Ceci Cairns was born in 1944 and grew up on an apple orchard at Merricks North on the Mornington Peninsula. As a young girl, she watched Arthur Boyd, a friend of her parents, paint Swan Flying Through an Orchard on their property. It depicts her sister Eve, and Arthur's daughter, Polly picking apples.
The process of seeing a familiar place, friends and family transformed into a work of art has always been an abiding interest for her in her painting and teaching. The orchard continues to be an inspiration and she often takes students there for painting workshops.
Ceci studied painting and drawing at the National Gallery School from 1966 to 1969 under John Brack and Ian Armstrong. Later, she spent four years in London working for Arthur Boyd as a studio assistant. She has held one man exhibitions in England, America and Australia.