James Spencer Russell was born in Monticello, Indiana, but spent most of his life in New York City. He studied with Raymond Johnson at the University of New Mexico, where he received his Bachelors of Fine Art degree, and with Donald Oenslager at Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut, where he received his Masters of Fine Art degree. He exhibited work all across the United States, and was considered a pioneer of set design for conversion to color television, working at NBC Television. His one-man shows of watercolors and drawings resulted in the inclusion of pieces in the movies Midnight Cowboy and John and Mary. An avid jazz fan, he had work on the cover of Chico Freeman’s album titled Chico. Russell exhibited at the American Federation of the Arts, New York City, the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence; and at Southern Illinois University, before retiring to Kewanna, Indiana.