Long before he became known as the frontman of the Grammy-nominated group Incubus, Brandon Boyd was a painter.
As a child, he used paint and crayons to communicate to his parents when he couldn't find the right words.
"If I was feeling things and didn't actually have a vocabulary to describe at that point, I was able to draw it to share with my family," recalled the now-40-year-old Boyd, who still paints. "Metaphorically speaking, I paint with my right hand and make music with my left. They are both attached to the same larger organism that has an overwhelming desire to make things."
Three of Boyd's water color paintings are on display in a new exhibit opening Sunday at the Orange County Great Park Gallery in Irvine, called "Rhythm," which also features seven other rock star artists.
Curator Kevin Staniec, program coordinator for the city, said the idea for the show started germinating when he met up with his friend Matt Maust, who is a mixed-media artist and bassist for the popular alternative rock band Cold War Kids.
They liked the notion of featuring trending musicians who double as artists, so Staniec got bold and contacted Chad Smith, drummer with the Grammy Award-winning Red Hot Chili Peppers, a group he had listened to growing up.
"1990s Kevin was just going nuts," Staniec said. "Once we got Chad Smith of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, it was just like, 'OK, let's just send out emails to everybody. Let's shoot for the moon.'"
Soon enough Boyd, singer and songwriter Joseph Arthur, disc jockey Moby, Dave Lombardo of the heavy metal band Slayer, Chad Sexton of reggae group 311 and Bill Ward of the Ozzy Osbourne metal outfit Black Sabbath all hopped aboard.
All the pieces, Staniec said of the art, "have a rhythm to them."
Boyd said he created his paintings by dripping paint onto paper, letting the colors run and then creating lines with fine-tipped brushes.
Maust creates mixed-media collages from items he finds around the world while on tour, and Arthur's abstract paintings have a Picasso-like flair to them.
Moby shares photos he's taken of crowds at his concerts. Lombardo, Sexton, Smith and Ward collaborate through a Los Angeles-based art group called SceneFour on art pieces created by digitally manipulating photographs of the drummers playing.
Staniec said the variety of methods and messages allows visitors to open up various dialogues.
"There's that fun layer of art conversation and debate, then the fun conversation of music," he said. "Of course, there's a third layer of generations and conversations. A dad could bring their kid and talk about the Chili Peppers back in the '90s, while the kid likes Cold War Kids."
On Saturdays, as guests walk around the gallery, local musicians will play, providing a soundtrack of sorts.
Staniec said many people are likely to connect to the pieces because of who made them, but Boyd believes the name shouldn't matter.
"People could see this stuff and have no idea who made it," Boyd said. "They could spend 20 seconds in front of one of my paintings and sort of get lost for a moment for no particular moment and then move on to the next one. If I can add just a bit of rest from someone's normal, hectic day, just through the vehicle of looking at one of my paintings, that's an amazing accomplishment."
For Arthur — who often paints on stage during his concerts — creating art is a nice break from the headaches of touring and recording.
He described art as a "sedative," while music can be anything but calming.
"After a long day in a recording studio, you're really tired because sound is exhausting to work with in every way," he said. "But then there's the road aspect of the whole thing too. With painting, you can be at home and keep working.
"There's some great freedom to painting that I don't find with music as much."
IF YOU GO
What: "Rhythm" exhibition
Where: The gallery at the Orange County Great Park, 6990 Marine Way in Irvine
When: Through Nov. 13; noon to 4 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays