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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Blue Ridge: mountains, trains and trout

KW4ZQ cartoon QSL by N2ESTI put Hamtoons on hiatus a few months ago to take a full-time job editing a newspaper in the north Georgia mountains. Sadly, the job didn’t work out — that’s why Hamtoons is back — but the move from Atlanta did. The people here are wonderful, the scenery is beautiful, the air is clean and the traffic is almost non-existent. I seldom miss Atlanta these days.

I eventually started attending meetings of the Fannin County Amateur Radio Group in Blue Ridge, Ga., a start-up club devoted primarily to emergency communications. That’s where I met Chuck, KW4ZQ, a new ham who went straight for his Extra and got it in one test session.

Chuck wanted a QSL that reflected everything good about Fannin County, which has turned into a major tourist destination over the last few decades. That meant the card had to have mountains, lots of mountains. The area also is known for its fishing — Fannin County bills itself as the Trout Capital of Georgia — and the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway, which carries visitors from downtown Blue Ridge to nearby McCaysville, where I live. Chuck sketched out his idea, and with a few tweaks I managed to incorporate all three elements into his QSL card.

Blue Ridge and Fannin County are great places to live or vacation. Feel free to visit us — or, at the very least, give KW4ZQ a shout if you hear him on the air. I’m sure he’ll be glad to send you a QSL.

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Chasing waterfalls

Gordon West illustration 05Here’s yet another cartoon I drew for Gordon West’s latest Extra-class license guide. This one with a bare-bones PSK31 set-up is near to my heart, because that’s basically my station. My shack is in the living room, where PSK31 and other digital modes are perfect because they make no noise. My XYL Gail, N2ART, can watch TV while I’m on the air.

When I returned to the air a few years ago, I took the budget route: a used Icom IC-718 transceiver paired with a new SignaLink USB interface and a ground-mounted Hustler 6BTV vertical antenna. The monitor in the cartoon is actually nicer than what I really use, an old Windows laptop headed for the junk heap because the keyboard and mousepad had given out. All I had to spend was $10 for a cheap USB keyboard and mouse. With a particle-board platform to support the laptop above the rig, I was in business. Total cost, including coax and a few other doodads, was well less than $1,000. (My actual station is pictured here.)

While this set-up won’t dominate any pile-ups, I still have fun with it, talking all over the country and all over the world. Who says ham radio has to be obscenely expensive? Not me.

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