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Arthur Buxton’s "Colourstory" Show and App

Create abstract, digital prints from your photos

by Cajsa Carlson
on 12 November 2015

At the recent Rooms Festival in Bristol, UK, one of the rooms was slightly hidden away from the others. Visitors had to wander down a long corridor and then up a winding staircase to get to the festival’s gallery space, which—unlike most of the other rooms—was dedicated to the work of just one person. On the walls hung Arthur Buxton’s "Colourstories," the result of years of analyzing images to create unique color palettes and turn paintings into pie charts.

Buxton began the project when, while working as a print technician, he looked at the print test samples and liked their aesthetic. “I made my first one, the Van Gogh print, in 2011, and then realized I could use any image,” he told us. Buxton’s Van Gogh features 28 paintings by the artist, turned into pie charts that proportionally represent the five most prominent colors within each individual painting. As a viewer, you can’t help but try to guess which is which—is that Van Gogh’s famous self-portrait, is that the sunflowers? The print’s simple graphics have an appeal in themselves, but the added background story turns it into a sophisticated guessing game.

Since the Van Gogh charts, Buxton has created color schemes from the works of other artists (including Picasso and Matisse) but his software can be used to find the dominant colors from any visuals. At The Rooms, Buxton also showed his Vogue cover charts, which have previously been on display at Christie’s Multiplied art fair, and which analyze the dominant colors of every Vogue cover from 1981 until 2011. Buxton created charts from the covers of Vogue US, UK, Italia and France, and the result is a crash-course in the changing hues in contemporary fashion over two decades. It’s fascinating to see the different palettes used by the four different countries, and to trace the changes in cover colors with the change of editors-in-chief.

More recently, Buxton has used his software to create circular prints of different children’s books, like "Where The Wild Things Are" and the "Hungry Hungry Caterpillar," but his latest release is "Colourstory", a new, free web-based app that lets users create color prints based on their own photos. The app, which launched at the festival, means you can create prints from things like holiday photo albums, “bringing it back to a personal story,” Buxton says. Upload any images to the website and you can see the colors of your life (or at least your Facebook profile pictures) and then create a print from it. Buxton showed us a print made from photos from his Greek holiday; in mainly blue hues, from the water, it also had flashes of pink from his girlfriend’s dress. To an outsider it’s simply a clean, graphic print, but to the people in the know, it’s an abstract photo album, and a novel way of making use of digital images that otherwise easily just remain bytes on a hard drive.

Final image by Cajsa Carlson, all others courtesy of Arthur Buxton

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