Ifor Owen was born in Cefnddwysarn, Gwynedd, Wales, on 3 July 1915. He was educated at the Boys' Grammar School in Bala and then Bangor Normal College. He trained at Bangor to be a teacher specialising in art and science; though initially he wanted to specialise in art, but was persuaded against it by his father, who believed the subject was "only for girls". At the age of 21 he became headmaster of a primary school at Croesor. He began work as an illustrator while the school was closed after an outbreak of measles. The first book he illustrated was Yr Hen Wraig Bach a'i Mochyn ("The little old lady and her pig", 1946).
In 1948 he became headmaster of a school in Gwyddelwern. In 1949, he and D. J. Williams published Hwyl ("Fun"), the first children's comic in the Welsh language. As well as running the comic, Owen wrote and illustrated many of the strips. He created several characters for the comic, including Defi John and Tomi Puw, Meri Ann, Prisila Puw and Pero Bach.
As a child, Owen had been an early member of Urdd Gobaith Cymru, a Welsh youth movement, and as an adult he helped by designing and illustrating many of their publications. Owen was seen as one of the few people who tried to bring a professional quality to illustrations for children in Wales. From 1954 to 1976 he was headmaster of Ysgol O.M. Edwards in Llanuwchllyn.
In 1961 he was invested in the White Robe Order of Gorsedd y Beirdd. In the 1977 National Eisteddfod of Wales, held in Wrexham, he was awarded the Syr T H Parry Williams Medal by the contribution to Welsh culture, and in 1985 he became the first recipient of the Mary Vaughan Jones Award for his contribution to the field of children's books in Wales. He was awarded an honorary MA by the University of Wales in 1997 for his service to Welsh culture and his contributions to Urdd Gobaith Cymru.
He was married to Winifred, who died before him, and they had three children. Owen died in Dolgellau on 22 May 2007.
- Steve Holland, Hwyl Llyfr Mawr, Bear Alley, 30 June 2012