This Canadian is behind some of the paintings projected during Taylor Swift's massive Eras Tour

John Smith, an artist and musician from Hamilton, is responsible for some of the artwork projected behind Taylor Swift during her current Eras Tours, which kicked off in Arizona on March 17.

'It's something I don't take for granted,' said Hamilton-based artist John Smith, as the tour kicks off

A man smiling at the camera in a sunny day. He's holding a video camera.
John Smith is a Hamilton-based artist and musician. (Menno Versteeg/submitted by John Smith)

If you had told Canadian artist John Smith six weeks ago that he'd be looking for Taylor Swift livestreams on TikTok, he would have been "very confused."

The Hamilton resident was scrolling through social media posts over the weekend related to the singer's Eras Tour, trying to spot the digital paintings he made for part of Swift's show.

"Now I'm very much enthralled in this world," said Smith.

Smith did the digital art and animations that are projected during two back-to-back songs, August and Illicit Affairs.

The Blank Space singer kicked off her 52-date United States tour in Glendale, Ariz. — renamed Swift City for the occasion — on March 17.

In Swift's 44-song setlist, fans will be able to see the Hamiltonian's artwork towards the middle of the concert, on songs 27 and 28.

Connections all started in Ontario

Smith told CBC Hamilton his involvement with the concert started with making the "right connections at the right time" in the Hamilton art scene. 

He said while working with fellow local artist Kyle Stewart at the Hamilton Art Gallery, he was introduced to Matt Cummer, a former Hamiltonian who has done visual editing for performances by artists such as The Weeknd, Megan Thee Stallion, Janet Jackson and Diplo. 

"It is a very Hamilton-based thing," said Smith.

Smith's involvement in the project started only a month ago, and after much stress and countless hours of work, his work was showcased at the State Farm Stadium Friday and Saturday, in front of around 70,000 people each night.

The tour continues later this week, with dozens of shows across the U.S. slated until August. 

"It definitely was stressful at times, but like an exciting kind of stressful when you're working on something passionately," he said.

'It's something I don't take for granted'

Smith said he listened to August and Illicit Affairs "constantly" while working on the digital art for them, but he also listened to Switft's track Betty a lot, which he was originally supposed to make the artwork for. 

He described his work for the concert as transforming from a beach scene into an impressionistic painting for August, and then transforming again into a "monochromatic, more serious tone for Illicit Affairs."

Deven Anthony has been a fan of Swift since her debut album in 2006. He traveled from Tampa, Flo., to Glendale, Ariz., for night two of the tour on March 18. 

Anthony told CBC Hamilton the concert was "one of the most cathartic experiences" he's ever had. 

"The set, the production and the energy was something like a world movie premiere mixed with Broadway."

An illustration of a woman singing is seen in front of a colourful painting.
A projection of singer Taylor Swift can be seen on an animated painting, created by Hamilton artist John Smith, during her show March 18, 2023 in Arizona. (Deven Anthony/TikTok)

Anthony said some standouts of the night were a transition from the songs Don't Blame Me to Look What You Made Me Do, from Swift's album Reputation, and the visuals in the part of the set where she played songs from her album Folklore, which he said had the "best visuals."

"[Song] My Tears Ricochet showed vulnerability to the audience where August/Illicit Affairs created a captivating visual representation of the songs' words," he said.

Smith said for the work, he was inspired by artist Claude Monet and loves that period of art.

With a solo instrumental album, an unannounced Crave TV show and music videos all in the works, Smith — who is also a member of Hamilton band Young Rival — is not slowing down after this milestone and said he has "a lot of project on the go." 

"It's something I don't take for granted," he said. "Lots of this stuff comes down to luck … and connecting with the right people at the right time."


Aura Carreño Rosas

Freelance reporter, CBC Hamilton

Aura Carreño Rosas is a Hamilton-based freelance journalist from Venezuela, with a passion for pop culture and unique people with diverse journeys.