James Budd Dixon was born to a well-to-do family in San Francisco, California. In the 1920s, he studied art at the University of California, Berkeley, where he was an illustrator for several campus publications. He served in the Army Air Forces in World War II,after which he returned to studying art under the G.I. Bill, this time at the California School of Fine Arts (CSFA, now the San Francisco Art Institute). Among his classmates at CSFA were other emerging Bay Area Abstract Expressionists, including Richard Diebenkorn, John Hultberg, Frank Lobdell, Walter Kuhlman, and George Stillman.They became known as the "Sausalito Six" because most lived in the waterfront town of Sausalito just north of San Francisco (Dixon was one of those who did not, but he frequently met there with the others).
Throughout his life, Dixon supported himself in various ways, including as a commercial artist and an art director.In 1950 he became an instructor at CSFA; among his students there were Sonia Gechtoff, Byron McClintock, and Robert S. Neuman
Most of his work is in the collection of the Oakland Museum (California),but a few pieces are held by the Library of Congress and the Smithsonian American Art Museum, among other institutions. A small collection of papers, photographs, and slides of Dixon's work is held by the Archives of American Art.Wikipedia