Born in Pueblo, Colorado, Van Buren, a distant relative of US President Martin Van Buren, grew up in Kansas City, Missouri. At the Kansas City Star, he learned cartooning from comic strip artist Harry Wood. In 1913, Van Buren moved to New York, where he illustrated for Puck, Life and The Saturday Evening Post. Van Buren served in the old Seventh Regiment (107th Infantry) of the 27th New York Empire Division in World War I. He was art editor of the Division's magazine, Gas Attack. An artistry and illustrative flair were evident in his cartoons, and The New York Times compared his artwork in the magazine with that of the famous British illustrator, Bruce Bairnsfather. After military service, he drew cartoons for The Saturday Evening Post, The New Yorker and Esquire. As a freelance illustrator, he contributed to numerous magazines, including Collier's, Redbook and McCall's. He was a founder of the National Society of Magazine Illustrators.