James Boren was born on September 26, 1921, in Waxahachie, Texas. He lived in several towns in south and west Texas, including Lamesa, Big Spring, Sweetwater, Snyder, and San Antonio. After receiving his master of fine arts degree in 1951 from the Kansas City Art Institute, he taught fine arts for two years at St. Mary's College, Leavenworth, Kansas. From 1956 to 1965, he worked as a concept illustrator for the Martin-Marietta Company in Denver, Colorado. Boren's philosophy of art always centered on traditional values. “Good drawing, good color, an understanding of the basic design and elements such as form, pattern, value, line, and texture are essential to producing good art,” he said. “This is the foundation on which an artist should build.”
In 1965, Boren became the first art director of the National Cowboy Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. He provided expertise and leadership in assembling the Hall of Fame's fine-art collections and exhibits. He left the position to devote all of his time to his painting career.
He became a member of the Cowboy Artists of America in 1968, and later served two terms as its president and secretary. He also served on the original board of trustees of the museum formerly known as the Cowboy Artists of America Museum in Kerrville, Texas. Boren was awarded twelve gold medals and nine silver medals in annual competitions in Cowboy Artists of America annual shows. In 1976, he was named Texas Artist of the Year. In 1980, he participated in a show at the Grand Palais in Paris, and in 1981, the Chinese government invited him to participate in the first Western art show held in Peking, China.
In 1989, in the annual competition of the Academy of Western Art, Boren won the gold medal in watercolor, which he called his “most favored medium.” “It offers the greatest spontaneity of expression of any painting medium,” he said, and “lends itself to beautiful transparent passages or to completely opaque gouache techniques, or a combination of the two.”
Buffalo Bill Historical Center; Desert Caballeros Western Museum; National Center for American Western Art; National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum; Sangre de Cristo Arts Center