Innes was born in Edinburgh and studied at Gray's School of Art, Aberdeen, and at Edinburgh College of Art. Following a Scottish Arts Council residency in Amsterdam in 1987, Innes began to reduce the figurative content in his work. The 'Identified Forms' paintings, begun in 1990, are his first major series of works. In these, as in most of his paintings, the artist removes paint from the canvas using turpentine, as a poignant way of suggesting human existence. Innes was short-listed for the Turner Prize in 1995 and won the NatWest Prize for Painting in 1998 and the Jerwood Painting Prize in 2002. He has exhibited both nationally and internationally from Edinburgh to New York and Hong Kong. Innes lives and works in Edinburgh.