Illustration Senior Sean Ellmore Works on Miley Cyrus Show

April 23, 2020

Illustration senior Sean Ellmore has been pretty busy in quarantine. Not only is he finishing his BFA in Illustration, he’s also been collaborating with pop star Miley Cyrus on her new Instagram Live show Bright Minded, where Cyrus connects with special guests on “how to stay lit in dark times.” Ellmore spoke with UArts about the collaboration.

UArts: Can you describe the work you’ve been creating for Bright Minded?

Bright Minded mug

Ellmore: For the past few weeks, I’ve been painting portraits of the guests on Miley’s show. These portraits served as promotional material for Miley and the celebrities that were on the show, but they also were animated for promotional videos. I also created many small paintings that were then used in animations. For example, I made three paintings of Miley’s arm and hand so it could be animated to look like she was reaching out and grabbing her Bright Minded mug! Miley also hired me to do some merchandise for the show. I was fortunate enough to be able to design four shirts with her, but I’m not sure when they’ll be released.

UArts: How did the collaboration come about?

Ellmore: The collaboration came about in a really strange way, honestly. I’ve been a huge fan of Miley’s for most of my life. I’ve seen every episode of Hannah Montana, and I've seen her live a bunch of times. 

I started making art of her in 2012 and still paint her from time to time. Last year, she mentioned me in her story, so I’ve been able to DM her anything I’m working on, and she eventually saw my messages. When she started Bright Minded, she made a post on her story saying she needs artists, designers and animators, so naturally I replied and sent her some portraits I’ve made of her that I animated. She finally replied to me and then followed me and sent me reference pictures, and we brainstormed a bunch of ideas.

Miley Shirt

UArts: What is it about her and/or her work that appeals to you?

Ellmore: She's insanely free-spirited. She does whatever she wants and doesn’t care if anyone is giving her dirty looks. It sounds cliché, but I saw her on the 2013 VMAs and told myself that if Miley could do that on national television, I shouldn’t be scared to do anything at all. She’s definitely inspired me to just be who I want to be with no boundaries.

UArts: Your work focuses heavily on the role of the “icon.” How do you think the role of icons has shifted during this pandemic?

Ellmore: I think that during this pandemic, the role of icons has totally shifted. When this quarantine first started, so many celebrities were posting about how bored and “depressed” they were about being stuck inside of their $10 million homes. People were calling them out left and right, and I think they deserved it. But I think this pandemic [is] also very positive for a lot of celebrities because they [are] able to create something to work on or use their platform for good. I think this era in the world really makes people look at these “icons” so much more as a distraction, so it’s really amazing to see [how] so many people [are] using their audiences to raise awareness or money for certain causes. I still think Jersey Shore is my best form of escape during all of this, though.

Elton John Ellmore

UArts: Bright Minded is a show about celebrating light in dark places. How have you been searching for and finding light these days?

Ellmore: I think my top two ways of staying lit in these dark times are staying creative/busy and full-blown distraction. I’ve been rewatching all of my favorite reality TV shows (Jersey Shore) and they’ve been inspiring me to make more art. I’ve also been deep-diving into Tik Tok—not just watching it though—I’ve been painting and making art videos a lot more since I’ve been stuck inside. 

UArts: How has your education supported you as a working artist?

Ellmore: I’ve met so many amazing artists since coming to this school, so it’s amazing that I have a group of people who can critique me whenever I need. I am also super-thankful for my professors, who I can reach out to. Their experience in the field has been a big help to me during all of this!

UArts: I know it’s difficult to think about the future at the moment, but do you have any exciting projects coming up or plans for after graduation?

Ellmore: Actually, yes! I’ve had an ongoing collaboration with MTV [that is still going on], in which I paint celebrities, either for their birthday or their album releases. It’s been amazing, and it’s keeping me busy. I’ve also had a few cool people reach out about upcoming projects that I’m super-excited to work on when the time comes! 

Bright Minded airs weekdays at 11:30 a.m. PST on Instagram Live. Tune in to see more of Ellmore’s work, or follow him on Instagram @seansartaccount.

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