Li Deren was born in Yuci, Shanxi Province, in 1946. After his graduation from middle school in 1962, he returned to the countryside, studying art in his spare time. He continued his art studies when he entered the Taiyuan Heavy Machinery School in 1965. At that time, he was artistically active in the Dazhai Office of the Shanxi Agricultural University and the propaganda section of the Taiyuan Heavy Machinery Plant. In 1978, he entered the Art Research Institute of Shanxi University, focussing on Chinese painting.
His specialities are traditional scenery and figurative painting, and art history.