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James McKelvie Thomson was born in Barrhead, Renfrew, on 5th March 1888, to Jane Thomson (née McKelvie) and George Thomson, a journeyman wood turner. Thomson attended classes in life drawing, design, and drawing and painting at The Glasgow School of Art from 1909 to 1915 and 1919/20, while working as a decorator. He enlisted with the Highland Light Infantry during the First World War and appears on The Glasgow School of Art's World War One Roll of Honour. He died in Paisley in 1965.
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