“Art which does not reveal mysteries, which does not lead to the sphere of the Unknown, does not yield new knowledge, is a parody of art, and still more often it is not even a parody, but simply a commerce or an industry.” —Ouspensky
Right from the jump, my intention in Areh was to create a treasure—a physical piece of art, a large book beautiful in design, rich in content, created by like-minded professionals each working at very high levels in their medium. Luckily, I found those people, and lucky for me, they were into the idea.
Moving forward, my criteria for the presentation and final aesthetic of Areh was strict. There are many stylistic trappings stemming from the commerce and necessarily high production rate associated with traditional publishing. I find them, on the whole, to be tragically ugly, serving as a visual insult to the (occasional) brilliance of the words inside. One person writes the story, another edits, another proofs, another typesets, another designs the cover, and still another grovels up the kind words to complimentary infest the back of that cover. The vision is piecemeal, a well-stitched Frankenstein. There are few exceptions to this. Though the ones that do exist are brave and refreshing.
By nature of the business, there are many institutional impediments, and worse, a subdued lack of interest by authors, in maintaining a comprehensive vision of their work from conception to completion. For the most part, they write their story, hand it over to the editor designated by their publishing house, engage in some editorial interaction, apply the suggested changes, hand it over again, and wait to see what their book turns into—what it looks like, when, or if, it will be released, etc. So be it, a good story is a good story no matter what clothes it has on, I've no argument there. Mine is not judgement, simply a different objective.
The goal: create a beautiful and impressively crafted story delivered as a physical treasure, a piece of art to be held, touched, enjoyed and taken care of by the recipient. The criteria by which to accomplish this came in questions which, when answered, chiseled away and built the aesthetic of Areh; How much should the book weigh? How should the paper feel, smell? How can the ugly symbol of a barcode be avoided while still remaining viable and convenient for indie retail? How can each page be visually stimulating without becoming gratuitous? With no dust jacket, no quotes or synopsis, what does a cover beautiful enough to demand intrigue look like? And how can these elements be implemented by my discretion only? That last question being the most important to me.
Areh is precious and rare. She would be art, not advertisement, and her presentation would be decided only by those who created her, present in collaboration from inception to fruition—participating artists only. Friends, not strangers. For better or worse, in the end, her prose, characters and narrative arcs would reflect the skill level and editorial acuity of her author, and her final packaging would reflect the vision of those who labored to make her real. Again, no strangers invited, no creative control given over.
I believe there are many people, just like me, who are growing tired of disingenuous and disposable art.