James Shay is a painter and architect based in the Sonoma wine country north of San Francisco, CA. Born in South Dakota in the heart of Midwest farmland, Jim moved with his family to Yuma, Arizona at age thirteen, when his father purchased a Phillips 66 gas station outside of town. While fixing flats, pumping gas, and playing tennis, he dreamed of the architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright and the paintings of Mark Rothko.

After graduating from architecture school he hit the road, working for excellent architects in America and abroad. Along the way he discovered a link between painting and architecture through the work of the French architect le Corbusier. To explore this great revelation, Jim took two years away from architecture to study at the San Francisco Art Institute in the late seventies.

From 1979 onward Jim’s architecture office designed commercial and residential modernist projects in western America and Asia. Published in America, Europe and Asia, his work received wide recognition in the professional worlds of architecture and art.

In the mid-nineties Jim’s focus shifted from architecture to painting, and he has never looked back. He has had numerous one-person shows and is represented by many galleries nationwide. Jim likes to ski, play tennis, and study the construction and painting techniques of ancient Egypt. He does occasional architectural projects, including homes, studios and interiors.


Most paintings are done in casein and tempera, two of the oldest painting media in existence. They dry to a matte finish, somewhat similar to that of a fresco, and are protected with matte varnish.

To achieve a sense of time's passage, the paintings are scraped and abraded with sandpaper and x-acto blades. The work is on framed archival panels, and currently ranges in size up to 66" x 84". In addition to the work sold by the galleries listed, commissions are undertaken through the galleries for specific clients and sites.



To contact James Shay email shay@jamesshay.com or fill out the form below. If you wish to purchase a recent painting please contact the art dealers listed under the Galleries section.



For 20 years Karen Shay has sculpted in wood and steel. She uses a MIG welder to create figural and abstract metal assemblages using found objects. Her work contains iconic and totemic imagery, reflecting her love for primitive and tribal art. She also practices psychotherapy in San Rafael, California, with an emphasis on adolescents and couples therapy.

Learn more about Karen's psychotherapy practice. View sculpture by Karen above.



After obtaining her bachelors degree, Jim and Karen's daughter, Genevieve, is working toward her masters degree in education at the University of San Francisco.  Prior to leaving home for her university studies, Genevieve often assisted in her dad's studio, helping to mount paintings, paint walls, and provide constructive critiques of the ongoing work. She also created her own work in collage and painting. She loves winter skiing, reading, and her friends. She works as a teaching assistant and teacher in an elementary school.