James Ransome comes from the rural South, where he had little exposure to the arts as a child. He checked out how-to-draw books from the library to develop his artistic talents and was inspired by Mad Magazine to make books about the adventures he had with his friends. Ransome studied film-making in college, and his experience framing shots and telling stories with images had a big effect on his painting style. Ransome began studying art and met illustrator Jerry Pinkney, who became a life-long mentor and friend. Ransome often illustrates books by children’s author Lesa Cline-Ransome, his wife.