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Dorothy Elsie Knowles (Perehudoff) was born on April 7, 1927 in Unity, Saskatchewan. She studied biology at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon between 1944 and 1948. After she graduated, she was persuaded to take a six-week summer course given by the University of Saskatchewan at Emma Lake. The course was taught by Reta Cowley and James Frederick Finley from the Ontario College of Art. Under their guidance, Dorothy began her painting career. Dorothy Knowles later went to Europe to paint, and was inspired and influenced by many European artists. Most importantly, she discovered the importance of working directly from nature.