Born in Dunedin, Lusk studied at the Dunedin School of Art from 1933 to 1938 and was part of a close-knit circle of students including Colin McCahon, Anne Hamblett and Kathleen Salmond. It was through the teaching of Charlton Edgar with his penchant for landscape, that Lusk worked her own interpretations of Central Otago, the West Coast and Queenstown.
In 1941 Lusk moved to Christchurch and began painting with "The Group". She was active on the Christchurch art scene, eventually becoming President of the C.S.A. and in 1968 was appointed lecturer at the Canterbury School of Fine Arts where she remained until her retirement in 1981.
The 1960s, apart from changing her life with her teaching commitment, also brought changes in her painting. She concentrated on watercolour and won the Hayes Prize in 1966 with such a work. Beginning a series of paintings based on Onekaka in the Nelson District in the mid 1960s, her forms were no longer delineated. Using the inherent qualities of watercolour they merged and absorbed one another.
Doris Lusk is regarded as a leading person in the New Zealand landscape school having a considerable amount of influence, particularly on the young artists in Christchurch in the 1960s. Her work is representative of the New Zealand branch of international regional realistic painting and shows her concern for the New Zealand landscape.
Lusk is represented in most of the public galleries throughout the country and in 1972 the Dowse Art Gallery mounted a comprehensive retrospective of her work.