Vera Gartley began her art studies at the Alberta College of Art and Design in the late 1950s. She holds a BFA from the University of Calgary (1972) and a Ph.D. in Painting Practice and Methodology from the Union Institute of Cincinnati, Ohio (1987).

She is based in Calgary, where she taught at ACAD from 1964 until her retirement in 2011. Gartley has received numerous grants and awards, including the Alberta Culture Study Grant; Canada Council Exploration Grant; and was a nominee for a YWCA Woman of Distinction Award in the category of Arts and Culture.