Herbert Ariss was born in Guelph, Ontario in 1916. He was the youngest of six children, his large family was supported by his father, who was a millwright. At the age of four, his family moved to Toronto, where his father took a job in a casket company and later started his own company, unfortunately during the depression his fathers company ceased to exist. Herbert attended Howard Park Public School, and began drawing at an early age. His drawings were recognized by many teachers as good examples for other students.
In 1931, he started creating cartoons. He studied for one year at the Ontario College of Art in 1939 taking evening classes, and supported himself with a day job. In 1940, he took a job in the Drafting Department of Turnbull Elevators later joining another company as a design assistant on billboards. In 1942, he was drafted into the Army and assigned to the Engineering Corps. Two years after that he was shipped to England as a topographical survey artist. He was an art teacher at Beal Secondary School for 30 years where he was responsible for establishing Beal as one of Canada's foremost art schools.
In 1961, Ariss received a Canada Council grant and went to study in England where he was influenced by the work of Picasso and Henry Moore. Ariss worked in many media he was a sculptor, painter and muralist. His work in painting and sculpture were often representational, he tended to create works that were influenced by surrealism in the late 1960s.
He was a member of the Canadian Society of Painters in Water Colour, the Canadian Group of Painters, the Ontario Society of Artists, the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts and the Canadian Society of Graphic Artists. Later in life he was the Head of the Art Department at Beal Technical School, London, Ontario.