Army Rangers, Special Forces, 1st Division, 2nd Division 3rd Division, 4th Division, 1st Cavalry Division, 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Regiment, the Command General Staff College, and the United States Army War College.
Best in Show, EAA Aviation Art Show, three successive years, 1989-91
Named Master Artist, EAA, 1992
People's Choice Award, American Society of Aviation Artists, 1988
Best in Show, Franklin Mint Artists Show, 1992
Best in Show & three Best of Era Awards, San Antonio Military Art Show, 1992
Honorable Mention, American Society of Aviation Artists Show, 1994
Best in Show, Flying Magazine/Simuflite Art Show, 1993, 1994, 1999, 2000, 2001
Award of Merit, Flying Magazine/Simuflite Art Show, 1995, 2000
Best in Show, Naval Aviation Museum Art Show, 1994, 2000
First Place, Naval Aviation Museum Art Show, 1995
R. G. Smith Award for Excellence in Naval Aviation Art, National Naval Aviation Museum, Pensacola, FL, 1997
Best in Show, Women in Aviation Show, C.R. Smith Museum, Dallas, TX, 1997
Stanley Wanlass Award, for excellence in strength of design and composition, echoing the spirit of the automobile, Meadow Brook Concours d'Elegance, 1997
Featured Artist, Meadow Brook Concours d'Elegance, 1999
Award of Excellence, Automotive Fine Artists of America show at Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance, 1999, 2000
Peter Helck Award, Automotive Fine Artists of America show at Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance, 1999, 2000
League of WWI Aviation Historians, four Silver Cups
Jim has been a member of the World War I Aviation Historical Hall of Fame, an Artist Fellow of the American Society of Aviation Artists and a board member of the Automotive Fine Artists of America. He had one-man shows at the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) Museum in Oshkosh, Wisconsin in 1990, 1998 and 2003; San Diego Air & Space Museum in 1990; and the US Air Force Museum at Wright Patterson Air Force Base in 2003. In 2001, Barnes & Noble Publishing released a book on Jim's World War II art, entitled Portraits of Combat. In 2005, Jim fulfilled a childhood dream when he got the opportunity for a cameo role in Peter Jackson's (Lord of the Rings) remake of King Kong. Jim plays the role of a pilot of the Curtis Helldiver aircraft which fires at Kong while he is perched high above New York on the Empire State Building.
Jim and his wife, Patti, live in Seattle with their dog, Sarah, who shares the distinction with previous Dietz pets, of being a regular in Jim's paintings. Their son, Ian, is currently an officer serving in the U.S. Army. Jim works in a warm, pleasantly cluttered studio that resembles a WWI aviation bar, surrounded by uniforms, props and models that have made their way into paintings over the years.