Strong studied at the San Francisco Art Institute with Elmer Bischoff, Richard Diebenkorn, Jack Jefferson and Frank Lobdell. He was influenced by Lobdell and Clyford Still, who he met and studied with in 1961 while Still was teaching as a guest instructor at the University of Colorado. Strong “developed a variety of approaches to the central problem of balancing the tense organic shapes, richly worked textures and strong colors of Abstract Expressionism with the bold, emblematic forms and rigorous frequently symmetrical geometric structures of contemporary Formalism.”

He studied at Skowhegan School of Art, where he became friends with Bischoff. Strong then met Hassel Smith on a Fullbright scholarship to England in 1963. For the next year, he traveled through Europe where he saw the works of Blake, Goya and Fra Angelico. In the late 1960s, Strong taught at San Francisco State University. He began teaching at College of Notre Dame in 1970, where he founded and curated exhibitions for the College of Notre Dame Art Gallery throughout the 1970s. In 1982 he received a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship, and in 1990, Strong co-founded the Peter and Madeleine Martin Foundation for the Creative Arts in San Francisco, with Madeleine Dimond Martin.