Fantasy Artist James C. Christensen was born September 26,1942, in Culver City, California, a small city surrounded by Los Angeles and permeated by the movie industry. MGM's Lot Three was only a few blocks from his childhood home. Christensen first encountered the elusive distinction between reality and the realistic illusion while sneaking with friends onto the backlot after dark. "We'd slip over the fence and into an Old West town, San Francisco during the gold rush or Chinatown, but then walking behind them we'd see that it was all two-by- fours. All that realistic illusion made a big impression on me."
Drawing was a favorite activity, but Christensen didn't study art in high school. He thought he'd grow up to be a banker like his dad. As graduation neared, however, he realized that the little drawings in the margins of his notebooks were far more important than the notes themselves.
James studied art at Santa Monica City College for a year before entering mission service for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. For two years, he traveled in Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Uruguay as one of several young musicians who were part of a church musical group.
In 1964, James Christensen enrolled at Brigham Young University to study painting and drawing. In his third year, he transferred to UCLA, a move that had much to do with the presence of a young university employee, Carole Larsen. But the romance hit a few potholes, and James returned to BYU. Happily, time and distance worked their magic, and James and Carole were married a few months later.
In 1967, James finished his undergraduate degree and began work on his master's. Carole gave birth to their first child. In the autumn of 1968, after receiving his master's degree, James accepted a job as a junior high school art teacher for the Santa Maria, California, school district.
"Those were tough years" Christensen says. "I was just trying to make a living, combining teaching, workshops and commercial illustration and portraits. We'd also offer artwork in sidewalk art shows. If we sold a framed and matted lithograph for $30, we felt lucky. Through those years, I always had my 'guilty pleasures'-my sketchbooks-where I could draw people with fish for heads, or wings, or just funny-looking creatures." It was on those pages that a new style began to emerge.
After five years at Isaac Fesler Junior High School, Christensen left teaching and devoted himself to painting, supporting his family with freelance commercial illustration and portraiture. In 1974, when he was offered a job as a designer for the LDS Church's magazine The New Era, he moved with his family to Utah. There he continued to develop his fantastical style.
In 1976, the American Society of Illustrators presented James Christensen with a merit award for his work "The Invisible Door" an allegorical image about death and the afterlife. This painting gained special importance because it was a fantasy work that was recognized by the art community. Also in 1976, James was offered the position of assistant professor of art at Brigham Young University.
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