Richard Iams was born in 1950 in West Virginia, near the borders of Ohio and Pennsylvania, an area of coal mines, steel mills, and chemical companies. His parents worked in a toy factory. Iams attended Marietta College in southeastern Ohio, intending to major in mathematics until he was exposed to his first art class as a sophomore. Initially, he considered it just another avenue to explore, but exposure to the works of such artists such as John Singer Sargent, Sidney Laurence, and Richard Schmid brought forth the desire to learn and master the fundamental disciplines of fine art. He graduated in 1972 with degrees in art and education.
While teaching junior high and community college art courses for five years, Iams wanted to have more time to paint. He moved to Texas where he committed himself to paint full-time. Although trained as a portrait painter he began using oils and painting Texas landscapes which launched his name in the art world.
In 1979 Iams moved to Tucson, Arizona where his wife was offered a teaching position at The University of Arizona and he began to paint the Grand Canyon. Using watercolor sketches, pencil drawings, photos, and written notes, Iams and his wife travel from Alaska to Africa gathering as much painting subject material as possible. It was while traveling in Africa that Iams expanded his landscape material by also painting wildlife. Today Iams’ home and studio, just East of Tucson, Arizona, offers him views of the four Mountain ranges surrounding the Tucson Valley.