Byrne was born in Paisley and studied at Glasgow School of Art from 1958 to 1963. He has worked as an artist, playwright and theatre designer. Byrne uses a variety of styles and techniques as he has always tried to avoid being associated with particular styles or movements in art. In 1967, following a lack of success with London galleries, Byrne produced a series of paintings under the guise of 'Patrick', which he claimed was the name of his seventy-two year old father. These were met with interest, much to the artist's amusement.