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.



 "In the room the women come and go Talking of Michelangelo. And indeed there will be time To wonder, “Do I dare?” and, “Do I dare?” Time to turn back and descend the stair, With a bald spot in the middle of my hair — (They will say: “How his hair is growing thin!”) My morning coat, my collar mounting firmly to the chin, My necktie rich and modest, but asserted by a simple pin — (They will say: “But how his arms and legs are thin!”) Do I dare Disturb the universe? In a minute there is time For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.” - T.S. Eliot, “The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock || Illustration from Book One in our Illustrated Classics Collection. Do you see the earring and the dress?  "Strive to know yourself, for it is the most difficult lesson in the world." - Cervantes, "Don Quixote” || The maxim "know thyself" dates back to ancient Greece, inscribed on the Temple of Apollo at Delphi. In its simplest form, the thought has been ascribed to Aeschylus, Socrates, Plato, Hobbes, Benjamin Franklin, Emerson, and more recently, it was inscribed over the Oracle's door in The Matrix movies. What we love about Cervantes' version is his focus on knowing yourself as a practical, lifelong task rather than some vaguely blissed-out spiritual state. We wanted to capture the challenge of a mind reflecting on itself in order to improve itself. In our illustration, a pair of hands piece together a puzzle of which they are a part.  "Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards." - Soren Kierkegaard || This simple observation from Kierkegaard’s journals sets the stage for his philosophy on the nature of experience, time, regret and the existential necessity of faith. For this illustration, a ship ventures into unknown waters—a sea of illegible futures. Only in the wake it leaves behind can one make sense of its course and its meaning.  "Bright star, would I were stedfast as thou art— Not in lone splendour hung aloft the night And watching, with eternal lids apart, Like nature's patient, sleepless Eremite, The moving waters at their priestlike task Of pure ablution round earth's human shores, Or gazing on the new soft-fallen mask Of snow upon the mountains and the moors— No—yet still stedfast, still unchangeable, Pillow'd upon my fair love's ripening breast, To feel for ever its soft fall and swell, Awake for ever in a sweet unrest, Still, still to hear her tender-taken breath, And so live ever—or else swoon to death.” - John Keats || Illustration from Book 8 of our Illustrated Classics Collection (coming soon!)  "Our deeds determine us as much as we determine our deeds." - George Eliot  I see “The Time Machine” as a story about humanity’s fragility, and in this illustration, I wanted to capture something other than the literal (and strange) adventures the traveler has. Here a constellation forms a hypercube, which is two interconnected 3D cubes. From within it, the traveler has a unique vantage point. - @evanrobertson  “Give me books, fruit, French wine, fine weather and a little music.” - John Keats || We love the spirit of this epicurean wish list, which Keats petitioned for in a letter to his sister Fanny. The illustration plays with combining all of the elements into a single, decadent feast. Can you spot them all?
 "Every morning I lay on the floor in the front parlour watching her door. The blind was pulled down to within an inch of the sash so that I could not be seen. When she came out on the doorstep my heart leaped. I ran to the hall, seized my books and followed her. I kept her brown figure always in my eye and, when we came near the point at which our ways diverged, I quickened my pace and passed her. This happened morning after morning. I had never spoken to her, except for a few casual words, and yet her name was like a summons to all my foolish blood. Her image accompanied me even in places the most hostile to romance.” - James Joyce, “Araby” || Illustration from our old short story series, and the full story is on our site - it’s a good one!  "Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach? I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach. I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each. I do not think that they will sing to me. I have seen them riding seaward on the waves Combing the white hair of the waves blown back When the wind blows the water white and black. We have lingered in the chambers of the sea By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown Till human voices wake us, and we drown.” - T.S. Eliot || Illustration from “Let Us Go Then: The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” Book One from our Illustrated Classics Collection.  “All the beauty of life is made up of light and shadow” - Leo Tolstoy, “Anna Karenina” || To say that we’re all living through a destabilizing, time of “shadow" is an understatement, and we hope you and your loved ones are well. One thing is clear to us: Whatever may come, hope and community will be the light. In honor of that we want to illustrate some of your favorite passages. Something perhaps you always wished we would illustrate, something that moves you, something you think has universal appeal. There’s just one rule: We work entirely in the public domain, which roughly speaking refers to books published pre-1925 (unless of course you are a current author or rights holder). Leave your quotes and ideas below and we’ll take it from there.  “One ought, every day at least, to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture, and, if it were possible, to speak a few reasonable words.” - Goethe || Making lists, checking twice...  Poe state of mind...  "Failing to fetch me at first, keep encouraged; Missing me one place, search another; I stop somewhere, waiting for you.” - Walt Whitman, "Song of Myself,”
 Right before non-essential businesses were shut down in New York City, we received a new shipment of totes from our Brooklyn bag maker. To say it was a bright spot was an understatement. We’re thrilled with our two new totes, Frost and Dickinson, and have brought back two favorites: Keats and Shelley. A bit more about our totes: Each one is hand screened and hand sewn in Brooklyn, NY. Our print partner uses environmentally friendly, water-based inks which are PVC- and phthalate-free. Water-based inks are softer to the touch and blend beautifully with the premium, 100% natural cotton canvas. Each slim, elegant tote is 13x15 inches with 24 inch black straps. There’s a roomy interior pocket for your essentials and a one-inch gusset. We hope you enjoy them!  "Endless lively conversations over endless cups of coffee in literary cafés" - Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Cofounder @citylightsbooks || Last March, we collaborated with Mr. Ferlinghetti and @doubledaybooks on a print for the release of Little Boy, which coincided with his 100th birthday. Today, Lawrence Ferlinghetti turns 101! Little Boy's expansive stream-of-consciousness narrative enthralled us, and the romance of this passage swept us up. It summons images of coffee-fueled benders in Greenwich Village, beat generation poets, romantic dissidents, and sense makers lifting up the wall-to-wall carpet of American culture to see where all the dirt had been swept. There are so many extraordinary insights and breathtaking sentences in Mr. Ferlinghetti's spiraling work, but we gravitated to this one, perhaps a bit for the sake of nostalgia, but also because it sums up a fundamental lesson he taught us: that meaning-making is first and foremost a communal act. At a time when our coffee time is relegated to home and coffeeshops are closed, “endless lively conversations over endless cups of coffee in literary cafés” sounds fantastic. For the drawing, we explored the idea of coffee cups as a visual pattern on cafe tables that interlock and overlap each other, much like a great conversation. Coffee pouring from a pot into a cup forms the tip of a fountain pen.  "Reading is that fruitful miracle of a communication in the midst of solitude." - Marcel Proust || Some observations are so astute that once you read them, you can’t imagine not having had the thought yourself. So it is with this observation, courtesy of Proust, who believed reading was spiritual and more than a means to an education or knowledge. How often do we take for granted the magical communion with another human being that reading affords us? The contradiction of human connection in seclusion is a unique pleasure and gift.  "Was it a vision, or a waking dream? / Fled is that music:—Do I wake or sleep?” - John Keats, “Ode to a Nightingale” || Illustration from Book 8 from our Illustrated Classics Collection, which releases in two weeks.  Weekend plans: Supporting our local bookstores. They need us. || Many shops are offering curbside pickup, online ordering and even a few perks! If you have details about a local shop share in the comments.  “Become a voice.” - Sappho || Though Sappho wrote this circa 600 BCE, her ancient call-to-action remains as relevant and inspiring as ever. Here’s to the ladies on International Women’s Day! Illustration from our SHE collection.