…. mackerel sky

January 29, 2016

There is an Old English saying about weather which goes:  “Mackerel scales and mare’s tails make tall ships carry low sails”.  ‘Mackerel scales’ refers to Altocumulus clouds which (to some) resemble the markings on the sides of mackerel.  ‘Mare’s tails’ refers to Cirrus uncinus clouds which–according to the saying–must, like mackerel scales, indicate strong winds, though the two types wouldn’t likely appear together in the same sky.



The subject is taken from a view of the British Columbia coast, beaten down by the effects of storm after storm.  Having lived on Vancouver Island at one point, the weather forecast for the most northerly tip seemed to nearly always call for wind and rain which made me thankful we lived on the most southerly end.  We received quite enough rain as it was.  However, seldom was it ever a pelting, all-out soaking torrent–which made local people say to tourists complaining about the constant drizzle, “Yes, but it’s a dry rain.”

This was painted on treated illustration board.


13 Responses to “…. mackerel sky”

  1. When you have a moment, google The Cloud Appreciation Society…it’s out of the UK and deals in natural beauty, as well as wit…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. ….thank you Cynthia, and it is something of a departure stylewise for me, and leaves me unsure–I almost didn’t post it and certainly won’t frame it. But I did learn from the process. You are a member of the Cloud Appreciation Society? That so great. I had no idea there even was such a group, but am glad to know it–for as you point out, we can easily not even see clouds much less know their many forms and names. As this age goes on, I have a feeling we are in for some very dramatic skies, and will come to appreciate what we see in the distance. Thank you for always being here for us.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. …I admire your work so much


  4. Lance, the rugged cliffs are amazing! Thanks for sharing the interesting narrative and your beautiful artwork.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I like this painting, Lance. I find it unusual, as a a coastline painting. As a member of the (UK) Cloud Appreciation Society, I also very much enjoyed your explanation of clouds in the sky. Your story of the “dry rain”,and how we take our own familiar environment for granted, reminded me of the one where two young fish swimming along met up with an older fish swimming the opposite way….the old fish said “Good morning, boys, how’s the water?” As he continued on his way, one of the younger fish looked at the other and said: “What the heck is water?”

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Art doesn’t have to be scientifically accurate. 😉 I’ll have to find where I put that poem.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Teri C said

    Wonderfully descriptive painting and explanation. Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. … Sue, I believe what I treated it with is an acrylic transparent medium, but I can’t be sure because whatever is in this plastic bottle lost its label, and I bought it a long time ago to experiment with. But I am almost certain it is that. I spread it on with a hake brush and diluted it some with water while doing so. It acts as a kind of resist and texture-maker with watercolour. And it aids in lifting paint. I hope that helps answer you somewhat, Sue, thank you.


  9. Thank you Teresa–I hope you will post your poem for us to read. This sky isn’t really indicative of what a mackerel sky looks like, but I like the word imagery so much I went ahead and named it that (smile).

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Oh, so beautiful! I have not made it to the northern end of Vancouver Island yet…all our visits were to the sunnier southern end. 🙂 I wrote a poem about mackerel skies! Those are some of my favorite cloud formations.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Sue H said

    What is treated illustration board? How does it effect watercolor?

    Liked by 1 person

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