Way back in 2004, I was dual-hatted as an instructor at the LSO School and VF-101, the Tomcat training squadron. I’d drawn up a bunch of Tomcat tail graphics for a squadron video project and one day aviation photographer Erik Hildebrandt asked if he could include some of them in a book celebrating the Tomcat’s retirement.

The tails were designed for pre-HD video (and I was in a time crunch) so they were all drawn at a very low (720x480) resolution. Even worse, I hadn’t learned how to use Illustrator yet, so they were drawn up in Photoshop, practically ensuring they weren’t resolution independent.

Since the tails were nowhere near print quality, they needed some work before publication. I went ahead and upscaled them all (still in Photoshop sadly) so they’d look good on a 10” x 8” page at 300dpi. This took some time and effort, but fortunately I had power and screen space to spare on a brand new 17” Aluminum PowerBook G4 – my very first Mac laptop.

After going to all the trouble, it was natural to find something else to do with them. They found their way onto a Tomcat Sunset t-shirt at one point. Right around that time I moved into a house with two big empty walls in the entryway, so I installed some gallery lighting, bought a bunch of nice frames from Amazon, had some prints made at my local Kinko’s, and (with the help of Bob and Mark) started hanging them on the wall. The final result filled the empty space on my wall (if not in my heart) and they even looked kind of nice.

What I would give to straighten those.

What I would give to straighten those.

In 2010 I got married, moved out of that house and put the frames into storage (all 36 of them). We haven’t had a great spot to display them since then (they take up a lot of space) so they’re still sitting in boxes. Six of the frames were requisitioned to make a family calendar this year, which I’ll describe in another post as soon as I can figure out how to do that without sharing my family’s next half-year agenda.

Still, it seemed a shame for all that artwork to go to waste. So I did what anyone does with a bunch of random art in 2017: made a sticker pack.

There are 34 tails in there plus a bonus blank tail. It seemed like a fun idea to let people add other stickers on top to make their own silly squadron designs. Animated GIFs are particularly surreal.

Decisions, Decisions

Decisions, Decisions

It’s not that I think there’s some huge market for Tomcat tail stickers out there. It’s really more that it’s stunningly easy to make a sticker pack. I priced the pack at $2 because that seemed like the right thing to do, and because I don’t expect a lot of people buy it. After all, nobody out there needs a Tomcat Tail sticker pack.

That being said, if you’ve ever liked anything I’ve made and wanted to give back a bit, I’d appreciate it if you bought the pack and sent a few random tails to your friends. Someone out there might find a Tomcat Tails sticker pack ridiculously useful or joy-inducing. Knowing that would make me happy too.

I miss the Tomcat. Flying it was like driving a classic Mustang – you might not have A/C, power steering, power windows, or FM radio, but with a hell of a lot of acceleration available, it could still be a whole lot of fun to drive. Maybe it’s not the kind of car you’d necessarily want to take to the grocery store every day, but if you did, you’d sure look cool doing it. The Super Hornet is more like a brand-new SUV. Comfy, great cruise control, lots of room to carry stuff, but not exactly fast and not quite as glamorous.

Everything changes, even airplanes. But stickers are totally forever.