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2020: The Top Ten Illustrations

2020: The Top Ten Illustrations

In a year when darkness dominated the headlines, and divisiveness drove the news cycles and our social feeds, we noticed a different trend. As we reflect on our year, our top ten illustrations, and the hundreds of hand written gift notes, one thing is clear: There is hope, love, beauty, and resilience.

And there's a lot of it.

We're humbled and honored that our art prints serve as a physical touchstone and homage to your favorite authors and passages. We love that they've brightened your work-from-home spaces and brought a little cheer to loved ones you couldn't be with this holiday. Despite a dark year, there is still so much light. 

Here are are top ten for 2020.

10. Celestial Virginia Woolf

Virginia Woolf Illustration, Night and Day, Obvious State Art Print

Sometimes we can all use a little perspective, and Virginia Woolf captures the sentiment perfectly in this quotation from her novel Night and Day. In our illustration, the swirls in a teacup become a swirling galaxy of stars - a juxtaposition of the pedestrian and extraordinary. 

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9. Candle Edna St. Vincent Millay

Edna St. Vincent Millay Illustration, Obvious State Art Print Millay Quote

This illustration is an ode to those who live out loud. The twin flames of a candle merge into the billowing dress of an intrepid dreamer. 

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8. Lie Fyodor Dostoevsky

Fyodor Dostoevsky Illustration, Obvious State Art Print, Dostoevsky Quote

From The Brothers Karamazov. This 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.

The entire passage reads:

"And above all, do not be so ashamed of yourself, for that is at the root of it all… You have known for a long time what you must do. You have sense enough: don't give way to drunkenness and incontinence of speech; don't give way to sensual lust; and, above all, to the love of money. And close your taverns. If you can't close all, at least two or three. And, above all—don't lie... 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..."

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7. Teapot T. S. Eliot 

T. S. Eliot Illustration, The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock Art Quote, Obvious State

A man is trapped in a universe as vast as his desires and as constrained as the expectations that block them. As time runs out, he struggles with an overwhelming question.

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6. Diverted Jane Austen

Jane Austen Pride and Prejudice Illustration, Obvious State Art Print

Are't we all, though? With any luck, it's the fault of a delicious read.

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5. Beauty Fyodor Dostoevsky 

Fyodor Dostoevsky Illustration, Obvious State Art Print

Out of context, it would be easy to dismiss this quotation as hopelessly naive. But for Dostoevsky, "beauty" is what inspires the best in us, our aspirations for what is good and true, what connects us to each other. In this illustration, we wanted to capture a sense of individuals connecting to a whole that is greater than the parts. Points of light suggest a globe at sunrise, then connect through sunrise into the shape of a magnolia flower.

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4. Pages William Shakespeare 

William Shakespeare Tempest Illustration, Obvious State Art Print

From Act IV of The Tempest, this line is spoken by Prospero, as he compares his magical illusions "melted into air, into thin air," to the transient nature of our lives. 

Our illustration, inspired by his enchanted art, features the island as an inverted book whose tendrilled pages entangle with a sinking ship. When Prospero later abjures from magic, he promises that "deeper than did ever plummet sound / I’ll drown my book."  Many scholars contend that this was the last play Shakespeare wrote alone, perhaps his farewell to the Elizabethan audience.

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3. Hope Emily Dickinson

Emily Dickinson Hope is the thing with feathers Illustration, Obvious State Art Print

For this illustration, we used Emily Dickinson's own words as line elements to create the "thing with feathers" she describes in this extraordinary poem. The source of hope she depicts is a bottomless well of creative inspiration and strength, which for her manifested in poetry. Visually, her handwriting is a remarkable combination of beautiful flourishes and swooshes combined with an almost frantic energy - a pen racing to keep up with a quicksilver mind. 

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2. Miles to Go Robert Frost  

Robert Frost Miles to Go Illustration, Obvious State Art Print

From his classic poem Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.

Like many Americans, this poem was one of the first we learned in school, and there's something magical about it. Frost is known for his use of ultra-realistic, down-to-earth, colloquial language to explore complex social, philosophical and natural subjects.

The final line of the poem is repeated twice by the narrator at the end of the poem. The repetition, implies a double meaning, both a literal and metaphorical journey to be taken. We wanted to capture both in this illustration. 

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1. Becoming Kate Chopin

Kate Chopin The Awakening Illustration, Obvious State Art Print

From her beloved novel, The Awakening. In Chapter 19, Edna's husband worries she is "not herself," but doesn't realize that she is finally "becoming herself," leaving behind the story that he and society had written for her.  

In this illustration, we depict a woman slipping out of a garment made from the text of the story that once defined her role.

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