You may know Brandon Boyd as the front man for Incubus but he’s also a visual artist. He’s grown up making art long before he started writing music. Boyd has published three books of his visual art: “White Fluffy Clouds” (2003), “From the Murks of the Sultry Abyss” (2007), and “So the Echo” (2013). Among dozens of book signings, group and solo exhibitions, special collaborative projects, and engaged philanthropic arts, Boyd has shown his crisp, expressive paintings, prints, and drawings at cities across the globe in group and solo exhibitions. Boyd is returning to POP Austin this year to showcase some of his newer work. We chatted with him about his inspiration, influences and more.
Art has been part of your life since you were a child. Can you talk about having that creative outlet at such a young age?
I grew up in a household where those kind of things were encouraged. I think part of it, to tell you the truth, was my mom learning how to temporarily crisis-manage when me and my two brothers would be out in public. She had to think of really creative ways to keep us from killing each other by creatively distracting us. She used to always have a sketchbook with her and different pens and paper. When we would start picking on each other she got accustomed to figuring out preemptively when violence was going to break out. She started pushing these right brain games in front of us where one was called the scribble game where you would scribble and then you have to make a picture out of it. I was in an environment that was filled with those types of solutions and that encouraged me to learn how to express internal mechanisms that were really hard to express.
You’ve said before that your mom was one of the first influences you had; do you have any other artists that you look to for inspiration?
My mom was my first window into it because she spent a great deal of her youth painting and drawing, and was involved in dance and singing and theater. I was always encouraged to delve into books. I feel really blessed to have grown up in a time that was right before the internet and so I got the first half of my life without that and then second half of my life with it. I feel like I’ve been exposed to the best of both worlds. I started seeking out lots of different artists and writers and so many countless number of them have been deeply influential. When I was a teenager, I really got into a lot of ’60s poster art. They would do these elaborate concert posters for The Grateful Dead and there was this artist named Stanley Mouse and Rick Griffin who were for the lack of a better term were illustrators, but bordering on fine artists kind of thing. They were deeply influenced by nouveau artists from the turn of the century which led me into that kind of genre. So people like Aubrey Beardsley and Egon Schiele have been people who are still really influential to me in an aesthetic sense.
Where do you draw the line from influence and your own style? What do you think your style of art is?
I would like to think my style is constantly kind of slowly morphing over the years. I would like to think it’s a process that never really has an end to it results. I never really want to make it because then I feel like I stagnated and found something that, at that point is which is repeat and repeat. The same thing goes for music too. It’s a lot more fun and challenging to allow yourself to take your muse throughout your life. There’s a difference between being inspired by artists and imitating them. When we’re really young and learning how to do these things, initially we learn mostly by imitation and so I would just do my best to like copy my favorite nouveau artist. As as we grow up a little bit we start to differentiate naturally and we start to notice that we probably can better honor those influences by not emulating them and by just sort of being inspired by them. That’s what’s been my mantra over the past 15-20 years and to be unabashedly inspired by any number of different artists, whether they’re musicians, painters, writers or filmmakers.
Creating art over a long period of time creates a time capsule of sorts. Do you ever look back on some of your earlier work and just get taken back to where you were in that moment?
Absolutely. You can do it with visual art but for me writing songs has been an even deeper window into not just mindset, and a window that doesn’t really make sense and can’t peer through too clearly until you’re many many more years out from the piece itself, whether it’s a song or painting. Usually it takes some serious hindsight for me in order to really truly understand what I was trying to say or trying to portray or trying to transmit in that moment. A lot of time it’s been visual art there’s a more visceral arrival of that picture meant in that moment, but I’ll say again I rarely know exactly what it is I’m trying to say in those moments. It takes time for me to step back and sometimes it’s even a person I’ve never met who approaches me on the street or at a show and their like ‘Hi I loved that song, I loved that you said this particular thing exactly like this’ and quote it back to me, and it’s almost like they’re teaching me what the song is about and the same thing happens with paintings as well. It’s part of why this process has been kind of endlessly fascinating to me because it’s continually revealing itself.
You’ve had two creative outlets to express yourself in: music and art. What would you say to those who say they are not “creative”?
All of the revelatory moments come as a result of some sort of creative reasoning. Or sometimes creativity happens because of the lack of reasoning and it’s just a sort of breaking open intellectual, emotional or spiritual doorway. But the way we interpret our experiences, whatever they are, is a window into that individual creativity. It’s something that’s kind of hard to describe. I am always trying to remind friends and family when they say ‘I can’t draw’ or ‘I’m not a creative person,’ it’s like ‘actually you are.’ We’ve sort of been trained in a language that would suggest that there are only two or three kinds of creativity when the truth is it’s the exact opposite. Creativity manifests in limitless ways. In our culture and the way we talk about it is, ‘You’re only a creative if you are a painter or a musician or an actor.’ I think the exact opposite is true. I think human beings are inherently creative and some of the most fantastic scientific revelations have come as a result of deeply creative insights, from the most incredible mathematical equations have been arrived at because of these creative insights.
What’s the creative process like for you?
I usually, and this has been my experience for as long as I can remember, there’s sort of an overwhelming desire. An overwhelming drive either to pick up a guitar or pick up a pen or stare into a blank piece of paper or canvas until something emerges. It’s once again kind of hard to describe and another reason why it’s fascinating because there’s like this overwhelming urge to make something out of nothing and it’s actually a really beautiful feeling when you’re in the midst of it. You’re usually not paying attention to how you’re feeling; you’re just sort of in it. It’s kind of a mindless state, so what I’ve learned how to do over the years is to create environments and search for environments that are conducive to that feeling. That has been creative and fun as well, to seek out inspiration and then start to learn how to look for it and perhaps in mundane circumstances. Eventually if you start training your eye enough you can learn how to find it at any given moment so it’s a lot of fun actually.
With songwriting my best moments are very very first waking states so early early morning so I get up and make coffee and I’m wandering around my house and those first few hours are the most critical for songwriting for some reason. And with painting it’s a little bit different: it’s usually the end of the day and into the night.
What was it like being at POP Austin last year?
I remember it being a lot of fun last year. I remember being really hot and it was sweltering. I remember being in the gallery and my back being sweaty and thinking, ‘this is fun; I’m having fun.’ It was really enjoyable moment. There were great artists last year. This year seems like it’s going to be a lot of fun too. I have a handful of new watercolor pieces that I’m showing and most of them are newly in the past couple of months. I’m excited to share them with everybody and hopefully people can enjoy what they see and have a good experience.
What are you working on next?
I’m in the process of putting together a pop-up gallery in Los Angeles in the first few days of December. I’m going to show a bunch of new paintings alongside really amazing artists that are friends of mine in Los Angeles. Tasya van Ree, Natalie Bergman and Diana Garcia – these are all people I’ve known for a long time and whose work I’ve bought over the years and big supporters of them. I’m always going to have a bunch of random merchandise that I’m making. All of which is based on a limited-edition kind of thing. Kind of like an art print series but in the form of limited series T-shirts, patches, enamel pins, things like that. It’s kind of fun, a different fun way to get stuff out there.
After that Incubus is going to be on tour internationally in 2018. So I’ll be pretty busy with that I’m sure.
Brandon Boyd will be at POP Austin on November 3. To view the full POP Austin schedule click here. He will also be holding a POP Up gallery in early December. To stay up to date and view more art you can visit his official website here.