Rose of Sharon Studies

Working in a series has always intrigued and challenged me. I really like a “theme”. The common thread can be the subject matter, a particular place, a limited palette, even a certain size. The options are endless. I have found the more I restrict my choices the greater chance I have of coming up with an interesting series.

In this case, I have chosen Hibiscus syriacus commonly known as the Rose of Sharon . I love this prolific flower which grows like a weed and propagates profusely. In fact, I don’t ever remember planting one. It just appeared, probably from a neighbors yard. They come in many shades, pink, lavender and white are just a few in my yard.

The other limitation was the size of each piece which was 6×8. I ordered these beautiful portrait linen panels and accepted the challenge of the small format and found it to be perfect for these studies.

Each one begins with a tonal underpainting. Taking the time to investigate and depict the particular motion and gesture of the flower and leaves before adding color. Because the rose of sharon flower does not live very long one must work in a steady progression and rather fast. I did take a few pictures to refer to as the blooms do not last long and actually seem to fade and move slightly as you paint.

“Rose of Sharon, White Beauty” (6×8)

I find the buds and the leaves just as inspiring as the full bloomed flower.

“Rose of Sharon #5” oil on linen panel

I was gone for two days and everything had died in this arrangement except for one lone flower. I don’t know if the buds will open or not. I should probably rename this one Late Bloomer. As you can see from the progression I started with a simple “grisaille” concentrating on the drawing and gesture of the forms first before adding color. Movement and form was foremost in this piece

“Rose of Sharon #6”. oil on linen panel.

I decided to crop this study focusing on the interior forms and the patterns of negative and positive space.

“Rose of Sharon in a Glass Vase” oil on linen panel (11×14)
“Last of the Season”. oil on linen panel (11×14)

This is the very last study of the Rose of Sharon series this year. I have really enjoyed painting this humble yet beautiful flower.


The rose of Sharon symbolizes love, beauty and healing to both Jews and Christians.

In the Bible, the Rose of Sharon symbolizes beauty and it is in the book of Song of Solomon to describe the beauty of King Solomon’s lover. Some consider it a symbol for Christ.

John Steinbeck chose the name Rose of Sharon which ws pronounced “Rosasharn” as the name of Tom Joad’s sister in his famous book “The Grapes of Wrath”.

“I am the rose of Sharon” was an early American choral music piece written by William Billings

IN MUSIC: Listen here on Youtube:


I am a rose[a] of Sharon,
a lily of the valleys.

As a lily among brambles,
    so is my love among maidens.

As an apple tree among the trees of the wood,
    so is my beloved among young men.
With great delight I sat in his shadow,
    and his fruit was sweet to my taste,
He brought me to the banqueting house,
    and his banner over me was love.
Sustain me with raisins,
    refresh me with apples;
    for I am sick with love.
O that his left hand were under my head,
    and that his right hand embraced me!
I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem,
    by the gazelles or the hinds of the field,
that you stir not up nor awaken love
    until it please.

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