Kate Whiteford was born in Glasgow and studied at the local art school, she subsequently studied art history at Glasgow University. In 1977 she was a British Council Scholar in Painting in Rome. Whilst there she saw the frescoes at Pompeii and Herculaneum and became fascinated by the visual languages of ancient civilizations. In particular the freshness and seeming timelessness of the iconography of the frescoes led her to explore in her work the possibilities of universal significance in the symbols and markings of earlier cultures – fish, bird, circle, chevron, lines – especially those of Pictish origin.