Howard Terpning was born in Oak Park, Illinois. His mother was an interior decorator, and his father worked for the railroad. He grew up in the Midwest living in Iowa, Missouri and Texas as well as Illinois. As a boy he liked to draw and knew by the age of seven that he wanted to be an artist. At age 15, he became fascinated with the West and Native Americans when he spent the summer camping and fishing with a cousin near Colorado. When he turned 17, he enlisted in the Marine Corps and served from 1945 through 1946. He was stationed in China for nine months.
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