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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DXpedition to Tidra

5T5TI DXpedition logo by N2ESTSometimes the solution is obvious. DXpedition? From an island? With a pelican? And a hex beam? Coming right up!

Kuwaiti amateur Ahmad, 9K2AI/5T2AI, commissioned me earlier this year to create a logo for a DXpedition station on Tidra, an island just off the coast of Mauritania. The logo would be used on banners, websites, and, of course, QSLs. The only requirements: It must include the call sign, one of the great white pelicans native to the island, and a hex beam antenna. Done, done, and done.

Judging from Ahmad’s 5T5TI QRZ.com page, he and his cohorts have been there before and plan to return this December. Contact them on the air, and you can get a QSL with this groovy logo. Good luck!

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Rolling down the river

W5PLT ham radio cartoon QSL by N2ESTScott, W5PLT, pilots ships professionally between New Orleans and the Gulf of Mexico. He says he’s “kind of a modern-day Mark Twain.” That led me to believe I ought to play this QSL for laughs. Then Scott directed me to the website for the Crescent River Port Pilots’ Association — and I knew I ought to play this one straight.  After watching the video on the website’s news page, I was impressed with the magnitude of what these pilots accomplish every day. This is serious stuff.

The simplified  illustration of a typical container ship is drawn heavily from photo reference. Scott himself is drawn from video reference; he first appears in this video at about :20. For those of you interested in how things work — and what ham isn’t? — this presentation is well worth the 12 minutes it takes to watch it.

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If it’s not Scottish …

GM7USC cartoon QSL by N2ESTWhen Gary, GM7USC, asked me to create a QSL for him, he made it clear: “I am a very patriotic Scot.” Also, he wanted something funny because, as he put it, “I like to laugh.”

I decided to draw something both Scottish and funny. What if Gary were carrying a bagpipe that worked as an amateur radio, with antennas in place of pipes? It sounded funny to me. Gary liked it, too.

There were two other Scottish touches. Gary is from the Campbell clan, so the kilt he wears on this QSL features a simplified version of their tartan. Also, I chose a typeface, Willow, specifically associated with the Scottish Arts and Crafts style popular in the late 1800s.

Bagpipe, kilt and typeface — I couldn’t make it much more Scottish than that. Gary liked this one. I did, too.

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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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Riding the RF waves

N4BDO cartoon QSL by N2ESTArt, N4BDO, knew almost exactly what he wanted when he wrote me: “a cartoon character riding a surfboard.” The surfer should be “old, but not fat,” and he should “have a big grin.” Also, “the wave he is riding is cresting and about to overtake him.” Above it all should be the caption “Riding the RF Waves.” Past that, Art wrote, I was on my own.

Cartooning up the elements Art wanted was easy. My own touch was incorporating his call sign into the wave itself. This one was a lot of fun to draw.

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Run, Bella, run!

K4WBF carton QSL by N2ESTCraig, K4WBF, likes to mix up his QSLs a little, changing them up periodically. He also loves his Italian greyhound Bella, who he says is his official DX spotter.

I wanted to do something different from earlier cards. A previous, excellent QSL by Jeff, K1NSS, showed Bella at the operating position, literally spotting DX like a running rabbit on the rig’s digital read-out. Funny stuff.

Me, I had a more direct connection with greyhounds: I used to keep them and even lure-course them. (That’s running a greyhound in a broken pattern, much the way a real rabbit would run, in an open field.) A sight hound running is truly a thing of beauty, so that’s what I wanted to illustrate on K4WBF’s QSL. That, and headphones on a greyhound, of course.

If you’re interested in having your own custom QSL, drop me a line at N2EST@hamtoons.net. If you’re interested in adopting a retired racing greyhound — the full-size version of Bella, an Italian greyhound — visit this website.

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Now Roasting 3 Pigs

NR3P cartoon QSL by N2ESTHave funny phonetics for your call sign? Paul, NR3P, does. He goes by “Now Roasting 3 Pigs” on the air and wanted it visualized on his QSL.

His idea was to have three Angry Birds-style porkers on a spit, being rotated over simmering vacuum tubes. It’s the kind of image we cartoonists love to draw. I was only too happy to oblige.

One part of his QSL commission puzzled me, though: Paul wanted an alligator dressed to the nines doing the cooking.

So I asked him: Why a gator?

Paul explained that because hams benefit from propagation, he wanted the cooking done by a “proper gator.”

I’ll let you supply the rimshot.

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Radio at the Rainbow Bridge

N7AGF cartoon QSL by N2ESTAlex, N7AGF, had recently moved to La Conner, Washington, and wanted a QSL that reflected the mountains around him. I took it one better and made the Rainbow Bridge — a reddish-orange arch that crosses Swinomish Channel — the card’s centerpiece. Alex’s call sign arches to match the bridge below it.

This QSL is one of relatively few cards where I played it straight and kept it less cartoony. The one reference to radio is near the bottom edge (hint: look for the boat with the antenna).

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