Before Campbell was an artist he was a steelworker and later an engineer in Scotland. He then began to study art at the Glasgow School of Art and came to be associated with the artist group the New Glasgow Boys. His art is often esoteric, full of personal visual language, but usually his figures convey notions of movement, joy and energy. His art became very popular during the 1980s in New York City; during his rather short artistic career he exhibited in England, Scotland and New York and his works were collected internationally. Later in life he became somewhat reclusive; his untimely death in 2007 was due to a ruptured appendix.