Margaret Shields was born and brought up in Middlesbrough. She studied at Middlesbrough School of Art and then at the Royal College of Music in London. She returned to Middlesbrough, painting urban subjects and teaching music whilst also designing theatre sets and costumes, graphics and murals. In 1985 she moved to Saltburn-by-the-Sea and began to include her now familiar images of the sea in her work. In 1989 she was awarded the Northern Arts Bursary for Painting.