James Godwin Scott was born 1931 in Los Angeles, California. His parents were originally from Texas, and they returned there when Scott was six months old. He grew up on a livestock farm in the area of Fort Worth, eventually returning to California to study drawing and composition at Woodbury College, Los Angeles.
After serving in the Navy Scott returned to Texas, then determined to go to New York to pursue an art career. In 1952, while driving from Fort Worth to New York, he stopped in St. Louis, Missouri. He became so entranced by the moonlight on the Mississippi River that he made the city his home for nearly four decades.
Through the 1950s Scott did illustration work for retail newspaper advertising while spending summers in Connecticut studying oil painting with Robert Brackman and in the winter, back in St. Louis, he studied with Frank Nuderscher at Nuderscher’s studio in the Granite Building at Fourth and Market. The training by these artists strengthened Scott’s compositional skills and his aptitude for the figure, while also encouraging his exploration of nature. Nuderscher was well known for his landscapes of urban and rural Missouri, and Scott’s early intertpretations of the river drew from Nuderscher’s work as well as that of Claude Manet and Joseph Turner.
Through 1962 Scott continued to work in oils, but the following year he saw the work of British watercolor artist Jack Merriott. After writing to Merriott in England, Scott was accepted as a student and spent the next three summers studying with Merriott in England, Scotland and Wales. At this time Scott switcheds to watercolors almost exclusively, finding it the perfect medium to capture the fluidity of the river.
In the 1970s Scott visited Colorado and painted in the Poudre Canyon, Elk River and Trapper’s Lake areas. He continues to visit these areas regularly, and they came to have a significant influence on the course of his carer. In the meantime, however, the Mississippi River remained his primary muse. In 1979 he followed the path of Lewis and Clark on the barge “Melinda B.” of Port City Barge Lines, spending over a week on the river painting from the deck of the barge as it traveled from St. Louis to Kansas City.
After years of visitng Arizona, Scott moved to there permanently in the late 1990s. Within a few years, inspired by the strong graphic forms of the desert landscape, Scott abandoned watercolor and began working in acrylic on canvas, adopting a bold, abstract style that emphasized balanced color harmonies energized by firm, rhythmic lines.