Carlos Vierra was the son of a Portuguese sailor and was born and raised in Moss Landing, California, near Monterey. He studied art in San Fransisco at the Mark Hopkins Institute and determined to go to New York for further study, boarded an old wooden ship that sailed around Cape Horn. In New York, Vierra finally achieved success as a cartoonist and marine painter. Due to health issues, at the advice of his doctor, Vierra traveled to Santa Fe, New Mexico, where he opened a photography studio on the Plaza. He regained his health, became successful at marketing photographs, worked at his painting, and pressured to keep the architectural integrity of the city, and the surrounding pueblos.
In Santa Fe, Vierra found himself the only western artist in a compact, fascinating town of varied ethnic and cultural makeup. In 1914 he was commissioned by Frank Springer to paint a pueblo scene, which was the beginning of a process that would eventually lead to a concerted preservation effort being launched to maintain the historical architecture of the Santa Fe area. With Edgar Hewitt, Vierra was involved in restoring the Palace of the Governors, and he excelled at mural work, completing scenes of St. Francis with Kenneth Chapman for the new museum murals begun by Donald Beauregard. As he was the first white artist in Santa fe, he is also credited with forming the Santa Fe Art Colony.