Alice Burnette completed her first commission in junior high school. After the school secretary bought one of her pencil collages of horses that was on display in the office for $100, her homeroom teacher asked her to draw that teacher’s own horses. A professional artist was born.
These days, commission work keeps Alice quite busy as she takes on one assignment each week, doing pencil sketches of children and pets as well as watercolor pieces. She charges about $100 to $200, depending on the number of subjects, the medium, and the size of the piece. She also hosts painting parties for children and adults through her church. Her commission business is called The Looking Glass, a nod to the name she shares with Alice in Wonderland and her desire to create pieces that mirror their subjects.
As a stay-at-home mom, Alice works in 30-minute spurts of stolen time at a drafting table that belonged to her grandfather. As she can, she also devotes time to her own watercolor paintings and has appeared in several local shows, including a second-place prize for The Retreat (pictured above, center) in the Anderson Artists Guild (AAG) annual juried show two years ago. She has been an AAG member for five years and serves as the group’s secretary.
Though she has always loved to draw, Alice did not study art and certainly did not plan a career in art. An only child, she was born in Michigan and lived in Asheville, N.C., before she and her parents moved to Spartanburg, S.C. Her dad is a retired chemical engineer. Her mom has a master’s degree in horticulture and has published flower and plant sketches in textbooks. “She always encouraged me to be artistic,” said Alice.
Alice attended Furman University on a music scholarship for one year (she plays the French horn) but ultimately felt that life as a professional musician was not for her. She transferred to Clemson University, where she completed a degree in early childhood education. She taught kindergarten and second grade for seven years, first at Calhoun Academy of the Arts and then at Concord Elementary School before deciding to stay home after the birth of her second child. She and her husband, Kevin, the head football coach at J.L. Mann High School in Greenville, are the parents of Gracelyn, 5, and Kevin, 3. Alice still teaches these days but in a much more limited way through a homeschool cooperative, and her subject now is art.
That she’s found a career in something she’s always loved—and that she can work it around her family responsibilities—is a surprise. “It’s a big blessing,” she said. “God has opened this up to provide at this stage of life.”
Some of Alice Burnette’s art is currently on display in the Anderson Artists Guild case on the first floor of the Anderson Arts Center. You can see more of her work at www.facebook.com/LookingGlassArt.