Howard Schleeter studied at the Albright Art School in his hometown of Buffalo, New York, though he considered himself to be primarily self-taught. He traveled to New Mexico in 1929, and later made New Mexico his permanent home. Schleeter studied under Brooks Willis during the 1930's and worked in several mediums including gouache, watercolor, oil, scratchboard and engraving. In 1936, he received a commission from the WPA and the murals created, though he worked primarily in abstraction, depict scenes from the West. He had several more commissions during 1936 and 1942 in locations including Santa Fe and Washington, D.C.
In 1945, the Encyclopedia Brittanica referred to Schleeter as "an artist's artist." He received local attention when he became one of the first artists chosen by Peter Hurd for his significant contributions to New Mexico's art. Schleeter taught at the University of New Mexico in 1950 and 1951, and was a member of the Art League of New Mexico.