The young Raeburn Van Buren showed an early talent for drawing. Born in Pueblo, Colorado, he grew up in Kansas City, Missouri, and joined the art staff of the Kansas City Star immediately after graduation. After four years as a sketch artist and learning the cartooning profession from Harry Wood, Van Buren moved to New York to study and to do freelance illustrations for Puck, Life and The Saturday Evening Post. During World War I, he served in the old Seventh Regiment (107th Infantry) of the 27th "New York Empire" Division, and was art editor of the Division's magazine, Gas Attack.
Back in civil life, Van Buren became one of the country's leading magazine illustrators, contributing to The Saturday Evening Post, The New Yorker and Esquire as well as Collier's, Redbook and McCall's. On 12 July 1937, cartoonist Al Capp handed Van Buren the drawing duties for "Abbie an' Slats." He drew this strip about a rural spinster and her young cousin for over forty years, until his retirement on 30 January 1971. The strip appeared in about 400 newspapers and was written by Elliot Caplin from 1945. From 1947, Van Buren was assisted by Andy Sprague.