Justino Herrera (Conchití Pueblo) began painting while at school in Santa Fe from 1937 to 1940. He was drafted into the U.S. Army and served for three years during World War II. Clearly the creation of the atomic bomb in the nearby town of Los Alamos had a lasting effect on Herrera as indicated by his painting That Is No Longer Our Smoke Sign. In the 1940s he wrote to a collector studying his work:
I figured a plan to do while I was in the army when I come [sic] home. I'd marry my sweetheart and have our own home on my farm, raise stock and I could keep painting, too. Well, it happened. We got married and we had a little girl. Couple months later my wife took sick … and she left me and my little baby daughter to raise. I am employed as a farmer here at St. Michael's Indian School.
Andrew Connors Pueblo Indian Watercolors: Learning by Looking, A Study Guide (Washington, D.C.: National Museum of American Art, 1993).