Ralph J. McDonald was internationally known before he created his first Santa Claus painting, an idea he had entertained for many years. The first was "Christmas Party” inspired by a trip through Cades Cove in the Smoky Mountains on snowy winter day. It was painted in the tradition of Santa painters he most admired, such as Haddon Sundblom, Norman Rockwell and N.C. Wyeth.
Ralph received his formal training at the prestigious Harris School of Advertising Art in Nashville Tennessee where he specialized in illustration. After graduation he was immediately hired by one of Nashville's leading ad agencies. Later he was employed by the Methodist Publishing House where he illustrated religious books and magazines. After five years he moved on to pursue his passion for the outdoors and wildlife. It wasn’t long before he was commissioned by the governor of Tennessee to paint the official state bird, the mockingbird. He also painted the whitetail deer and the striped bass for the governor of South Carolina for their state symbols.
McDonald twice has been chosen International Artist of the Year" by Ducks Unlimited and has been the featured artist at the Southeastern Wildlife Expo and World Wildlife Expo. His prints have raised millions of dollars for conservation and has helped raise thousands in scholarships for FFA students. In 2006 was inducted into the "Legends of the Outdoor National Hall of Fame".