There is a magical place just beyond the border where the streets and alleyways are lined with colorful canvases, peppered with thick pallets of paint, teaming with tall handled brushes and abuzz with wizard-like artists honing their craft. Dafen Oil Painting Village, twenty minutes outside of Shenzhen, is a mecca where the paths of perseverance and practice cross making painting religion.
To journey to this magical place from Hong Kong, you can either day a bus or the MTR. The below information is how to use the MTR to reach Mecca. Take the MTR to Lohou Station where you will cross the border. American can get a VISA on arrival which takes about an hour and cost slightly less than a 10 year VISA. Once you exit the station make your way to the taxi queue. Make to get a metered taxi as many will offer a hire car in which you will be overcharged. Most taxis know Dafen and will know where to go. The journey will take roughly twenty minutes and cost 60 RMB.
Dafen village covers a larger area and there are multiple entrances. You could spend the entire day there as there are an Art Museum and other areas of interest. The actual painting village is a network of alleyways and small lane houses with individual artists painting on commission. There are also art supplies store selling everything and anything painting related.
From Starry Night to pet portraits, anything and everything can be painting by these masters. The cost of a commissioned painting varies on size, style, and detail. Dafen painters will specialize in certain styles of even artists. Your best bet is to make an exact replica or copy of something you want. Due to language barriers and the exactness in which the artists work, giving creative licenses may result in a painting that may not meet your expectations. Therefore, the more specifics, visual examples, and references you provide more likely you will be happy with the end result.
If you find yourself there around lunchtime, there is an excellent Muslin Resturant that has streetside seating and menus in English. Try the hand-pulled noodles and watch as they make the next batch and don’t miss roujiamo which is spiced lamb with coriander in warmed buns.
After your visit, you will be left with wonder as well as some deep questioning. Are the Dafen masters proof that if you send 10,000 hours doing anything you will become an expert? Or, what would Van Gogh think of artists copying his works and selling them for profit? Whether you walk away with a painting, philosophical wonderment or you simply visit it as you would an art gallery, this colorful corner of the world is definitely worth a visit.