Ronald Forbes studied at Edinburgh College of Art from 1964 to 1968, and was awarded an S.E.D postgraduate scholarship there from 1968 to 1969. He later studied education at Jordanhill College, Glasgow, from 1970 to 71.


He was Head of Painting at the Crawford School of Art, Cork (1974–78) and then at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design, University of Dundee (1995–2001), where he also established and directed the Masters Course in Public Art and Design and the MFA Course from 1983–1995. He was a lecturer at Glasgow School of Art (1979–2003), and is Honorary Visiting Professor of Fine Art at the University of Abertay, Dundee, (2003–present).


He has also served on the boards of a range of trusts and arts charities including Hospitalfield Arts, Perthshire Public Arts Trust, Dundee Public Art Programme, Workshop and Artist Studio Provision Scotland (WASPS) and the Glasgow League of Artists.


Throughout his career, Forbes has undertaken a number of artist residencies in Scotland, The Netherlands and Australia, including the Leverhulme Senior Art Fellowship at the University of Strathclyde, 1973–74, Artist in Residence in Livingston New Town, 1978–80, the Scottish Arts Council Amsterdam Studio Award 1980, Artist in Residence at the University of Tasmania Art School, Hobart, Australia in 1995, and the Leverhulme Trust Artist in Residence at the Scottish Crop Research Institute (now the James Hutton Institute) 2006–08.


Forbes has been curator of a number of exhibitions such as ‘Focus on Film’ at the Royal Scottish Academy, Edinburgh, in 2014 and the Celtic Connections Festival Visual Art Exhibition, Glasgow, in 1994 and 1995. He has also been founder and organiser of artists groups including the Glasgow League of Artists in 1971.