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.

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 "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.  “To sleep in a wild cherry tree all white with bloom in the moonshine” - Lucy Maud Montgomery  New in shop: Large prints! We’re excited to announce the addition of 16x20 prints to the shop. All prints are now available in either 11x14 or 16x20 (simply use the drop down menu on the prints pages). All of our prints are made with premium, archival paper that’s expertly (and sustainably!) milled in upstate New York. To celebrate, we’re giving away a complimentary print. To enter, simply leave a comment and tell us which one you like. We’ll select a recipient next Friday, June 28. In addition, save 20% off prints with code: LARGEPRINTS  “Let us spend one day as deliberately as nature and not be thrown off the track by every nutshell and mosquito’s wing that falls on the rails...” - Henry David Thoreau. We’re sharing a few excerpts from Book 5, “Where I Lived and What I Lived For,” from our Illustrated Classics Collection.  "One who has a why can bear almost any how" - Nietzsche. From “The Twilight of the Idols: or How to Philosophize with a Hammer.” First: How awesome is that title? For Project 52 Week 23, we started with Neitzsche's idea that hardship is not alleviated by reducing the burden of life, but by increasing our conviction to bear it with purpose. For the illustration, a constellation is depicted in the shape of a globe. The hand reaching across the star map reveals a figure who willingly bears the weight. All project 52 prints are $20 on release day. Use code: WHY20  “And all goes onward and outward, nothing collapses…” - Walt Whitman. Happy 200th, Walt! We’re perennially inspired by his wise words and are sharing excerpts from our illustrated “Song of Myself.”
 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!  “In the midst of chaos, there is also opportunity” || Project 52 Week 24: Sun Tzu. Sun Tzu was the original game theorist, and the advice in “The Art of War" contains ancient practical wisdom with application well beyond military strategy. He underscored the importance of "knowledge is power" and "picking your battles," as well as the role of hubris, planning and timing. This "winners mindset" quotation is a favorite of ours with universal appeal. We responded to the quotation's simple contrast, and honed in on the question it raises: How do you identify opportunity in the midst of chaos? Aim for it and go for it. In the illustration, we depict an archer aiming his or her bow, the curve of which defines the border between calm and chaos.  Welcome to the world, Literary Paris! Today is release day, and I am thrilled to introduce this little book to the world. As many of you know, I have worked with @chroniclebooks for the past seven years, beginning with my first book, Paris in Color in 2012. Literary Paris is my fourth and latest book, and it’s a photographic tour of some of my favorite bookshops and literary locations in Paris. In addition to the photos, I included passages from French writers and writers who called Paris home, as well as a location guide in case you want to follow in their footsteps. We’re celebrating with a virtual book signing, so signed copies are available in the shop. This book was a labor of love and I truly hope you enjoy it! - @nicholerobertson  "Wit is well-bred insolence." - Aristotle. || Always have something unexpected in your pocket. Aristotle may have had this insight over two thousand years ago, but like a classic suit, some observations are timeless.  “I Stop Somewhere Waiting for You.” - Walt Whitman || So much has been said about the meaning of these closing words from “Song of Myself,” but what strikes us as most extraordinary about them is their profoundly generous spirit, and the immediate closeness we feel with the author across the wide chasms of time and mortality. And these are the very chasms he sought to bridge in the poem. That we can feel the poet’s embrace even now that he is long gone is the only proof we need of the truth of what he says. Whitman himself, as he prophesies in the poem, has returned to the grass he loves. Still, his words and thoughts reach and move us today. And all this time, in his grand, amiable and accepting way, he has been somewhere, waiting for you. || To celebrate Walt Whitman’s 200th birthday, we’re teaming up with @vintageanchorbooks to giveaway our Walt Whitman “Somewhere Waiting” art print and their gorgeous LEAVES OF GRASS reissue! To enter for a chance to win, tag a friend below and follow @vintageanchorbooks and @obviousstate. Good luck! NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. Enter by 6/5 US 18+. Rules: https://bit.ly/2vSbBY9
 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.  Happy Monday! We are working on some new mug designs for fall. What current illustrations or new authors do you wish we would add? This is our current most popular mug - T. S. Eliot.  Calvino asks: “Why read the classics?” Lola asks: “Why sniff the classics?”  “What is noble? What does the word “noble” still mean to us today? What betrays, what allows one to recognize the noble human being, under this heavy, overcast sky…” A blank page and Nietzsche to start the week. - @evanrobertson