Al Stine has had a successful career as a watercolor artist and illustrator. But it's the job he had more than 50 years ago that always catches people's attention: He was one of the first cartoonists for Playboy magazine.
The Anderson resident has come a long way from his days illustrating titillating cartoons. He's taught watercolor classes around the world and even has a line of instructional DVDs. At age 91, he's still painting. His most recent project has been line drawings of Lowcountry landmarks for "A Sketchbook of the Old Beaufort District of South Carolina," released by the Lowcountry & Resort Island Tourism Commission earlier this summer.
Stine was a successful freelance illustrator in Chicago when Hugh Hefner was looking to start up his magazine in the Windy City in the 1950s. Stine's work appeared in just about every issue for eight years, a series of naughty yet lighthearted one-panel color cartoons. Originals of his work sell for thousands of dollars. After Playboy, he started to move more into watercolors, establishing himself as a noted landscape artist. He's a signature member (a Hall of Fame-type designation) with the Transparent Watercolor Society of America.
He moved from Chicago to South Carolina about 25 years ago. He was familiar with the Lowcountry after owning a cottage at the Palm Key resort. Bill Olendorf, a tourism commission board member whose father knew Stine in Chicago, asked him to contribute to a sketchbook, which serves as a fundraiser for the organization.
Olendorf's father was an artist who did sketchbooks of Chicago, Paris and other cities. Stine had done a sketchbook of Anderson, and Olendorf knew he would be the perfect fit.
"We have a lot of artists here, but it dawned on me that we don't have a sketchbook of all these out-of-the-way places we have here," Olendorf said.
The book focuses on pre-Civil War era formations, back when Hampton, Jasper and Beaufort counties were part of one administrative unit. Olendorf wrote history to accompany the sketches. Commission director James Wescott took photos and laid out the coffee-table book.
Stine and Olendorf spend a couple days traveling the Lowcountry visiting some off-the-beaten path sites where the artist had never been. It was enough inspiration to draw nearly two dozen illustrations.
"He took me to all these places and I really took to it," Stine said.