Encouraged at an early age by her family to study art, Heward began to take lessons at the Art Association of Montreal (AAM) school, including an introduction to drawing with Brymner, in about 1909. She twice received awards for the excellence of her work, in 1911 and 1912. Her studies interrupted during World War I, she took them up again under Brymner, and then Randolph S. Hewton, who had succeeded the former in 1921. Once again, her work received awards. In 1925, she went to Paris, where she studied at the Académie Colarossi with the painter Charles Guérin. She then became the student of the painter, illustrator and engraver Bernard Naudin at the École des Beaux-Arts. In 1928-1929, she studied at the Académie scandinave in Paris under the direction of the Norwegian painter Per Krohg. Returning to Canada, in 1929 she received the prestigious Willingdon Prize awarded by the Governor General of Canada.
Dating from the 1930s and 1940s, these quick sketches drawn from life are among Heward’s later works. She favoured female nudes, emphasizing the lines of the body and using hatching to delineate its contours. She also executed studies of men, including the sketch in the Museum’s collection. In addition, beginning in 1935, Heward became interested in depicting Black women. Her paintings of such nudes in exotic landscapes now appear inappropriate, as Heward painted only one work showing a white female nude in a natural setting. In these studio drawings devoid of artifice, the Black women’s reserve sets them apart from Heward’s other—faceless and more provocative—nudes.