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 Jim Sharpe  (1936 - 2005)

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Lived/Active: Texas      Known for: illustration, portrait, genre-views

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Ad Code: 4
Jim Sharpe
from Auction House Records.
Man with Rifle
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Jim Sharpe (1936-2005)

Jim Sharpe, 69, passed away on November 17, 2005 in Wichita Falls, Texas.  Burial will be in Riverside Cemetery.

Jim was born on the 1st of May, in 1936, in Vernon, Texas.  After graduating from high school, he attended Texas Tech University and majored in advertising art.  In 1957 he joined the United States Navy and became a naval aviator.  He served aboard the U.S.S. Bon Homme Richard (CVA.31) as a jet fighter pilot with night fighter squadron 193.  After his military service, he was accepted to the Art Center School in Los Angeles, California, where he majored in advertising illustration.  He graduated in 1964 with a bachelor of professional arts with honors.

Jim began his professional career with Campbell Ewald Agency in Detroit, Michigan, as an art director for Chevrolet.  He was an Illustrator/Designer with Steven, Biondi, Decicco Studio in Detroit and later with Art Group/Art Staff Studio, also in Detroit.  In 1968 he and his family moved to Westport, Connecticut, and Jim began his free lance illustration career working for clients in New York City.

Events moved quickly for Jim in New York City.  His different and distinct style offered a workable alternative to many established illustrators and work came very quickly in the form of magazine covers, story illustrations, paperback book covers, and various advertising accounts.  Jim's credits as a freelance illustrator include over 21 covers published on Time Magazine alone.  Numerous covers were also published on TV Guide, Newsweek, Golf Digest, Field and Stream, True, American Legion, and a host of paperback covers for Bantam, Dell, Fawcett, Warner and others.  Inside story illustrations were done for Argosy, True, Reader's Digest, Popular Mechanics, TV Guide, Woman's Day, Boy's Life, Cosmopolitan, and others such as American Legion and Medical Digest. In addition, advertising agencies also began to commission work from Jim for such clients as General Electric, Parker Hannifin, Newport News Ship Building, US Steel, ABC Sports Television, NBC Sports Television, Lincoln Center in New York and Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.  Since 1990, Jim has worked for Sterling Publishing Company of New York City illustrating over a dozen children's books, the latest being The Poems of Rudyard Kipling for the Poetry for Young People series.

From 1976 to 1991 Jim illustrated 13 United States Postal Stamps for the Performing Arts Series.  During those 15 years he did memorable stamps on the Barrymores, Jimmie Rodgers, W.C. Fields, George M. Cohan, Jerome Kern, Cole Porter, Will Rogers, John McCormick, Douglas Fairbanks, Enrico Caruso, Artuo Toscanini, Duke Elllington and Ralph Bunche.

During the 1970's ABC television commissioned Jim.  He was the first illustrator to do a series of drawings and paintings for the national news program 20/20.  The art was designed as visual segments to carry the narrative where film footage was not available. The first of these programs was the saga of Howard Hughes.  Other segments included The Death of Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Escape from Iran, Rough Cops, and several more segments for Our World 1986, Inside Edition and Instant Recall.  The Howard Hughes art was revised as recently as 1995 for a production by the BBC in England.

The United States Mint selected Sharpe to design the commemorative five dollar gold coin for the 1992 Olympics.  In 1993, Jim designed four commemorative silver dollar coins for the 1994 Olympics, which had been selected by jury.

Mr. Sharpe has been a member of the USAF Art Program for more than 25 years, joining it through the New York Society of Illustrators in 1974.  His assignments have taken him around the world to such destinations as Korea, China, India, Japan, Italy, Alaska, and Spain.  In 1987 he accompanied Bob Hope and his Christmas show "Around the World in Eight Days" as a guest artist for the Air force and USO.  1994 found him in India and China "Flying the Hump" with veterans of the China-India-Burma Campaign of WWII. 2002 found him halfway around the world again, in Turkey at Incirlik Air Base covering the USAF Mission of maintaining the Northern No-Fly Zone over Iraq.

Jim's other clients have included The United States Navy Art Program, The Coast Guard Art Program, The National Parks Association, The American Institute of Foreign Studies and The United States Information Agency, and the Franklin Library.

Jim's yearning to return to his native Texas and his artistic transition towards working with oil on canvas and gallery painting led Jim back to Texas in 1993.  Inspiration from the history of Texas and Southwest were foremost in Sharpe's painting approach.  However, Jim's changing eye was focused on contemporary western life as well.  Having been selected in 1997 to create a rodeo poster for Scottsdale, Arizona's Parada Del Sol Rodeo, Sharpe began to see the modern day cowboy with his artistic eye.  He was asked to do a second poster in 1998 and finally a third in 1999.  The three posters relate to all the events of the Scottsdale Rodeo and form a connecting set of three when viewed together in order (1997, 1998, 1999).  Sharpe was pleased that he was able to represent Scottsdale with the final three posters of the century.  The Parada Del Sol has been doing a new poster every year for 47 years.  Jim also explored and painted the history of Native Americans and Traditional Native American Dancers, with frequent trips across the Red River into Native America Oklahoma for research on their traditions and history.

"I like to do paintings that the viewer can enjoy day after day, year after year.  I like looking at people in situations from another time and place, and wondering about their attitudes and their feelings and all the things that made everyday life what it was in those days.  It's part of the fun in creating representational art.  It makes for great moments to sit back and enjoy time and time again.  It took a lot of courage and optimism to pick up your family and all your belongings, load everything into a wagon, and head to Texas back in the 1800's.  Both my Great Grandfathers did just that, and I have always admired that spirit in people.  Hopefully I can portray that same feeling in my paintings, and the viewer can feel that pioneer sense of adventure and some of the spirit of the times."

Jim married Ann Arnhold in Santa Fe, New Mexico in August 2001.

Jim was preceded in death by his parents Claude and Dorothy Sharpe and his first wife, Patricia Locke Sharpe.  He is survived by his wife Ann Sharpe of the home, 2 children, Andy Sharpe of Branford, Connecticut, and Susie Ambrusco and husband John of New Haven, Connecticut; a step-son, Duncan Arnhold of Wichita Falls, Texas; a brother, Patrick Sharpe and wife Sharon of Watertown, Connecticut; 1 grandchild, Trace Arnhold of Springdale, Arkansas; an aunt, Mrs. Zelma King of Vernon, Texas, and 3 nephews.

Source: obituary, posted on

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