On the Picture Book Beat

Illustrator Claire Keane’s break out book sends reader to a world of pastel wonder. In the fashion of fantastical journeys, Once Upon a Cloud sends yourself and protagonist Celeste on a grand expedition. Celeste is driven to gift her mom the perfect present but can’t decide on what. A simple but honorable task, it is not taken lightly, as she enlists the help of a few ephemeral guardians for inspiration. An artist legacy, Claire Keane has been a part of creating some of your favorite contemporary Disney characters, the most notable being the visual development for Tangled and Frozen. As a visual development artist her concept art is breathtaking and communicates the atmosphere, emotions, mood, and characteristics of the story. A powerhouse illustrator, you will find her creative process and stylized illustrations translate beautiful to her first picture book, Once Upon a Cloud.tumblr_na9emg84NG1qcx6iuo1_1280

Celeste has a mission, one she is extremely dedicated to. She wants to find the perfect gift for her mother. Her daily activities succumb to distraction as she tries to brainstorm what would make the perfect gift. Celeste’s quest is quickly derailed as she is literally whisked away by Wind. At this point in the story Celeste transitions from dream to reality. The story breaches the question of reality or fantasy, as Celeste is never actually depicted asleep; it seems her magical journey is very real, allowing ambiguity to create breathing room and a little mystery as the journey’s influence will be the take away. ouc3

Wind is only the beginning as she is soon greeted by the Stars, is regaled to by the Moon, and shares tea with the Sun. With every new celestial meeting, Celeste’s sensibilities are nurtured, as she uses her experience to process what truly makes gift giving meaningful.

Picture books matter; their job is not an easy one. They must marry art and literature while presenting it to the reader in a limited template. Picture books have the ability to establish powerful messages in very little time. These are stories that stay with us throughout our life. Once Upon a Cloud lays the groundwork and expresses that thought processes and creative thinking can be attributed through differentiating inspiration. Some inspiration might come to you in play, in dreams, or in meeting celestial beings. You might perceive the premise as simple but it is in no way simplistic.


Lets talk artwork. Keane’s illustrations are on point as they showcase Celeste’s excursion as she enjoys the company of the Stars, the Moon, and the Sun. The drawings are monumental, depicting Celeste’s immersion into the sky. The pastel drawings combine line work, graphic symbols, and representation illustration. Keane manipulates and controls the pastel masterfully as she creates a variety of scenes through color, texture, and movement. Utilizing her design, she establishes the artwork’s edges that change from soft to hard, representing the different places and beings experienced.

Make no mistake, we will see more independent work coming from the incomparable Claire Keane.


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