Obvious State


In 2014, my husband Evan and I cofounded Obvious State–a creative studio and literary brand. I am the Creative Director and I also run our Instagram account.

We’re inspired by provocative language that has stood the test of time, poetry that captures the beauty of the human experience, and philosophy that drives us to examine and re-examine.

We aim to create art and thoughtfully designed gifts that prompt conversations and bring aesthetic joy to everyday objects.

Visit our site.



 Hell no! Peace out! The other day, we shared a throwback to our 2015 Subtext Collection and were overwhelmed with requests to bring back the prints and add mugs (especially Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte). Apparently you guys love a classic mic drop So… we added the Austen and Bronte prints to the shop, and we’re working with our mug partner on a limited edition mug run. The mugs may be ordered now and will ship in three weeks. Hope you enjoy them! - @nicholerobertson  Is there a book or a line in a book that sticks with you, shifted your perspective, or shook some fundamental belief? Is there a quote that centers you, or haunts you, or motivates you? When I was in college, a professor assigned “The Closing of the American Mind” by Allan Bloom. During our first discussion, he had a difficult time getting any of the students to engage - we were all silent. And as he soon realized, we were all pissed (which he expected, because the book was controversial and was a scathing indictment of current college students). He wrote the following sentence on the chalkboard: “By being open to everything you stand for nothing.” This rattled the students, and instigated a heated debate. After everyone calmed down, he informed us that the whole thing was an experiment in pissing us off and forcing us to entertain a position with which he was fairly certain we would disagree. The subsequent discussions were engaging and productive, and in many cases the students, including myself, thought Bloom made great points and defended his position with compelling evidence. What do you think? Have you read books that provoked you to reevaluate or reinforce your point of view?  “Be happy for this moment, this moment is your life” - Omar Khayyam || We played with two ideas in Khayyam's Rubaiyat - the brevity of time and the sweetness of life. Sand runs inexorably through an hourglass, and its silhouette forms a glass of wine. Drink up!  When you read the news before you’ve had Monday morning coffee…  Teacher? Professor? Librarian? Educator? Heads up! One of the biggest requests we get is: “Do you have a teacher discount?” The answer is: Yes. Yes we do! We've had a "by request" program for years, but recently formalized it. We need your help letting educators know. Tag your teacher, librarian, professors and educators in this thread. For more details and to sign up, tap the link in our profile and click the “Educator Discount” link under the featured items on our homepage.  Speaking of absurd...   "The Future is only dark from outside - Leap into it, and it explodes with Light."- Mina Loy || From her manifesto "Aphorisms on Futurism," first published in Camera Work issue 45 in January of 1914. Loy was a fierce progressivist both politically and creatively. She was associated with many of the major art movements of the early twentieth century, and had a brief affair with both Futurism and its leader Filippo Marinetti. In this design, we wanted to create something aggressively vibrant, giving it a sense of movement as you read the words. A copy of the original published poem is now preserved in Yale's Beinecke Library. This illustration is part of our upcoming SHE collection and we’ll be sharing more in the weeks to come!
 "He tried not to look long at her, as if she were the sun, yet he saw her, like the sun, even without looking." - “Anna Karenina” || Project 52 Week 28: Leo Tolstoy. We’re excited to share this week’s illustration for a variety of reasons, but chief among them is you. This line from Anna Karenina has been THE most requested illustration, so this one is for you!  || We, like many, are captivated by Tolstoy's elegant description, and are intrigued by the idea of love (infatuation?) having a luminous quality that overwhelms our senses and penetrates us against our will. This passage is from the scene in which Levin sees Kitty ice skating, and our illustration draws inspiration from that. In it, a skater and a winter tree are all that remain of a man's silhouette, as it becomes impossible for him to keep his desires under his hat. || Note: There are a variety of translations for this line. We’ve chosen to truncate this translation a bit by removing “he stepped down” as it made a long quote even longer.  “Above all, don’t lie to yourself” - Fyodor Dostoevsky || We love how you framed and styled our Dostoevsky print @ani_elizaveta - what a reminder when you sit at your desk! || This Dostoevsky passage is so awesome, we included the entire excerpt in our design to provide context for Dostoevsky's stunning insight into personal responsibility. A face comprised of text has been partially redacted, creating a self-inflicted blindfold. Here’s the full passage: "Above all, don't lie to yourself. The man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie comes to such a pass that he cannot distinguish the truth within him, or around him, and so loses all respect for himself and for others. And having no respect he ceases to love, and in order to occupy and distract himself without love he gives way to passions and coarse pleasures, and sinks to bestiality in his vices, all from continual lying to other men and to himself. The man who lies to himself can be more easily offended than any one. You know it is sometimes very pleasant to take offense, isn't it? A man may know that nobody has insulted him, but that he has invented the insult for himself, has lied and exaggerated to make it picturesque, has caught at a word and made a mountain out of a molehill—he knows that himself, yet he will be the first to take offense, and will revel in his resentment till he feels great pleasure in it, and so pass to genuine vindictiveness. But get up, sit down, I beg you. All this, too, is deceitful posturing…”  “3 o’clock is always to late or too early for anything you want to do” - Sartre || Good news! We’re bringing back our pocket journals, and want you to help us select the illustrations for the first batch. Stay tuned for voting details early next week! In the mean time, we hope you have a wonderful weekend.  “But perhaps there is a living transcendence, of which beauty carries the promise” - Albert Camus, “The Rebel”  "The earth was warm under me, and warm as I crumbled it through my fingers. Queer little red bugs came out and moved in slow squadrons around me. Their backs were polished vermilion, with black spots. I kept as still as I could. Nothing happened. I did not expect anything to happen. I was something that lay under the sun and felt it, like the pumpkins, and I did not want to be anything more. I was entirely happy. Perhaps we feel like that when we die and become a part of something entire, whether it is sun and air, or goodness and knowledge. At any rate, that is happiness; to be dissolved into something complete and great. When it comes to one, it comes as naturally as sleep.” - Willa Cather, My Antonia. || A poignant message about happiness from one of the greats. “That is happiness; to be dissolved into something complete and great” is inscribed on the tombstone Cather shares with her partner, Edith Lewis. The illustration above is a peek at some client work—the jacket art for the Willa Cather Collection we did for @juniperbooks . We wanted to explore the power of transformation, and represented it through the altered landscape of her native Nebraska as it progressed from wilderness to working farms.  Camus eloquently addresses the danger of playing too casually with existential angst. “Life is absurd” has an adolescent, anti-establishment, rock-n-roll appeal. But what's next? What do you stand for? Recognizing the absurdity of life does not absolve us of responsibility. Rather, it prompts us to take on the ultimate challenge of making our own meaning. || "The realization that life is absurd cannot be an end, but only a beginning. This is a truth nearly all great minds have taken as their starting point. It is not this discovery that is interesting, but the consequences and rules of action drawn from it.” - Camus’ review of Jean Paul Sartre’s “Nausea.”  Throwing it way back today to 2011 and one of our first illustrations: F Scott Fitzgerald. || The roaring twenties, when booze was illegal and dresses were flappy. We both love this line from "This Side of Paradise” - it reminds us of the headlong intoxicating rush into mutual obsession. Here, the flapper dress transforms into a martini glass as it is unzipped. || Reminder: All of our prints are 20% off to celebrate the launch of our new large formats.
 Imagine Jane Austen sitting at her writing desk mulling over the scene in which Mr. Darcy has just popped THE question. Lizzy takes it in, Jane Austen cracks her knuckles, and boom!… out comes one of the most memorable disses in the English canon. #HELLNO || Just a little fun throwback to 2015 and our Subtext collection—a collaboration we did with @penguinrandomhouse  "I like a cat because it does not disguise its selfishness with any flattering hypocrisies. Its attachment is not to yourself, but to your house. Let it but have food, and a warm lair among the embers, and it heeds not at whose expense.” - Letitia Elizabeth Landon. #nailedit  It’s that time! All the details are on our site and check stories for special summer bundles.  Beach bound this weekend? A little reminder from Papa. || “The sea is big and old.” Too simple for your taste? Perhaps he should have gone with "the sea is boundless and ancient," or "the expansive sea churns eternally." Hemingway would just as soon tuck a daisy behind the ear of a bull. Instead Hemingway gives us "big" and "old,”—words simple and true. We wanted to honor his unadorned, straight-shooting writing style and we kept coming back to this line, as there is so much to unpack in those six words. For our illustration, we took our cue from Hemingway's words and his personification of the sea.  "Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard are sweeter." - John Keats, "Ode on a Grecian Urn" || Project 52 Week 26. Keats pushes all the right buttons for us. The tension between imagination and reality, the perfect and the flawed, the eternal and the transient. In this illustration, a constellation revolves like a record, and the groove spirals toward a waning moon. Print available in the shop.  “To sleep in a wild cherry tree all white with bloom in the moonshine” - Lucy Maud Montgomery