Bill, KL7TC, wanted a QSL that said something about Alaska, where he lives. Snow? Check. Mountains? Check. How about a club logo and an ARRL diamond? Easy peasy. And a husky with a headset? Why not?
The northern lights that appear were a little more challenging. Because it’s tough to illustrates with line art, I instead dropped in a free stock photo of the real thing. It works.
After a few tweaks — mainly toning down the typography from bright yellow to subtle blue — the QSL was good to go.
KL7TC’s QSL has one other unique feature: On the back of the card, instead of a dot indicating Fairbanks’ location on the map, I placed a heart, acknowledging the city’s slogan as “The Golden Heart of Alaska.”
You’re probably wondering why the girl in my latest custom QSL looks like she belongs in an Archie comic — right?
There’s a story behind that.
A few months back, Vartan, N2ZEB, asked me to draw a QSL for him with a pin-up girl in it, Vartan’s other hobby being pin-up photography. For inspiration, I went back to one of my artistic heroes, long-time Archie Comics artist Dan DeCarlo. He drew Archie and the gang for more than 40 years and very much defined their look. If you’ve read an Archie comic any time from the 1950s to the 1990s, you’ve almost certainly seen DeCarlo’s work — or, at least, work by other artists trying to imitate him. The illustration of The Archies singing group that graced their first album is classic Dan DeCarlo.
What most people don’t know about DeCarlo, though, is that before Archie, he earned a living drawing girly cartoons like the one below for “gentlemen’s magazines.” Yes, really.
DeCarlo’s pre-Archie cartoons are fairly tame by 21st-century standards, but the girls he drew were undeniably sexy. Ever wonder why Betty and Veronica were so stacked? It’s because DeCarlo had a lot of practice drawing girls that way. For Archie, he actually (and appropriately) reined it in a little bit.
And that’s where I was challenged — I’m so accustomed to drawing “cute” that “sexy” isn’t quite in my artistic arsenal. I’m happy with N2ZEB’s QSL as far as I could take it, but, honestly, it ended up looking more like Betty all dolled up than the kind of girl that would provoke wolf whistles in one of DeCarlo’s classic pin-up cartoons. At least you can take her home to meet mom. You might even be able to talk her into getting a Tech license!
Here’s one from the archives, the first QSL I created seven years ago after hanging my Hamtoons shingle.
The connection between the call sign and the cartoon is pretty obvious. Anybody else here have an underground shack? Anybody else here wish they had an underground shack?
Chris, VO1IDX, wanted to squeeze a lot onto his custom QSL card: his farm, his chicken coop, his children, his antenna, and, of course, himself. Since simple is better at postcard size, I pared it down to Chris and his antenna, with the chickens surrounding his call sign. Chris then asked that a ham radio — a ham that’s literally a radio — be added. I did, and, voila, there you have it. (The chicken atop the “O” egg is wearing headphones and a boom mic, because what would a Hamtoons QSL be without a cute animal on it wearing headphones?)
Anyone who’s followed my work knows that I just love drawing cute animals. I also like putting headphones on them. (A friend once told me I don’t even need to sign my QSL art any more; if the drawing shows a cute animal wearing headphones, N2EST must have drawn it.)
Given all that, the request by Chuck, KK6DOA, that I draw his pets operating his shack was right up my alley. I resisted the urge to have the station go multi-op with everyone wearing cans; only Chuck’s German Shepherd, Maggie, gets headphones, in this case with a boom mic.
This was a fun one to draw. Want a QSL that shows your animals on the air? Drop me a line and we’ll design it together.
Chris, W7BMD, is a Seattle physician who, according to his QRZ.com page, specializes in “bone strength, bone density, osteoporosis and fractures.” He’s literally a bone doctor — hence, his call sign phonetics, Whisky Seven Bone M.D.
Chris wanted all of that referenced in his QSL card, plus a picture of his home QTH. The challenge was tying it all together.
I started with the call sign itself. Why not build it out of bones?
Next came the house. Chris sent several reference pictures, and I illustrated a cartoon version of it, with a cartoon version of Chris himself in the foreground.
Then there’s Seattle. What’s more symbolic of Seattle than the Space Needle? I drew that, too.
But … how do you tie it all together?
Chris solved the problem with a fanciful suggestion: Connect one end of his wire antenna to the Space Needle itself.
It works for me. Any ham would want that kind of elevation for his antenna.
One of my favorite QSLs — penguins in Antarctica — is back in circulation thanks to Felix, DL5XL. Felix works for several months at a time at Neumayer-Station III, a German Antarctic research station. When he’s not on duty, he’s on the air as DP1POL, providing a much-needed DX entity to hams around the world.
“We have a busy schedule, but I try to get on the air after work whenever I can,” Felix wrote in an email. “Usually, I can be found on 30 meters after 2200 UTC, either in CW or digital modes.” Felix expects to be there through the end of January 2019.
Felix’s QSL manager, Ray, DL1ZBO, verifies reliably with the penguin QSL shown above for anyone who requests a confirmation, either direct or via the German QSL bureau.
Before I illustrated this QSL in 2015, I prepared by watching “Antarctica: A Year on Ice,” an amazing documentary about the life of researchers on the southern tip of our planet. The trailer is on YouTube, and the documentary itself is available through several streaming services. If you want to see what Felix’s life is like when he’s not on the air, this is well worth watching.
Back in the 1980s, I drew several Christmas covers for The Atlanta Ham, the official newsletter of the Atlanta Radio Club, my home club at the time. The first one (with the green background) appeared in 1986, the second in 1989.
Enjoy … and Happy Holidays to all of my ham-radio friends.
KC1DMA’s monster-truck QSL is one of the most challenging QSLs I’ve drawn. Because I happen to like drawing cool vehicles, it’s also been one of the most rewarding.
Here’s the back story:
Ken, KC1DMA, was referred to me by John, W7SAB, whose hot-rod QSL I lovingly illustrated in the style of “Big Daddy” Ed Roth. It’s one of my favorite QSLs.
Ken’s thing is monster trucks, those jacked up pickup trucks and SUVs with the oversized tires. Ken sent me a few pictures, so I got to work and came up with this, keeping it cartoony and loose.
“Not quite,” Ken said. Could I make it a little more dynamic? He wanted his truck literally crawling over his granite call sign, with the letters more dimensional. It was a cool angle, but it would also force me to draw the truck’s complicated undercarriage (or at least a reasonable cartoon facsimile of it).
This was my second pass. With a few minor cosmetic changes, Ken signed off on it. The finished product is above, and it may be another one of my favorite QSLs thus far.
When Neil, N3DF, asked me to create a QSL naming Dayton, Ohio, “the birthplace of aviation,” I was a little confused. After all, didn’t the Wright Brothers first fly a heavier-than-air aircraft near Kitty Hawk, making North Carolina the birthplace of aviation?
The answer is yes and no. In fact, the Wright Brothers hailed from Dayton — Orville was born there — and developed their flying machine in Ohio. In 2003, the U.S. Congress honored this fact by officially naming Ohio “the birthplace of aviation.” (North Carolina had to settle for “first in flight.”) The Dayton Daily News makes a compelling case here for why aviation while always call Ohio its home.
Neil wanted his QSL card to convey that fact, with “perhaps a Wright Flyer circling a shack with a Yagi.” I gave it my best shot, and here’s the result.