Ronald Charles Bell was born on Kangaroo Island off the coast of South Australia in 1918 to Charles and Grace Bell. The fifth of six children, he showed considerable artistic talent at an early age and was sent to Adelaide for schooling. After matriculating from Adelaide Boys High School in 1934, he attended the South Australian School of Arts and Crafts from 1936 to 1939, receiving an Art Teacher’s Certificate as a Teacher of Art and Drawing. He began lecturing there in 1940, shifting to teaching art at Norward Junior Technical Public School in 1942, the same year he married Elfreda Wilhelmina Gleeson. Over the next 13 years, they produced three children: Josephine, Timothy and Simon. In 1954, he moved back to Adelaide Boys High school as Senior Master in Art, before being appointed Senior Lecturer in Art at the newly formed Western Teachers College in 1961, which eventually became part of the University of South Australia. In this role, he was instrumental in producing the next generation of art teachers and artists (including Dieter Engler and Geof Pearce), as he was in charge of art teacher training for all of South Australia until he retired at 65 in 1983.
Throughout his career and in retirement he was a prolific landscape painter, proficient in oils, acrylics and water colours. A fixture on the Adelaide Festival of Arts scene, he exhibited his work every two years from 1945 until his wife died in 1991. He won numerous local prizes and awards throughout his life and his work has been represented at the Art Gallery of South Australia, Wentworth Gallery, the Reeves Art Collection in England, the Alice Springs Art Gallery and in the private collections of many people, including the late Sir Bernard Heinze, Dame Pattie Maie Menzies and Lady Constance Jean Bonython. He continued painting until his death in 2004 at the age of 86.