When artist Sadie Kern isn’t working in a coffee shop, she’s illustrating imaginative, custom portraits that promote self-love, self-expression, and women empowerment under the name Popgunflo. The former DAAP student is Cincinnati-born-and-raised, so she naturally loves adding popular Cincy scenes and tropes in her work. She even designed a Cincinnati coloring book.
From her personalized prints to her coloring book designs, we wanted to learn all about the local illustrator and her creative process.
Cincinnati Refined: Do you remember when you first started getting into art?
Sadie Kern: Ever since I could pretty much pick up a pencil, I’ve been drawing. My mom’s an artist, so she really showed me her techniques and basically raised me to be an artist. She was the first example in my life of a strong, creative woman, and I am so grateful for that. It was never a question of if or when I would take an interest in art, it was just in my DNA.
It didn't take me long in life to develop my own art style. In 4th grade, I started going to an art camp at a local high school. This had a large impact on my life because it was here where I met my second mentor, Ms. McGuire. She pushed me to elevate my art and to keep pursuing it. She believed in me and I found the courage to start believing in myself, as well. This started my passion for women uplifting other women, because there is true power in self-affirmation and affirming others.
CR: What would you say is your preferred medium and style?
SK: Right now, I’m really focused on digital illustration. I also do sketches and stuff, too, but this is what I like to do. I do it all on an iPad with an Apple Pencil, and I use Procreate.
My style is a blend of life art and cartoon art, but I have training in and have created custom pieces in many different styles.
CR: Where did the name “Popgunflo” come from?
SK: The popgun is just kind of random—it was a fun toy we used to play with when we were little. And Florence is my middle name, so a lot of people call me "Sadie Flo".
CR: What do you like to do when you aren’t illustrating?
SK: I like to go kayaking, go on vacations. We (me and my girlfriend) just went to London and Amsterdam not too long ago. It was very cool. We’re also working on a community garden with a friend.
CR: I love your Cincinnati Botanical Coloring Book you recently designed. Where can people find it?
SK: It is available on Amazon. I also have another one with ramen noodles. It’s smaller and called Send Noods. I like doing coloring books. To me, it’s almost therapeutic.
CR: Your Instagram is filled with custom illustrations that you make of people that reflect their lives and personalities in a unique way. Can you tell me about the process behind them?
SK: Yeah, they just send pictures of whatever they like. I will ask you about hobbies, interests, sports, and things like that. I also ask the same about others you want in the picture as well. Then, I make a rough sketch on Procreate using the Apple Pencil and enhance the sketch with a cleaner brush. Finally, I add color and detail to the image like lights or flowers—anything you can think of, I can add!
CR: What’s your favorite subject to illustrate?
SK: I like doing people a lot. Getting to know other people as I’m doing their customs makes you feel close to [them] when they tell you their whole life. It’s a lot more involved than just drawing someone.
I love art and the ability it gives me to take how you envision yourself and others in your mind and bring them to life on paper. Art is love and I am trying to spread as much of it around as possible.
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