Born on April 7, 1898, in Sussex, England, Robert David Symons was the son of a painter and of a musician. He came to Canada as a teenager to work on a ranch in Maple Creek. Following active service in World War I, Symons returned to western Canada, where he became a rancher, and then a game warden in 1927. In 1945, Symons returned to ranching northwest of Fort St. John, BC, retiring in 1961 to his home and studio in Silton, Saskatchewan, on the shores of Last Mountain Lake. Throughout his life he sketched, painted, and took notes on the world around him.
Starting in 1951, Symons worked periodically as a commissioned artist for the Saskatchewan Museum of Natural History (now the Royal Saskatchewan Museum) in Regina, painting many of the famous dioramas and habitat displays. He also taught art classes, wrote, and gave lectures on natural history, art, and literature. Upon retirement, Symons worked to bring his experiences to life through painting, drawing, and writing. He wrote and illustrated many well-known books, including Many Trails in 1963, The Broken Snare in 1970, and Where the Wagon Led in 1973. His artwork is prized by collectors, and has been exhibited in the National Gallery of Canada. In 1970, he was awarded an honorary degree by the University of Regina. He died in Silton on February 1, 1973.