Jim Budish aims to capture and reflect back out the ‘Joie de Vivre, or enjoyment of life, he believes lives within all of us. He does this through his whimsical bronze sculptures of special creatures and the human form. But his early career was much different.

Before tapping into what he believes is his true soul style, Jim sculpted representational, figurative works. But he quickly realized sculpting “photographs” in bronze was not his heart’s calling. It was then he decided to explore and start having more fun. The result was his iconic, and now well-recognized, whimsical style.

Jim has seemingly lived a life of following his heart. He knew from an early age he wanted to be a sculptor. “I just said ‘I want to do this.’ It called me.”

But he suspects it may also have been part of his DNA. His mom, after retiring, went on to become a very accomplished painter –– long after Jim had started his sculpting career.

This year, Jim makes his return to the Celebration of Fine Art after taking more than a decade break from the show to raise his sons. And what the Chicago-based artist is most looking forward to (aside from the weather) is the community. Read more about Jim…

How long have you been sculpting?

My entire life. As a kid, I loved working with clay and sculpting. It’s been a lifelong passion. As a young adult, I started classes and into adulthood, I continued that education through college. I studied at the Art Students League of Denver, which is where I took a lot of my initial classes. I also got to work with a number of world class sculptors in Loveland, Colorado, which is kind of the sculpting capital of the world.

How did you come up with your unique style?

I started out sculpting very representational, but realized I wasn’t having fun. So, I started experimenting and exploring. I wanted to bring whimsy into my work. There’s enough serious sculpture out there.

What is the most rewarding thing about your work?

Making people smile. I’ve got several monumental pieces at children’s hospitals throughout the country and I’ve gotten calls about some of the children in those hospitals and heard some of my work brightened their day. That is my reward.

What is the most challenging?

Really the only challenging part is the business aspect of it. The logistics of shipping big pieces. But in terms of sculpture, there really isn’t anything challenging. After all these years, I pretty much have it all down to a science and I love the creative aspect of it. Once created in clay, the process itself is pretty foolproof.

Has your work evolved over the years?

Absolutely. But at this point in my career, I’d consider what I do to be a pretty recognizable style. Even if I do a piece –– a person or animal–– I’ve never done before, people recognize it as my work. It’s comfortable for me because it comes out of my soul.