Retired and loving it

N9JO ham radio cartoon QSL by N2ESTJim, N9JO, didn’t give me much to work with when he commissioned this QSL. “I’m a former electrical engineer,” he told me, “and I’m retired.” That only narrowed it down to about half of the hams currently licensed.

Then he sent me a photo he’d found online of some other ham, asleep in his shack, feet up and sending CW with his toe. “QLF” it said. And that, I realized, was the hook.

What’s it like to be retired and hamming? It’s kinda like the guy in that picture — so that’s how I drew Jim. I added some loose hand lettering and bright blocks of color, and this is what I came up with. I can only hope to relax in my shack like that some day!

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All about public service

Gordon Wes Tech public service watermarkThis is another cartoon I created for Gordon West’s new Technician license manual, illustrating public service. We all know this guy, of course: Club baseball cap, orange vest, and a half dozen handi-talkies hanging from his belt. (The only reason I’ve never been this guy myself is I can’t afford a half dozen handi-talkies — a single dual-bander usually suffices.)

A lot of new licensees joined our ranks for just this purpose. Are you one of them? What public-service groups do you belong to? And how many radios do you carry on event day?

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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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Control operator?

Gordon-West-Tech-control-op-watermarkOne of my projects during Hamtoons’ hiatus was illustrating Gordon West‘s latest Technician Class license manual. I’ll be posting illustrations from it here from time to time.

Sometimes, all I could do was be literal to get the idea across. For example, do you know what a control operator is as defined by the FCC? (Hint: It does not have to do with putting a collar and leash on your rig.)

To get your own copy of the Gordon West study and learn the answer to this and other burning questions found on the Tech test, visit the W5YI website or call 800-669-9594.

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Happy hams end to end

Happy hams end to endHamtoons is back — but after more than four months away from my drawing board, I was rusty. I needed a running start to get back into it. That’s why I decided to finish this goofy drawing of two happy hams doing the bump.

It originally was a rejected sketch for a QSL. The client wanted something that represented his work, end-to-end software solutions, if I remember correctly. But how exactly do you draw that? You can’t — so instead I presented him with the dancing pigs. It’s just where my mind went. I mean, hey, it’s ham radio, right? And the two hams are end-to-end, right?

He didn’t go for it. Still, I liked the sketch, so I filed it away. This afternoon I finished it for your listening and dancing pleasure. Enjoy.

To those of you waiting on commissions: I’ll be contacting you shortly. Thank you so much for your patience.

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Desert sunset … with a dog

N7XTM ham radio cartoon QSL by N2ESTTed, N7XTM, has two passions: his radios and his rottweilers. My job was to combine them into a single card.

For reference, Ted supplied me with pictures of his dogs and pointed me to his qrz.com page, where there was a photo of his Cushcraft R7000 ground-mounted vertical framed against a gorgeous Arizona sunset. I stitched the two together into a single cartoon. I hope it does the real thing justice.

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A different kind of home-brew

K5MAF ham radio cartoon QSL by N2ESTMike, K5MAF, has another hobby in addition to ham radio — he brews beer. And what goes better together than an adult beverage (in moderation, of course) and ham radio?

Mike wanted QSL art that reflected that combination, with roosters both hamming and imbibing. With slight modifications, the art will also appear on his beer labels.

I’m grateful to Mike not just for the commission but for his patience; we’ve been talking about this back and forth for months at meetings of our radio club, the South Canadian Amateur Radio Society in Norman, Oklahoma. Thanks for waiting, Mike. I hope it was worth it.

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A typical ham workbench

W4ASE ham radio cartoon QSL by N2ESTWhen creating a custom QSL I usually start with reference photos from the client. Bill, W4ASE, sent me shots of his shack and his workbench — without him in them —and almost as an afterthought added that he didn’t want to appear on his QSL.

Normally, I avoid drawing pictures of just stuff. After all, why labor over a drawing of the latest hot transceiver when A) you can get a much better picture of it online and B) everyone already knows what it looks like anyway? Unless it’s home-brew or otherwise atypical, a picture of a ham’s shack without him in it is nothing unique. I like unique.

The picture of Bill’s bench, though, was another matter. Even without showing Bill in it, it said a lot about him: Here’s a ham who likes to work on his own rigs. That’s rare these days.

Even though the picture showed very specific test gear, I cartooned it up everything a little, drawing off-center lines where things were actually square. I also added blocks of color rather than specifically staying in the lines. Not only did it give the cartoon that ’60s retro look I like, it suggested the joyful clutter of a typical ham’s workbench. It ought to speak to anyone who receives Bill’s QSL.

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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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Something different: a single-sided QSL card

N1YBK-ham-radio-cartoon-QSL-by-N2ESTHere’s something different (for me, at least): a single-sided QSL card.

Even if one of my QSLs is meant to be sent as a postcard, I usually design them two sided: color on the front, black and white on the back. I like working with a big canvas.

Matt, N9YBK, however, was on a tight budget. He’s a former cop who works as an IT professional, freelances as a photojournalist and has eight kids. I get that. Contrary to popular perception, we cartoonists have to watch our pennies, too. I did my QSLs on the cheap for years.

My solution to Matt’s budget dilemma was to forego color and consolidate both his cartoon and the report form on one side of the card. The cartoon combines two aspects of Matt: his trusty camera; and his dream police cruiser, a Dodge Charger. Matt liked his card. So did I.

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