Bigfoot sighting

K7QI ham radio cartoon QSL by N2ESTEver seen Bigfoot on a QSL card before? Me neither. Until now.

Jim, K7QI, lives in the Pacific Northwest and wanted something unique to his region. Bigfoot reputedly lives there, so why not put Bigfoot on Jim’s QSL card?

That’s exactly what I did. He’s sitting there sending CW on a cartoon approximation of Jim’s Elecraft rig. And because Bigfoot sightings are rare, I drew a squirrel in there to take a picture of him. Now you know what that Summits on the Air station from Washington looks like …

K7QI ham radio cartoon QSL back by N2ESTThe back of Jim’s card is as personalized as the front. I offer two report forms: a generic one that fills only half the card and allows mailing your QSL as a postcard, and a more complete one like this. Most clients go for the more complete report form. It includes a state map with your QTH marked, complete QTH information, your call sign set in a style that matches the art where possible, and whatever logos you care to include. Most clients go with the ARRL diamond and perhaps their home club’s logo, but Jim went for logos that highlighted his military experience and his involvement with the National Rifle Association. If it fits, I can give you any logo you want — and it’s included in the price of your card.

 

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A KISS QSL

KK4DYX ham radio cartoon QSL by N2ESTThese his-and-hers QSL cards are oldies but goodies, created about three years ago, that I recently reprinted with new QTH information. They’re two of my favorites.

Mark, W4BOG, first contacted me to create a custom QSL for his better half, Sharon. She liked photography, hiking, and ham radio. Could I mash that up in one QSL? I did — and I included a few curious squirrels for comedy relief.

Soon thereafter Mark commissioned a QSL card of his own. It turned out Mark was a huge fan of the rock band KISS. He’d collected tons of KISS memorabilia over the years, including an original painting by guitarist Paul Stanley. Mark wanted a caricature of himself on his QSL, wearing Stanley’s “Starchild” makeup. Oh, and could I include Mark’s Yorkie, Tobey, on the card?

W4BOG KISS-themed ham radio cartoon QSL by N2ESTThis one was fun. In addition to making Mark a ham-radio Starchild, I rendered his call sign in the style of KISS’s logo. Finally, I added Tobey, decked out like Gene Simmons, tongue and all.

As I mentioned, these cards were reprinted when Mark and Sharon recently moved to Georgia. I offer free updated QTH info if needed on all Hamtoons reprints, free of charge. The only cost is the cost of printing new cards.

Exit, pursued by a bear

W7CBA ham radio cartoon QSL by N2ESTSteve, W7CBA, lives in Montana and likes the great outdoors. Can you draw me being chased by a grizzly, he asked? Sure, I said. And thus began this QSL card.

I changed it up a little, with Steve fleeing in panic while the bears size up his abandoned handi-talkie and backpack. Next thing you know, the bears are going to want to get their Tech licenses. (By the way, there’s a really good Tech study guide that just came out with illustrations by N2EST. I imagine the bears will either find it helpful or delicious.)

For extra points: Who recognizes the source of the above headline? Hint: He wasn’t a ham-radio operator but did have something to do with Hamlet.

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A Western Union QSL

Jack, K4ITE, was a life-long employee of Western Union, and he wanted a QSL card that told its story.

In Jack’s words:

“I started working at WU in September of 1965 when I was 19. I began in the Installation Department and traveled all over the Southeast before Uncle Sam came calling. After four years in the Air Force I resumed my career and went to work at the Marine Base in Albany, GA in a very secure government switching center Western Union and RCA built and partnered on called Autodin. That system used a new technology at the time called “packet switching” which broke a message into several pieces and routed the various parts for security reasons via several different paths before being reassembled at the destination. Packet switching today is the backbone of the internet.

“In 1974 I was fortunate to go to work on our Westar project, America’s first domestic communications satellite system, and was trained on working in our various earth stations. My primary job was to maintain five microwave relay stations between Atlanta and it’s associated earth station just a few miles north of Scottsboro, Alabama. The satellites were in geosynchronous orbit, and the output power was only 5 watts in those days, so the earth station locations had to be in a natural bowl for RF quietness and away from cities, thus the requirement for a 52 ft. diameter dish. Those were interesting times. I finished up my 23 year career in a Telex switching center in Atlanta.”

That was just one email from Jack. He was understandably passionate about Western Union’s place in communication history and wanted a QSL that said so. It was my job to create it.

We eventually narrowed Western Union’s history down to three phases: messages delivered by pony, messages delivered by Morse code, and messages delivered by Westar satellite. Using reference images found on the Internet, I created a collage of the three, with Jack’s call sign looming large overhead. Jack wrote a brief blurb for the back of his card summarizing Western Union’s legacy to go along with it.

To give his QSL the feel of history, Jack asked me to print it on parchment. I work only with glossy stock but was able to use a texture overlay that looked like parchment.

Today, Western Union is a shadow of its old self, its name now associated with money transfers for those who can’t afford a checking account. In its time, though, Western Union was America’s first communications giant. I hope this QSL is a fitting reminder.

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Moose on the loose

Østerdalsgruppen av NRRL logoHams like to work local landmarks into their QSL cards and club logos. It’s not every day the landmark in question is the world’s largest steel moose.

Norwegian amateur radio operator Knut, LA9DSA, contacted me for his radio club, Østerdalsgruppen av NRRL, to ask if I could do something with said landmark (pictured below). Unveiled just a few years ago, the metal moose is 33 feet tall and located in a rest area along the road between Oslo and Trondheim; its name is Storelgen. The idea behind it is to remind drivers to be careful not to hit moose crossing the road. Also, it just looks really cool. I went with silver and blue to make the logo appropriately metallic — with headphones and a boom mike, of course.

Storelgen, the world's biggest mooseBefore this metal moose was erected, the biggest moose sculpture in the world was 32-foot-tall Mac the Moose in Saskatchewan, Canada. According to one website, rumor has it the Canadians want to reclaim the record by building an even bigger moose. When that happens, I look forward to creating that local club’s logo as well.

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Lawnmower Man

WA5TQB ham radio cartoon QSL by N2ESTThis is not the short story by Stephen King; rather, it’s just one serious ham with a serious lawn mower. The squirrel is safe.

Both Jack, WA5TQB, and his daughter Dana worked with me to create this card, with Dana sending photo reference of Jack — on his riding lawn mower, operating mobile. All I had to do was cartoon it up and add typography. If you must mow your lawn, fellow hams, then this is the way to do it.

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May the Force be with you …

KC3PO ham radio cartoon QSL by N2ESTAs a rule, I normally won’t create a QSL featuring a well-know copyrighted character — but there’s an exception to every rule.

Over the years I’ve drawn dozens of licensed characters, and I’ve found that most of their owners are protective, often litigious, over their property. Why court trouble by drawing one without their permission? I say as much on my website.

That’s why Gary, KC3PO, practically apologized to me when he wrote to request a custom QSL. “After reading your FAQ, I fear my dreams may be crushed,” he wrote.

What did he want on his QSL? Well, look at his call sign.

I deliberated over this one. I even asked professional colleagues for their take on it. Several suggested I draw a parody of Star Wars, something that called it to mind without actually duplicating it.

Problem was, Star Wars was tough to parody without coming so close to the source material that I may as well just draw it outright. I found it impossible to draw something that looks enough like C-3PO to be identifiable without actually being C-3PO.

But then I thought about what artists typically do at comics conventions: They draw favorite characters for fans. Representatives of the rights holders are usually in the same building, and they don’t care — as long as it’s for a fan. And who could be more of a Star Wars fan than somebody who manages to work “C3PO” into his call sign?

Once I relaxed about it, this one was fun. Gary likes to operate from parks, so he wanted C-3PO operating from a picnic table. I drew a few walkers in the distance. The font was obvious. And after tweaking the background colors into a warm-to-cool gradation, Gary was happy with the results. May the Force be with you, indeed.

 

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Little Ralphie was a ham

 

“A Christmas Story” — the holiday classic movie about little Ralphie and his quest for a Red Ryder BB gun — is shown non-stop on TV this time of year. Did you know Ralphie eventually became an amateur-radio operator?

It’s true: the late Jean Shepherd, the author and voice behind the movie, became a ham in his teens and stayed licensed throughout his life. He was a fixture on New York broadcast radio, and his semi-autobiographical essays, published mostly in Playboy magazine, became the basis for the much-loved movie.

Shepherd was a hardcore CW operator, so much so that the American Radio Relay League had him introduce this code-practice tape circa 1980, produced several years before “A Christmas Story” premiered in theaters in 1983. You can hear it above. Enjoy  — and Merry Christmas!

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BAM!

WA7BAM ham radio cartoon QSL by N2ESTBruce, WA7BAM, wanted a cartoon QSL, and the approach was obvious: Emphasize the suffix, which looked like something out of the old Batman TV show. (They’re actually his initials.)

This was an easy one. I’d hand-lettered comic books for about a decade for publishers including Marvel, Dark Horse, and others, so I knew the look. The font I used for “BAM!” was drawn in the style of the original “Mad” logo from the 1950s before “Mad” became a magazine. Bruce’s name and QTH info are also hand-lettered.

At this point in my life, it’s almost impossible for me to write in anything but those block-style letters seen in comic-book word balloons. It’s good to know that all those years of nuns rapping my knuckles to improve my handwriting did some good.

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TuBE or not tuBE …

Shakespeare and vacuum tubeI drew this a few years ago for “The Opus of Amateur Radio Knowledge & Lore,” an excellent book by my friend Eric Nichols, KL7AJ. It visualizes a chapter title about vacuum tubes — yes, vacuum tubes — that explained them and a lot of other stuff with intelligence and style.

In fact, the whole book is like that; it explains not only how to be a ham, but also why to be a ham. If you haven’t fired up your rig in awhile (and if you have only a tube rig, we’ll assume it’s been awhile), you’ll want to after reading “Opus.” I know Eric’s text inspired me to get back on the air and enjoy the hobby after too much time bruised by its club politics and not enough time just playing radio.

The book is already in a second printing, this time with extra material by the inimitable Gordon West, WB6NOA. It’s also available at your better candy stores (I know our Atlanta-area Ham Radio Outlet carries it). I highly recommend this book.

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