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2022: The Top Ten Illustrations

2022: The Top Ten Illustrations

Happy Holidays! 

We hope you and your family are enjoying good food, good company, and good cheer. 

One of our favorite things to do as we ring in a new year is to reflect on the past year through the lens of the quotations and illustrations that resonated with our community. 

Judging from our bestsellers, this year was a reflective year for many, as themes of truth, honesty, and introspection dominated. There was also a hint of adventure and carpe diem, which dovetails with one of the first projects we will announce in the new year. 

We  also want to thank you for all of your support of our small business. Whether you made a purchase, shared something on social, or simply like what we do, we could not do it without you. 

We wish you the happiest of holidays and happy new year!

Here are our top ten illustrations for 2022: 


10. Type Wells 

Ida B Wells Truth Quote, Obvious State

Trailblazing journalist Ida B. Wells knew what she stood for and unwaveringly stood for it: Truth. Despite the impediments as both a former slave and a black woman living in the post Civil War south, she relentlessly pursued stories that exposed horrific injustices, often jeopardizing her own safety.

She viewed truth—no matter how hard it was to tell—as the ultimate means of confronting corruption, injustice, and hatred. She didn’t embellish, or write to fit her agenda or feelings. She didn’t allow herself to be defined by ideologies or interest groups. She told the truth. Our illustration is a nod to her remarkable strength, and the idea that the act of writing as a form of truth telling shines a light on the world. 

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9. Candle Millay

Edna St. Vincent Millay, First Fig Illustration, It Leaves a Lovely Light, Art Print Obvious State

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. Teapot Eliot

T. S. Eliot, Do I Dare Disturb the Universe Illustration, Lovesong of J Alfred Prufrock Illustration, 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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7. Gatsby Fitzgerald 

The Great Gatsby Last Line, Illustrated, Obvious State Art Print, And So We Beat On

The final line of The Great Gatsby, the Fitzgerald novel that defined the jazz age. It was the era that ushered in modernity, a time of material excess, liberation, and intoxication. But even in the midst of the party, Fitzgerald could sense the toll such decadence takes on the human soul.

Like so many other Fitzgerald fans, we adore this quotation and its kaleidoscopic meanings. Gatsby, surrounded by unimaginable wealth, prestige and fanfare, dreams only of a future with Daisy that will recreate their past. And yet, his past is what prevents him from attaining that bright future. All pomp and circumstance aside, Gatsby is deeply relatable. Everyone, in their own way, aspires to their own vision of “one fine day.” Everyone is reaching toward the green light. And like Gatsby, we are all eventually borne, against our will, into the past. 

In our illustration, a figure rows toward an ethereal, glimmering girl as her dress forms the bay. Her belt resembles a shining city, and a green jewel dangles from a string of pearls.

With one hand she sets the sun, with the other she lifts the moon.   

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6. Wake Kierkegaard  

Kierkegaard, Illustrated Obvious State Art Print

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.


Kierkegaard was considered the father of existentialism, and later existentialist thinkers such as Jean-Paul Sartre and Albert Camus built on the ideas he put forth in his great work, Fear and Trembling.


In our 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. 



5. Lie Dostoevsky 

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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4. Forever Dickinson

Emily Dickinson, Forever is Composed of Now Illustration, Obvious State Art Print

Why is it that the most profound human truths are so often conveyed by the most eye-roll inducing, clichéd phrases? All you need is love! Live in the moment! Stop to smell the roses! Dickinson’s poetry always manages to end-run these dull platitudes and tackle the biggest, weightiest ideas. 

In her poem Forever - is composed of Nows, she blitzes two of her favorites, time and mortality. We humans seem to have a unique capacity to contemplate the infinite expanse of "time." We codify it, and arrange our experience of the world along an imagined timeline: first there was then, now I am here, and tomorrow I will be there. 

But useful as this ability is to human civilization (would there even be civilization without it?), it obscures a simple truth. Time is merely a series of "nows." Outside the scope of memory, there is only here and now. Dickinson’s poem explores this truth, and re-contextualizes “forever” as a stream of present tense experience. 

In our illustration, this present tense is represented as a map pin, a temporal “latitude of home.” The “nows” flow along a path that winds its way forever, taking the form of a snake biting its own tail. 

We honored Dickinson's capitalization of the word "Now" in the quotation. 

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3. Self Chopin

Kate Chopin, The Awakening Quote, Illustrated, Obvious State Art Print

This poignant quotation is from Chopin's beloved novel, The Awakening, and in our illustration, a woman slips off the words that once defined her. Kate Chopin was a feminist before her time. The Awakening, which was published in 1899, was controversial and considered a failure. It wasn’t until the 1970s feminist movement that it became more widely read and recognized as a pioneering work in women’s literature.

This original illustration is printed on premium, heavy archival paper and ships in a protective sleeve with information about the print and our studio on the back. Our art prints make great literary gifts for book lovers and art lovers alike.

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2. Why Nietzsche 

From The Twilight of the Idols: or How to Philosophize with a Hammer

First: How awesome is that title?

Nietzsche's idea that hardship is not alleviated by reducing the burden of life, but by increasing our conviction to bear it with purpose strikes a chord. 

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.  

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1. Change Tolstoy 

Not to be outdone by his novels, Tolstoy lead an epic life. To the manor born, young Leo did poorly in school and had more interest in gambling and romancing. That all changed when he enlisted and fought in the Crimean War. The experience converted him from a libertine dissolute into a non-violent reformer and spiritual anarchist.

He spent the rest of his life writing on social issues and thinking about how to help build a kinder, gentler society. He was an anachronistic thinker: an aristocrat who opposed serfdom and property rights, a devout Christian who drew profound inspiration from Indian sacred text, and a proto-communist who was deeply skeptical of government in any form. He also inspired Mahatma Gandhi to pursue peaceful resistance in India. He founded the first institute of democratic education, happily worked alongside peasants in the fields, practiced moral vegetarianism, and (oh yeah!) banged out War & Peace, Anna Karenina, A Day in the Life of Ivan Ilyich, and eight other novels and social treatises.

We love this quotation from his diary, written in 1900 under the heading “Some Social Remedies: Three Methods of Reform.” Lest the more revolutionary amongst us take issue with his assertion to look inward first, remember that we discovered it only by peeping in his diary, and that his intended audience was himself.

In our illustration, two camps of protestors converge in a struggle to change each other’s minds. The composite clash takes the shape of a face, contemplating the many voices and issues at hand, leading to an act of thoughtful self-examination.

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