Joyce Gunn Cairns was born in Bonnyrigg near Edinburgh, and has been based in the capital since 1977. After taking a degree in German and Comparative Religion, she studied at Edinburgh College of Art. She began to exhibit in the late 1980s. Her paintings and drawings are intensely personal, exploring her own emotional and physical history and using her own body as a point of departure. She also produces portrait drawings, usually of friends, who she likes to sit for her on a regular basis over a period of time.