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Imagine Dragons, Tim Cantor painting

'Smoke+Mirrors' (detail), 2015, by Timothy Alfred Cantor b.1969, oil on gessoed panel

Imagine Dragons + Tim Cantor

Like a painting, a song too can speak to us

in infinite ways.  In the fall of 2014, Grammy Award winning band Imagine Dragons entrusted Tim Cantor to interpret their music into visual works of art. Their debut album, Night Visions, was certified multi-platinum and proved to be one of the most successful records of all time. As the succeeding album, titled Smoke + Mirrors, became a reality, lead singer Dan Reynolds sought out distinct imagery that could befittingly symbolize the profound emotional realm invoked by Imagine Dragons' new music.


Not too far away, Tim Cantor was awake every night, tediously channeling his own isolated thoughts into painstaking works of art.  On a rainy Spring night, two visitors unexpectedly graced his gallery and found themselves intensely drawn to the collection of paintings that adorned the walls.  They left the gallery enchanted by the art, haunted by the endearing stories behind the images, and bearing a book of Tim Cantor's art to share with their son.  Those visitors, as fate would have it, were the parents of Dan Reynolds.

As Imagine Dragons returned home from their Night Visions world tour, that paginated folio of Tim's work made its way into the fervent hands and eyes of Dan, who instantly connected with the emotional charge of the paintings contained within.  Not only did Dan find Tim's art beautiful and profound, but it had a ghostly emotive quality that mirrored the sentiments found within his own lyrics.


The request, unexpectedly, came that soon after for Tim to create a painting for the cover of their highly anticipated sophomore album Smoke + Mirrors. At first, Tim was somewhat worried, for he always painted purely from his own imagination.  However, his fears were quickly smothered by the absolute faith that they placed upon him.  With full freedom, they wished for Tim to openly interpret their music.  And so, in secret, Imagine Dragons played their new songs to Tim for the very first time.


Tim Cantor's paintings and unique character were not only connecting perfectly with Imagine Dragons' lyrically intense songs, but these unorthodox artists truly enjoyed the coalition of each other.  The situation was ideal for Tim.  As he focused on his endeavor, his obsessive ways overtook, and the matter became not so much about the creation of a single painting for the cover, but trying to decide from the hundreds of sketches and concepts that poured forth from Tim's thoughts as the songs flooded his mind with visions.

In the Fall of 2014, Tim traveled to Imagine Dragons' studio in Las Vegas to meet with the band and share what their new music had put forth from his imagination.  Tim revealed the countless renderings he had created while inspired by their new songs.  As it grew to be, Tim Cantor painted not only the iconic cover art for Smoke + Mirrors, but thirteen additional paintings would ultimately represent each song on the album.


Together, they effectively created a striking portfolio of music and art in this treasured collaboration.  Smoke + Mirrors, upon its release, debuted at #1 in the world and proved to be a triumphant achievement.  This unique artistic alliance provided a visual treatment that inspired further listeners to focus deeper, and see that each song held its own distinctive thoughtful intention.

Tim Cantor paintings represented each song on Imagine Dragons Smoke+Mirrors album.  Unique exhibitions traveled the world displaying works in galleries and concerts, including an exhibition in the House of Vans in the underground tunnels of London that preceded the album release.  In June 2015, Imagine Dragons and Tim Cantor joined forces with DTS audio to fashion an elaborate traveling museum exhibition to present the artwork that was created for the album. As part of the Smoke+ Mirrors experience, the traveling art exhibit accompanied Imagine Dragons on their entire 2015 American, Canadian and Asia tour, as well as various shows in Europe and South America.  At each performance, Tim Cantor was in there as well to meet with fans and share the story of their remarkable collaboration.


The layouts and descriptive text were part of that exhibition, and represented thoughts from an interview from Tim Cantor as he personally interprets his own thoughts of how he feels the paintings relate to the songs.

Not only did Tim Cantor's museum become part of the Smoke + Mirrors experience at most concert venues, his imagery was also beautifully integrated into the production of Imagine Dragons' performance.  The concert tour staging was designed to have the sensation of Tim Cantor's virtuosity.  Most apparent was the extraordinary finale to each concert. For the encore, Imagine Dragons would reappear with their song THE FALL. Perhaps the most ideal synchronization of image and song, this performance brings rise to Tim Cantor's etheral gold tree.  From peaceful to feverish, roots rip from the soil and rise, untimately culminating in a sea of a million leaves falling from above, blanketing the stage and the audience below.

A unique music video was created for the song SHOTS.  This incredible video was entirely formed from the works of Tim Cantor.  Dan Reynolds and the band perform in a swirling array of paintings that have come alive. 

Today their friendship continues.  Their connection is ongoing, and will forever be a mark in history as something never quite done before...

Tim Cantor Imagine Dragons Mercury Tour
Imagine Dragons Album Cover by Tim Cantor

'Smoke+Mirrors' oil on panel, final album cover

Tim Cantor with Imagine Dragons in Las Vegas Studio
Tim Cantor I Bet My Life painting in works
Tim Cantor promotion Imagine Dragons
Tim Cantor Imagine Dragons Exhibition London
Tim Cantor Imagine Dragons Exhibition Shanghai
Tim Cantor Imagine Dragons Concert Exhibitions
Tim Cantor Imagine Dragons The Fall
Tim Cantor Imagine Dragons SHOTS
Tim Cantor Imagine Dragons SHOTS painting

'SHOTS,' oil on panel, 2014-15.

Tim Cantor Imagine Dragons Mercury Tour
Tim Cantor Imagine Dragons Mercury Tour
Tim Cantor Imagine Dragons Mercury Tour
Tim Cantor Imagine Dragons Mercury Tour

Photos from Imagine Dragons 2022 Mercury Tour - Photos by Matt Eastin

Tim Cantor Ashby&Alfred Logo


Tim Cantor More Info

Like Child, Like Man: descriptive poem

Translate an early poem of Tim Cantor's fierce painting, full of internal conflict, and read into the ambitions and vexations of an intense young artist.


Tim Cantor More Info

Observations of Tim Cantor's paintings:

This acclaimed youtube series, narrated by BBC's John Cavanagh, highlights diverse subjects and views within Tim Cantor's paintings


Tim Cantor More Info

Drawings and Conceptual Works:

Browse Tim Cantor's original concept works that are currently offered.  Many have fascinating particulars to discover


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