The Montana state fair gave artist Jules Gissler her professional start. Sort of.
All things creative and artistic were always in the Billings native’s heart. But in the summer before sixth grade, she and a friend set a goal of going on every single ride at the fair.
To afford their endeavor, the girls put their talents to work. They painted rocks to resemble classic Keds sneakers—down to the trademark blue label, shoe size, rubber toe, and shoestrings. The most popular styles flaunted red or green shades or a checkered pattern.
Gissler describes putting the impeccably-finished pieces in shoeboxes they made from index cards with tissue paper. Then they went door-to-door selling their rock sneakers.
“And we were able to ride every ride at the fair that summer … well, almost every ride,” Gissler says proudly.
She may not have realized it as she was taking in the bird’s eye view from the ferris wheel, but Gissler’s career as a professional artist had commenced.
Today, Gissler’s work spans decades across several media and subjects. Her commissioned work includes whimsical takes on abstracts, landscape, food, and people.
But pet pieces that feature Gissler’s signature touches have made her work distinctive. Curlicue eyebrows and noses, a splash of sequins, and a secret line of text up the side of the canvas and over the top that bears special meaning to only the pet parent are among them.
Several crisp clear photos taken at eye level are all Gissler needs to immortalize a four-legged muse. Sometimes, clients describe their pet’s personality, which also helps Gissler incorporate that into the whimsy, whether it’s a boa, sunglasses, Hawaiian shirt, or tiara.
Gissler, who has a graphic design degree from Montana State University, has a 3-year-old golden retriever, Kinley Lorraine.
“I haven’t had time to paint her yet,” Gissler says with a giggle, acknowledging the irony.
Gissler balances her paid commissioned work with contributions of her work and time to various rescue organizations, including the Arizona Animal Welfare League and the Shemer Art Center & Museum's Furry Friends Fine Arts Festival.
Gissler’s work naturally creates a bond with the pets she paints, even though she never meets most of her subjects in real life. After many hours spent studying photos and staring into a dog’s or cat’s eyes while bringing the image and personality to canvas, Gissler feels like she knows them.
And that connection transfers to the finished piece.
“The greatest compliment is when you give them the painting and they get a little choked up,” Gissler says. “I know personally what the love bond is with a furry kid for them to get emotional … There’s nothing better than that.”
JulesGissler.com or Instagram: @julesAgissler