An Artist With a Mission

In his latest series, Howard Anderson ’71 created paintings of the 21 California missions.

Thirty years ago, Howard Anderson ’71 created an illustration of the Mission Santa Clara bell tower for the invitations for his wedding to Kathy Habing ’72. The two met at SCU and got married at Mission Santa Clara in 1974.

Then, after a 20-year award-winning commercial career as a designer and art director for the Los Angeles Times and NBC, Anderson returned to the subject of missions in his latest work. “I had met every famous person I would ever want to and had done every kind of TV Guide ad imaginable, and it was time,” he explains. “At the same time I had recently converted to Catholicism and felt a need to express something new in my art. I wanted to create art that could reflect spiritual values without being off-putting to the secular world. I saw the missions as a way.”

In 1997, Anderson began with a painting of SCU called “Graduation Day, Santa Clara” (at left), and the following year, he embarked on a project to paint all 21 California missions. He recently completed the series with a depiction of Mission Santa Clara (a detail of which is shown on the cover). “I spent a lot of time in the Mission Gardens not studying 30-plus years ago,” jokes Anderson, “and it seems the same to me now as it did then. I saved this view for last in completing my 21 giclée editions.”

[For giclée editions, water-based inks are applied to paper using a precise digital capture of the original image. “Giclée prints are known for their brilliant color range and the details and subtleties they capture,” Anderson says on his Web site.]

Winter 2004 Cover

Challenges and rewards

Capturing California’s missions in oil has many challenges, Anderson says. One hurdle was the lack of deadlines in this self-directed project. “In advertising you inevitably run out of time, so you do your best under the circumstances,” he says. But here, “I was forced to do my best without the qualifications. This was real pressure.” Anderson adds that it was also challenging to find the right style to tell the Mission stories, as was his return to oil painting after a 30-year hiatus.

“Fidelity to detail was also a great concern,” he adds. “Even after taking hundreds of photos at a site, I would get back to my studio and inevitably I would have missed some detail—and I would obsess endlessly over these little details.”

But, he says, doing the series had its rewards, too. “I loved traveling and visiting each mission,” he explains. “I also love photography and it was a great joy to photograph every nook and cranny of these sites…It was a time of constant discovery and adventure to me.”

His visits also taught him some lessons about California missions. “I saw that each mission continues to make a unique contribution to the California landscape today,” he says. “Most are active parishes or civic centers, and a few are state parks. I was interested in showing the missions in sort of a contemporary folk art style with people and events and things alive at the missions as they are 200 years later.”

Extracurricular art

At the time Anderson was enrolled at SCU, there was no art major offered, but there were plenty of opportunities for this budding artist. “It seems I had every art job on campus,” Anderson recalls. “I worked in the Associated Students Publicity Office designing posters and flyers, worked at the de Saisset Museum, and was an editorial cartoonist at The Santa Clara,” he says. He even illustrated a cartoon supplement called “Alice in Broncoland” for the 1970 yearbook.

Despite the fact that he majored in economics (“It scares other artists when they find out I can multiply and divide in my head,” he notes), he says these extracurricular art opportunities helped him get work right after graduation. “Because of my work in the publicity office and at the de Saisset, I was able to get a graphics job immediately and stayed with that career through the Los Angeles Times and NBC,” he says. “The cartoon style that I now have is an outgrowth of all the illustrations I would do for all the SCU publications.”

Ties to SCU

Anderson says his ties to SCU are strong, both professionally and personally. He donates a portion of his profits from his paintings to support SCU and other California missions. Five percent of the proceeds from the sale of each limited edition goes to the California Missions Foundation. And with his first SCU print, “Graduation Day, Santa Clara,” he donated 20 percent of the proceeds to SCU for scholarships. He recently designated the “Graduation Day” print as a “Scholarship Print Edition,” and he will donate 50 percent of Web sales proceeds to the SCU alumni scholarship fund.

In addition, Anderson stocks his Web site,, with a wealth of information about, links to, and photos of the California missions. Anderson, who like many youngsters in this state studied California missions in fourth grade, says his site is visited and utilized by many children doing research for their mission reports.

On a more personal note, Anderson’s father, O. Robert Anderson, taught accounting at SCU from 1942 to 1971 (“My father taught [SCU President] Paul Locatelli accounting,” says Anderson), so Anderson says he grew up playing in the Mission Gardens. Plus, two of his sisters and one of his brothers attended SCU.

Anderson adds that many of his and his wife’s closest friends are SCU alumni. And, of course, SCU is where he met his wife, Kathy, who was recognized earlier this year by the SCU Alumni Association with its highest honor, the Ignatian Award, for her community service with the Inner City Tutoring Program in Los Angeles. “She exemplifies the ideals Santa Clara and the Jesuits embrace,” he says. “She is very much a person for others.”

For more information on Howard Anderson’s paintings, limited-edition prints, and cards, visit .

— Elizabeth Kelley Gillogly ’93 is the associate editor of Santa Clara Magazine.

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