Wells was born in London and grew up in Sussex. He took evening classes in art while studying medicine in London from 1925 to 1930 and later worked as a doctor on the Isles of Scilly for nine years, saving money so he would be able to work full time as an artist. In 1928 Wells met the artists Ben and Winifred Nicholson as well as Christopher Wood. Ben Nicholson, in particular, was very encouraging and became a close friend. Through him, Wells later met Naum Gabo and Barbara Hepworth, working briefly as Hepworth's assistant in 1950 to 1951.