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 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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The tooth, the whole tooth, and nothing but the tooth …

Robert, WA2GO, is a dentist who wanted to incorporate his profession into his QSL. Fortunately, he also has a sense of humor about it. He gave me free rein to come up with something, and my first thought, I hate to say, was Steve Martin’s dentist in the movie”Little Shop of Horrors.” This illustration isn’t quite as wacky as Steve Martin, but at least it does look like Robert. I’m glad he was a good sport about it.

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Ham radio got his goat …

N1ESE ham radio cartoon QSL by N2ESTThis was the query from John, N1ESE: “I like goats and the woods. My shack is off-grid and runs on solar power. That’s about all I have. Let’s talk.”

We did. It was easy.

After nailing down a few details, John emailed me reference photos of his solar panels and Elecraft rig, and I went to work.

The result? Not too b-a-a-a-ad, if I do say so myself.

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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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Canine CQ!

K9CQ ham radio cartoon QSL by N2ESTSome QSLs just kind of draw themselves.

“A beagle calling CQ” is exactly what Tim, K9CQ, wanted when he commissioned me to illustrate his QSL card. “I though it would be kind of neat to have the K9-CQ reference,” he wrote. Tim says he’s owned several beagles over the years, so the choice of breed was easy. Drawing it was easy, too.

The challenge came unexpectedly when I tried to color the hand-drawn illustration and place it on a postcard-sized QSL: The sketchy background that worked nicely in black and white (see below) didn’t work quite as well with color. The other problem was that the illustration didn’t “balance” well in the allotted space, even with QTH info added in the lower right corner to weigh it in that direction. It leaned to the left.

K9CQ QSL inksMy solution was to delete the background for the printed version, easy to do with Adobe Photoshop. That way, Tim still had an attractive piece of art to hang on the wall of his shack, yet the QSL stayed clean and simple. Sometimes, less is more.

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Strictly ballroom

N4VZ K4VZT ham radio cartoon QSL by N2ESTWho’d have thought to combine amateur radio with ballroom dancing, of all things? Ron, N4VZ, did. He and his wife, Kate, K4VZT, are both hams, and Ron wanted a his-and-hers QSL that spotlighted another hobby, ballroom dancing.

I decided to keep it simple: the two of them, dancing in the spotlight, on top of their call signs displayed in an elegant font. And holding their handi-talkies, of course.

N4VZ K4VZT QSL backTo make the card usable by either Ron or Kate, I modified one of my standard report forms as shown here, adding check boxes as shown here.

I’m not much of a dancer myself, so getting the pose right took some research and education. Creating these QSLs is a lot like a good first-time rag chew — you learn about things you’d never have thought of otherwise. That’s one of the things I enjoy about drawing these cards.

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What’s your favorite mobile mode?

amateur radio mobile operators car cycle bikeHere’s another illustration that was commissioned but didn’t see print for one reason or another. It’s a shame, too — I put a lot of work into it and was looking forward to sharing it with the world. A detail of the illustration headlines the post; the full illustration is below.

Perhaps the most enjoyable part of drawing it was dropping in a couple of Easter eggs. One will be obvious to the Old Timers. The other one is in the upper right corner: I drew myself and my wife Gail, N2ART, in our little turquoise Honda Fit. In the back seat are our cats, Bones and Geordi. I resisted the urge to draw them wearing headphones.

This cartoon was designed to showcase different types of mobile operation. What’s your preferred mode of operation?

amateur radio mobile operators

 

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