Don Binney was born in Auckland in 1940, the nephew of prominent architect Roy Binney. He grew up in Parnell, taking classes with John Weeks and R B Sibson, the latter becoming his good friend and guide to field ornithology. In birdwatching, Binney says he discovered a passage into the landscape and the opportunity to develop a personal relationship with it.
Binney describes himself as a figurative painter concerned with the psychic metaphor of the environment. Working in oil, acrylic, charcoal, ink and carbon pencil, many of his works depict the west coast of Auckland and Northland, containing sea, sky, native birds, still life and occasionally, figures.
From 1958-61 Binney studied at Elam School of Fine Arts in Auckland, gaining a Diploma of Fine Arts. Binney’s tutors included Ida Eisa, James Turkington, Robert Ellis and Robin Wood. In 1963, he held his first solo exhibition at Ikon Gallery, Auckland and began teaching at Mt. Roskill Grammar School (until 1966).
In 1965 Binney was included in a survey show of New Zealand painting, held in London and in the Eight NZ Artists touring show of Australian State Galleries. In 1967 he was the recipient of a Queen Elizabeth II Arts Council travel fellowship. He has spent time living in Mexico, London and Australia but returned to teach at Elam, becoming the senior lecturer in Fine Arts in 1979.
Binney has exhibited widely throughout New Zealand and was the subject of a thirty-year survey show at the Fisher Gallery, Pakuranga in 1989. He has also had a retrospective exhibition curated by Damien Skinner that toured the country during 2003-2004. His work is represented in many public collections including those of the Auckland City Art Gallery and Te Papa Tongarewa, Museum of New Zealand.