Born in Cardiff Howard Coles studied art at Cardiff College of Art, breaking his studies for a period of National Service in the Royal Navy. During a career concentrated on education he spent time living in Singapore, teaching at the Alexander Grammar School. It was here that he became interested in Malay woodcuts with their pared down images that were able to convey gesture and feeling. On returning to the UK he taught at Rufford Comprehensive in Kirby, on the Wirral before becoming Head of Art and Design at Hope University Liverpool.
As someone who throughout his life has had a fascination for that strip of shore that fringes the sea, it is not surprising that the coastal landscape has long been a principal source of inspiration for Howard Coles. Born within a stone's throw of the tidal flats that faced the docks in Cardiff, he became ensnared by the tide and the tidemarks of a typical industrial waterway. This was his playground. This is where an appreciation grew of the way seasons and weather shaped the coast, and the effect of light on water and shore.
Now, having lived on the relatively narrow peninsula of Llŷn for over twenty years, it is still difficult to escape from the sights and sounds of the sea. For an artist who might be more sensitive than most to the tempo and dynamics of a landscape bounded by tidal waters he admits that it would be unnatural to feel diffident about the proximity of the sea, the vulnerability of its shoreline and the weather patterns which distinguishes this from the more mountainous areas of Snowdonia nearby.