Born in Montclair, New Jersey, John Howard moved as an infant with his parents to California. At the University of California at Berkeley, he majored in engineering and English and then enrolled at the Oakland College of Arts and Crafts. Later he continued his studies at the Art Students League in New York City. In 1926, he held his first exhibit at San Francisco’s Modern Gallery. He lived for many years in Monterey but later returned to San Francisco. Most of Howard’s work focuses on people in the Monterey area engaged in labor and industrial pursuits.