When he isn’t heading to the studio with his green Ted Baker London satchel, artist and Tisch sophomore Alston Watson can probably be found admiring art in a museum or developing new platforms for artists to showcase their pieces on subjects ranging from fashion to music. When asked to describe him, his friends answered “driven and intelligent, but goofy.” However, the native North Carolinian didn’t agree. When he was asked to describe himself, Watson answered “pragmatic, stylish and anxious.”
Besides being a full-time Studio Art student, Alston also doubles (or, in this case, quadruples) as a creative director, digital illustrator, concept artist and producer of “2 Bros New York Magazine.” Garnering an impressive 10,000 page views within the first month of its release, “2BNY” is a publication that covers a comprehensive range of significant issues, such as women’s rights and the Black Lives Matter movement, and features original visual and written works from about 70 different creators. WSN reached out to Alston Watson to talk about how it all started, what it means to curate the magazine and how he balances it with schoolwork.
WSN: What sparked your interest in the field and who or what has influenced your style the most?
AW: My AP Studio Art teacher in high school, Ronald Beckham, really sparked my interest. I had been doing graphic design stuff for a while, but I had never really taken it as seriously, let alone thought about it as a plausible career. Stylistically, I’m influenced by anime, all of my friends and fashion designers Rick Owens, Raf Simons and Martin Margiela. Looking at my work, I don’t think one would be able to tell, though. I’m inspired more than I am influenced by anything. I like things that make me joyous and being happy and content is a large part of my being able to actually start and complete work. So anything that makes me comfortable enough to process my own ideas and flesh them out technically influences me, I think.
WSN: Take us back to the beginning. Tell us more about how the idea for the magazine came about and what it took to produce it.
AW: It started as a blog I was doing with my cousin and best friend Caleb back in January. He brought it up one night as sort of just a what-if and we just made the first issue winging the whole thing. The rest is history! I’ve been winging it ever since. All of the contributors and all of my supporters on Twitter are truly responsible for the success of the project, being that it’s for them and largely decided by them indirectly. I appreciate all the support it’s been gathering, and I’m glad to be able to help people further their own careers.
WSN: The main goal of 2BNY Magazine has always been to create a platform by the youth and for the youth where independent artists can gain exposure. Was this the same vision you had in mind when you initiated the project and in what other ways do you see it revolutionizing the industry or sparking a movement within the community?
AW: Yeah, that’s always been the vision. I’ve always wanted the artists that I know and see on social media to be taken seriously by the art world. So, I initially thought that the best way to do that would be presenting it to the public in a well-crafted book of sorts, and I still think that’s true. Hopefully, it makes millennials reconsider printed works as works of art in the future and forces the largely old, white and male art world to incorporate some diversification and equality of representation. There’s so much work to be done and progress to be made, and this is really only the tip of the iceberg.
WSN: Producing a magazine or being a full-time college student is hard in itself, let alone doing both simultaneously. What has been the hardest part about juggling the two and what has been the most rewarding part of this entire experience thus far?
AW: The hardest part is time management, honestly. I always wait until the week before release to even start compiling all the work and framing the contents of the magazine. I like working under pressure, but it does call a lot of unnecessary stress. School has always come easy to me, luckily, so that’s never really a problem. It all usually comes down to time management and mental health for me, so stabilizing those two is always the main area for growth.
WSN: Has your education at NYU impacted your art or creative processes in any way?
AW: My process is still the same for the most part, but I’ve definitely become a more technically skilled artist. I was never truly formally trained before NYU, so I’ve always kind of just done what I think is cool and what I think art should be. Here at NYU, I’m still doing what I want, but with a more refined precision than I had as a high school kid. Being in New York has also just given me so much positive energy and inspiration. I always feel like being productive here.
Alston Watson currently lives in Lafayette Hall, where he lies around watching anime in his free time. You can reach him by emailing him at [email protected] or striking up a conversation with him at Chick-Fil-A, where he spends most of his (remaining) free time. You can learn more about 2BNY here.
A version of this article appeared in the Monday, Oct. 11 print edition. Email Paggie Tan at [email protected]