There was a remarkable similarity to the couple's early histories. Both were born in Chicago, Illinois, and both moved to California when they were twelve. Both received scholarships to the Art Institute of Chicago, and both attended the University of California, though at separate campuses. After college, Alice went to work with Walter Lantz Studio, the creators of Woody Woodpecker, and Martin took work with the rival Walt Disney Studio, where he collaborated on Dumbo, Fantasia, and Pinocchio.
The pair met in 1943 when Martin, working as a creator of training films for the American military, was assigned to the Walter Lantz Studio. They were married in 1944 and resettled in Washington, D.C., where they worked on war-related projects. Following the end of the war, they moved to New York City, where a friend assisted them in finding their first job, illustrating The Fireside Book of Folk Songs. In 1952, Tony the Tiger, designed by Martin, debuted as a Kellogg's mascot. Following that, they illustrated several Little Golden Books such as The Color Kittens, and in 1982, they received the Caldecott Honor Medal for their illustration of A Visit to William Blake's Inn, by Nancy Willard. They were further recognized just two years later, when they received the Caldecott Medal for A Glorious Flight, the story of aviator Louis Blériot, the first man to fly solo across the English Channel. The Provensens have been on the New York Times list of the Ten Best Illustrated Books eight times for such classics as Our Animal Friends at Maple Hill Farm and An Owl and Three Pussycats. In all, the couple wrote and illustrated more than 50 books.
After the death of her husband in 1987, Alice went on to publish The Buck Stops Here: the Presidents of the United States. Punch in New York, published in 1991, is considered the best of Alice's solo work. The book received several honors and is dedicated to her grandson, Sean. As of 2006, she continues to write and illustrate.