So, he nestled in the village in the city, and for more than ten hours a day, he kept copying Van Gogh’s paintings.
In 20 years, he has painted a total of 100,000 oil paintings, and he is so familiar with Van Gogh’s paintings that he can copy them with his eyes closed.
Facing the camera, his eyes are lonely and longing.
“I think I know Van Gogh…”
To this end, he decided to get out of the status quo and use originality to pay tribute to Van Gogh, a painter who struggled for his ideals all his life.
It took Zhao Xiaoyong 20 years from Xiaobai to copying, and 10 years from copying to entering the hall of masters.
It took him 30 years to complete the transformation of his life. He is Zhao Xiaoyong, the “Van Gogh of China”.
In 1987, 15-year-old Zhao Xiaoyong came to Shenzhen to work alone.
But because he was too young and had no strength, no factory or construction site was willing to ask for him.
During that time, Zhao Xiaoyong spent the most difficult time in his life.
He slept across bridges, roads, and rested in suburban cemeteries, wandering in the city, he was no different from a homeless man.
Because he did not have a temporary residence permit, Zhao Xiaoyong was quickly taken away by the police, and it was only after the co-workers raised 400 yuan for him that he was taken out.
Desperate, he went to beg a factory to take him in, without wages, as long as he could eat and live.
In a Tenglan factory, he stroked and colored resin figures.
Because he saw his cousin painting in his hometown, Zhao Xiaoyong showed extraordinary talent in painting.
Soon, he became a fine-painter in the factory, and his works were framed and placed in glass cabinets, which became the objects of study for all workers in the factory.
The workdays in the factory are repeated every day, and gradually, Zhao Xiaoyong is tired of the current life.
Just when he was considering whether to resign, a word from the fellow completely rewrote his fate.
In the late 1980s, a wealthy Hong Kong businessman received an order from Wal-Mart, asking him to deliver 30 imitation paintings within 30 days.
So, he came to Dafen Village with an order, regarded it as his studio, and recruited “painters” from all over Shenzhen.
At that time, Dafen Village was not a famous imitation painting manufacturing center, but an ordinary village in Shenzhen.
There is a foul stench here all year round, so it is dubbed the “big dung village” by the locals.
But soon, because of the arrival of businessmen, the “Dung Village” will rewrite its own destiny.
After the fellow came to Dafen Village to apply for a job successfully, he thought of Zhao Xiaoyong, so he also invited him.
Zhao Xiaoyong almost didn’t think about it, so he agreed to come down, packed his things, and came to Dafen Village to become a “painter”.
In this way, a businessman, with dozens of “painters”, started the work of imitating paintings, and Zhao Xiaoyong entered the business in a confused way.
Here, many “painters” are migrant workers, and they don’t even know how to hold a paintbrush, let alone paint oil paintings.
Therefore, wealthy businessmen invited teachers to teach them how to paint oil paintings from scratch. After only ten days, they began to copy paintings.
The “painters” don’t need to know how to paint, and they don’t need to know what emotions are in the painting.
Just need to learn how to “copy and paste” a painting to another drawing paper with a brush.
Because of the huge workload, dozens of “painters” have to paint for more than ten hours a day.
When I get tired, I sleep on the stool for a while, and then I paint after I wake up.
The weather was hot, and there was no air conditioner. In the room of more than ten square meters, there were more than a dozen painters crowded, and even the air they exhaled was hot.
They can only bare the upper body and use all their strength to complete the paintings in their hands. Each painting can earn from ten to dozens of yuan.
Zhao Xiaoyong, in such an environment, stayed for three months. Apart from eating and sleeping, he painted every day.
At the end of the three months, he had learned the art of painting imitations, allowing him to take root in the industry.
After the order was delivered, the wealthy businessmen in Hong Kong made a lot of money, and many businessmen came to the industry one after another.
They rented studios in Dafen Village and looked for “painters”, and soon, one studio after another opened up in Dafen Village.
At its peak, the total number of studios in Dafen Village exceeded 1,000, and the annual output of imitation paintings was as high as 5 million.
It has become the main supplier of imitation paintings in the world. 70% of the imitation paintings in Europe come from China, while 80% of the imitation paintings in China come from Dafen Village.
And here, it has also become a treasure for many imitation painting merchants to make a fortune, with a total annual sales of 1 billion.
But as the main producers of paintings, the “painters”, they don’t make much money all year round.
Some of them are migrant workers, some haven’t even graduated from primary school, and some, a few months ago, couldn’t even hold a paintbrush with three fingers.
But after a few months, they contributed more than 60% of the imitation paintings in the world.
From Van Gogh to Miller, from “Starry Night” to “The Gleaners”, as long as the client needs it, they have to paint it within the specified time.
In order to improve efficiency, many businessmen will split a painting and let the “painters” work together.
For example, in painting “Mona Lisa’s Smile”, someone is responsible for painting the left eye, and someone is responsible for painting the mouth, and finally, all the works are assembled.
Here, painting is not a work of art, but a businessman, and the “painters” are not artists, but only factory workers.
And Zhao Xiaoyong is one of these thousands of “workers”, but he is smarter.
After completing the first order, he opened a studio, took orders by himself, and became a small boss.
The contents of the order are all paintings by Van Gogh. It is not that Zhao Xiaoyong has a soft spot for Van Gogh, but his paintings are more profitable.
Gradually, Zhao Xiaoyong’s paintings became famous locally, and he also had regular European clients.
He has to complete twenty or thirty paintings every day, and it is impossible for him to be busy alone.
So he brought in his wife, brother and brother-in-law and made them his partners.
His wife is in charge of “Starry Night” and “Sunflowers”, his younger brother is in charge of “Cafe at Night”, and his brother-in-law is in charge of “Self-Portrait”.
In the next few years, Zhao Xiaoyong’s studio will produce tens of thousands of Van Gogh’s paintings every year.
Zhao Xiaoyong and his family have been copying them for decades, and have already memorized all the details of the paintings in their hearts.
Take Zhao Xiaoyong as an example, he painted 100,000 Van Gogh paintings in 20 years, and he can copy one in as fast as 28 minutes.
His wife, chatting with others, watching TV series, within an hour, a pair of “Starry Night” can come to life in her writing.
But ironically, they haven’t even seen the original Van Gogh, and some people don’t even know how to write the word Van Gogh.
Gradually, Zhao Xiaoyong began to have a strong interest in Van Gogh.
“I’ve been painting his paintings for half my life, but I don’t even know who he is. It’s a bit unreasonable!”
One night, Zhao Xiaoyong gathered together all the “painters” in the studio to watch Van Gogh’s documentary.
It was this documentary that completely changed Zhao Xiaoyong’s second half of his life.
Vincent van Gogh, who was withdrawn since he was a child, was regarded as a freak. The only thing that could accompany him was the paintbrush in his hand.
But the paintbrush didn’t make his life any easier, from Holland to England to France.
He spent his whole life in poverty, was down and out, he only sold one painting in his life, and finally cut himself off in despair.
Looking back on his life, he poured all his passion into each painting.
Sadly, his rotten body cannot carry his soul, and every time he picks up a brush, his life is the price.
The soul quickly evaporates on the canvas, reflecting Van Gogh’s life and magnifying the life of the “painters” infinitely.
Van Gogh’s tragic life, isn’t it a true portrayal of the first half of his “painters”?
Like Van Gogh, they wandered around in the first half of their lives, living in no fixed place, and working hard for three meals a day.
But van Gogh could shine a light on his brush, what about them? Chasing a lifetime is nothing but a poor imitator.
Since then, a part of Zhao Xiaoyong’s heart has collapsed, and the core part has begun to rebuild, but it still needs some opportunities.
He wanted to go to the Netherlands to see the authentic works of Van Gogh, and to understand the real inner world of Van Gogh. What was it like?
The opportunity came. One day, he received an invitation from a client to invite him to Van Gogh’s hometown, Amsterdam.
The other party said that he only needed Zhao Xiaoyong’s travel expenses, and he would take care of the rest.
But for Zhao Xiaoyong, it is still a lot of money.
He discussed with his wife, but every time the two of them would quarrel, and in the end, they would still return to the issue of money.
Zhao Xiaoyong told his wife that he went to see Van Gogh’s paintings in order to imitate them more and make more money.
But after living with him for decades, his wife certainly knew that Zhao Xiaoyong’s real purpose of going to see Van Gogh.
In the end, his wife still couldn’t beat Zhao Xiaoyong, and he embarked on a plane to the Netherlands.
Amsterdam in reality is different from what Zhao Xiaoyong imagined. It is not like a big city, but more like a small town.
On the streets of the town, Zhao Xiaoyong saw a small shop selling souvenirs filled with high school portraits of Van Gogh.
The largest of them was hung outside the door, framed in glass, and displayed to passers-by.
Zhao Xiaoyong recognized it at a glance. Most of the paintings in the souvenir shop were made by him and his studio.
They hang on the wall without even a picture frame, allowing the locals to come in to pick, touch, buy and sell.
Each painting can be sold for about 30-40 euros, and the bigger one outside the door can be sold for 400 euros.
This is almost more than eight times the export price of Zhao Xiaoyong.
At the entrance of the small shop, Zhao Xiaoyong joined Zhang Ying with his self-portrait of Van Gogh. At this time, he had mixed feelings in his heart.
The “painters” have painted paintings for half their lives, but they are still at the bottom of the industrial chain and receive the meagre wages.
But these capitalists can earn more than eight times the profits by just flipping their hands. Why?
But all this, Zhao Xiaoyong has no power to change, he can only light a cigarette in loneliness and let his sorrow drift away with the smoke.
The next day, he came to the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam to get up close and personal with Van Gogh’s paintings for the first time.
“The color is wrong, the original is obviously much lighter!”
Zhao Xiaoyong thought he knew enough about Van Gogh’s paintings, but after seeing the real works, he realized how ridiculous his thoughts were.
Each painting is stronger than I imagined, and there is no decadence at all, and some are just infinite enthusiasm for the painting.
Even as miserable as Van Gogh, when he picks up his beloved brush, he can still leave everything behind and paint without distractions.
Can you do this when you are soaked in three meals a day?
After returning from the Netherlands, Zhao Xiaoyong began to lose his mind.
He considered himself a half-artist, but his trip to the Netherlands made him realize that in front of Van Gogh, he was nothing.
Van Gogh had the courage to dedicate everything to art, did he himself?
He began to dream, and dreamed of Van Gogh, and he came up to himself and asked kindly.
“Xiaoyong, how are you painting my works now?”
“I’ve entered your state!”
In the dream, Zhao Xiaoyong tried to touch, only to find that there was nothing in front of him.
He woke up from the dream, couldn’t sleep for a long time, and sat until morning.
In the early morning, the first ray of sunlight shone into the studio, Zhao Xiaoyong lit a cigarette and made plans in his heart.
“It’s time to try to change a little bit!”
Since then, Zhao Xiaoyong will also try to paint what he wants to paint in the space between painting imitation paintings.
Zhao Xiaoyong will try to describe the daily life of the “painters” in the studio, his grandmother in his hometown, and the little things in life.
With the money he earned over the years, he opened a studio to sell his original paintings.
At the beginning, Zhao Xiaoyong’s business was not good, and he couldn’t even sell a few pictures a month.
But he didn’t give up, he persisted, and gradually, with the help and promotion of his peers, his paintings began to become famous.
From the first few dozen yuan, no one cared about it, and now he can sell tens of thousands of pictures. This process took him ten years.
Although the process was long, Zhao Xiaoyong did not regret it, but fortunately, he persevered.
Ten years later, he dreamed of Van Gogh again, with his back to Zhao Xiaoyong, standing in the distance, his voice was low and deep.
“I’m an insignificant and annoying person.”
“All in all, I am the most despicable person in this society.”
“But even if this has become an indisputable fact.”
“One day, I will use my works to tell the world.”
That morning, Zhao Xiaoyong woke up from his dream with tears in his eyes, but a smile on his lips.
“Mr van Gogh, I think I might have done it, even if it wasn’t perfect.”