Gary Faigin was born on September 17, 1950 in Detroit, Michigan. His parents were both teachers. As a college student during the Vietnam War, Faigin dropped out of the Residential College at the University of Michigan to travel to San Francisco to participate in the communal movement, at its high point in the early 1970s.
In 1976, determined to train as a realist artist, he hitchhiked from the West Coast to New York City specifically to study with famed anatomist, Robert Beverly Hale, at the Art Students League of New York. He remained a student at the League for 4 years, focusing on figure drawing, anatomy, and perspective. In addition, he pursued art studies part-time at the National Academy of Design, School of Visual Arts and Parsons School of Design.
In 1979, Faigin travelled to Paris where he spent a year studying at the famed École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts. He currently resides in Seattle with his wife Pamela Belyea (m. 1976) and two children (b. 1991 and 1996).
Upon the retirement of Hale in 1983, Faigin was asked to teach his Figure Drawing class at the League, a program he presented continuously over the next decade. Concurrently, he taught Perspective and Portrait Drawing at the newly founded New York Academy of Art, the National Academy School of Design, the School of Visual Art and Parsons School of Design. He opened his own studio in Hells Kitchen and began personal work focused on self-portraits and still lifes.
In the summer of 1984, Faigin began a ten-year summer residence in Santa Fe, NM, a locale that afforded him exposure to the burgeoning realist painting scene of the Southwest. His works included pastel landscapes and printing making with shows at the Frank Croft and the Realist Art Galleries.
In 1989, Faigin and his wife decided to open a summer art school in Santa Fe; the next summer saw the launch of the “Academy of Realist Art” at St. John’s College with two sessions and 44 students. That school grew into the current year-round Gage Academy of Art in Seattle. Faigin currently serves as Artistic Director of Gage, as well as leading annual Gage art tours to European and American museums, and teaching painting and drawing. A now-famous 2005  by Thomas Struth captured Faigin lecturing in front of Las Meninas at the Prado to a group of Gage tour participants.
In 1990, Faigin's The Artist's Complete Guide to Facial Expression was published. It is now in its 17th printing and has also been published in French, Italian, German, Japanese, Russian, and Korean. While the book is employed by artists, it is also popular with digital animators, cartoonists, portrait artists, forensic artists, puppeteers, actors, and art directors, as well as psychologists and plastic surgeons; in the extra features of Shrek, The Artist's Guide is seen in several shots during interviews. In 2010, Faigin and Barbara Mones, the Creative Director of the Computer Animation Lab at the University of Washington, organized an interdisciplinary research team to explore the way human expressions are interpreted on stylized (i.e. animated) faces.
The Frye Art Museum in Seattle presented a retrospective exhibition of Faigin's work in 2001. The show included work from the "Moving Pictures" still life series, as well as the "City of Billboard" series. Another ongoing series of paintings have featured houses in peril, a sort of foreshadowing of the mortgage crisis of 2008. In 2006, Faigin's Seattle studio was featured in the first public demonstration of Microsoft's Photosynth using the details in his paintings and drawings to show off its high-resolution capabilities. In 2012, Faigin completed a 16-foot mural for Temple Beth Am in Seattle on the subject of the festivals of the Jewish year.
- Graves, Jen: "A Dickens of a Character",The Stranger Slog, 4/27/07
- Ament,Deloris Tarzan: "The Timing Was Right for Artists Faigin, Belyea", Seattle Times, 1/16/92
- Graves, Jen: "Art School Confidential", The Stranger, 4/25/07
- Josslin, Victoria: "Faigin's fabulous fruit show his skills as art historian", Seattle P-I, 7/26/2001
- Speers, Tom: "KCTS Currents: Gary Faigin at the Frye",KCTS TV, Seattle, 2001
- "Contemporary Realism", Southwest Art, December 2001
- Hackett, Regina: "Gimme (back) Shelter: Art for the housing crisis", Seattle P-I, 11/26/2008