Bet Low was born in Gourock,Scotland. She developed an early love for landscape and the sea. In 1942, she went to Glasgow School of Art, where one of her tutors was David Donaldson, later the Queen's Limner in Scotland. After attending art school, she spent three months at Hospitalfield College of Art, Arbroath. James Cowie, the warden, stimulated her interest in literature, drama, poetry, politics and philosophy, and her early passion for ideas and discussion remained with her all her life. She was a painter who was best known for her deceptively simple watercolours of Scottish landscapes. She also produced expressionist drawings of post-war Glasgow, portraits, powerfully atmospheric oil paintings and, later, extremely detailed and haunting pencil drawings.
She supported herself with odd jobs at Unity Theatre and illustrations for periodicals, painting portraits of actors and stage crew. Her first set was for Ena Lamont Stewart's Men Should Weep. Unity Theatre's resident designer was Tom McDonald, who later became her husband.
In 1946, she joined the Clyde Group of Writers and Artists, whose manifesto was to take art to the people; she helped to put on exhibitions and poetry readings all over Glasgow. In her own time she wandered the streets producing wonderful drawings. She exhibited with the Society of Scottish Independent Artists, had paintings accepted by the Royal Glasgow Institute and took part in shows at the New Art Club founded by J D Fergusson, the colourist, and Margaret Morris.
They befriended Low and gave support to her and to other independents when, in 1956, they organised the first open-air exhibition at weekends on the railings of the Botanic Gardens. In the early 1960s there were very few galleries in Glasgow. John Taylor and Bet Low obtained premises rent-free and, with a few pounds between them, built partitions and painted walls. She wrote scores of letters to critics, the BBC, collectors, printers and others, and they invited Cyril Gerber, friend, enthusiast and collector of paintings, to join them.
The New Charing Cross Gallery opened in 1963, the three directors putting on an exhibition each month for more than five years. Its importance for the artistic life of Glasgow cannot be exaggerated and its success led to the opening of two more small galleries. When it closed in 1968, Gerber went on to open the Compass Gallery.
Low had an abiding love of landscape and a particular affinity with Orkney; for a number of years, she and her family spent summers on Hoy. She was a friend of George Mackay Brown and collaborated with him on a poster poem entitled Orkney, the Whale Islands. She has paintings in the collection of the Pier Arts Centre, Stromness.Low never ceased to exhibit her work and it is in many collections, public and private.
She joined the Glasgow Group Society in the mid-1960s and thereafter took part in most exhibitions. In 1985, a retrospective exhibition was mounted at the Third Eye Centre, and she also went to Warsaw, where she took part in an exhibition with John Taylor. The University of Glasgow awarded her a DLitt in 1999 and the Glasgow Art Club, of which she was a member, gave her a dinner later that year.