I've had mutual friends in common with Langston Allston for a couple of years now. We'd run into each other at parties, we attended the same university and even lived in close by neighborhoods. I always knew he was an artist, and I got to know his art better at one of his showings at the Basement Gallery. After hearing about his mural at the Bike Shop in Downtown Urbana- I decided to see it for myself. Langston gladly agreed to meet up and tell me more about his life over some dinner and drinks. He told me he's getting his degree majoring in Painting with a minor in Art History and that he grew up in Champaign, Illinois. The first thing that popped in my mind that I wanted to ask Langston was about his childhood and how it affects the art he created as a child and creates today. He told me that his father owned thousands of comic books stacked in his childhood home. He continued to tell me that each comic book was essentially a chapter in a chapter book- so to read the complete story, you would have to buy all of the individual comic books. As a child, Langston would grow impatient on waiting for the end, and decided many times to write and illustrate his own ending to the story. The Green Lantern was his most memorable comic book. He tells me that, "Comic books rounded my sense of storytelling. At the end of the day, though, it has to be about real life because it wouldn't resonate with people."
Langston has been habitually drawing every day for the last 15 years. As a child, he also made his own toys out of telephone wire just as the telephone companies were beginning to switch from copper wire to fiber optic wire. The wire was free and easy for him to get ahold of. It came in a variety of colors that he could work with. He told me he specifically enjoyed sculpting superheroes out of the wire. His favorite television shows as a child were Dragon Ball-Z, Samurai Jack, Batman and Rap City music videos.
"My parents work very hard, as long as I worked hard- I was encouraged to do what I loved," he told me. In his childhood, he specifically mentioned how he would go to the library and read Spacejet books from the 1950's and loved to look at the illustrations. When it comes to murals and graffiti, he says that the 1970's &1980's graffitti went around the world and paved the way for today's large scale mural paintings. When I asked him about his tendency to use unusual colors when painting people, he said it is a style that developed from lack of paint, although he usually uses hues of red and blue for their skin colors. He'd often trade paint for tattoos, and has also tattooed himself.
I asked him if he had ever made artwork on trains and he told me he generally stays away from them because they're moving. Even if it is a stationary abandoned train, he prefers not to draw anything because the point of tagging trains is exposure- trains travel all over the United States and other people seeing the art is almost thought of as the name of the game.
Another thing he told me was, "An oil painting should have the weight of a research paper," which I thought to be very interesting. His thoughts are that if you're going to spend the money and time on an oil painting, that it should be researched and well thought out. "I paint untraditional things so people re-examine what they believe about certain figures being portrayed."
More of Langston's work from various places in his apartment he shares with another artist who I also admire, Mason Cosmo.
Thank you for spending some time with me, Langston, I really appreciate it!