Born in Dublin, Gráinne Dowling spent much of her childhood living in England. She returned to Ireland in 1960 and in 1963 entered the College of Art, Kildare Street (now the National College of Art and Design), graduating in 1968 with a Diploma in Painting. In 1968 she received a scholarship to study printmaking in the Folkeswang Schule fur Gestaltung in Essen-Werden, Germany, where she studied etching and lithography for two years.
Dowling joined the Black Church Print Studio in 1986. She has taught printmaking in the National Print Museum, Dublin and drawing studies in the National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin. Etching is her specialised area of printmaking, and the subject matter and inspiration for her work has always been a reaction to her own circumstances and physical location. She is a winner of a Taylor Award, Arnotts Portrait Award, Íontas Drawing Award, Book Cover Prize for Salmon Poetry, and a contributor to The Great Book of Ireland.
Dowling is a regular exhibitor at the RHA Annual Exhibition, Dublin; Íontas, Sligo; Claremorris Open, Mayo; Éigse,Carlow; Watercolour Society of Ireland, Dublin and numerous Black Church Print Studio exhibitions. Residencies include Annaghmakerrig (2000, 1996, 1993, 1992, 1991), Heinrich Boll House, Achill (1998, 1993) and Kiltimagh, Co.Mayo (1999). Public collections include the Haverty Trust, The Labour Party and the Office of Public Works.