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Big Canvas, Big Dreams

If you saw an artist painting a giant canvas at the Craft Beer Festival a few weeks ago, you’ve already gotten a glimpse of Esteban Camacho, Dongguan’s resident muralist.

Esteban is currently employed as a teacher at Tungwah Wenzel International School in Songshan Lake, but he is most well-known for his commissioned artwork on the streets. Esteban began creating murals in his early 20s, when he first made a mural with middle school students.

Esteban’s murals are always painted with permission from the wall owner and establishes a sense of purpose. As an artist who researches before starting a project, Esteban focuses on figuring out what image would connect well with the local culture. In his words, murals that he paints must be “relevant to the community and also personal to the place.” Because of this tedious research process, Esteban’s most significant mural projects have taken him several months to plan.

Born a Costa Rican, Esteban grew up around more city buildings than nature. However, having lived and worked at a university in Oregon, he can say with certainty that “nature is the maximum of happiness and freedom.” Because of this, many of Esteban’s murals are images of colorful nature. Through his work, Esteban hopes to bring fresh, green ideas to the walls and the minds of city-dwellers. After all, as he says to himself, “if we don’t know about them, we can’t help them.”

In the actual process of creating a mural in the city, Esteban relies on his community of local artists to find new “canvases” and customers. He also occasionally calls together a group of artists for help. For him, this is a great way to meet local artists and bond with his students.

As a person, Esteban is proud that he has not constantly been pushing himself but has also managed to gain the support of his family to become an artist. For him, art inspires life just as much as life inspires art. During his time building his artistic profile and reputation, Esteban worked on a construction site, did commercial painting and learned to cook. Over the years, he has learned to balance his life between being an artist and make a living.

He can remember a time when he spent six months trying and failing to win a big art competition early in his art career—a long wait that turned out to be worth the patience.

In the future, Esteban hopes to take on bigger projects: looking around the city, he sees a lot of potential for beautiful green murals. Now, all he needs is to find a developer interested in “something more than just development” and something that will contribute positively to the cityscape and the local populace.

Until the city is covered with colors from Esteban’s paintbrushes, keep an eye out for him and his work at the Tungwah WenzelInternational School in Songshan Lake and the Guangdong Art Museum cafe.