Last Saturday, I was kicking back in my apartment watching the BBC documentary "How the Celts saved Britain," narrated by Dan Snow. Amidst Snow's exploration of 6th century Irish monastery culture and the creation of manuscripts he speaks with a calligraphy expert to discuss the use of vellum paper (made from calf skin), ink production and techniques for writing with quill feather pens.
Paul Antonio (left) discussing ancient monastic calligraphy with Dan Snow of the BBC
"Hey, that guy's black and he's into calligraphy?! That's cool" I think to myself. I listen on.
"Wait, this guy isn't a lifelong Englishman. He has a Caribbean accent...Ha! He's Trini...how in earth did he get into super ancient calligraphy and manuscript creation in Trinidad?" I was impressed and intrigued to say the least. I start to do "my googles" on this guy.
Talent- born out of Curiosity and Obsession
As I began to look up Paul, I found a cool story and great lesson.
Paul Antonio was born and raised in Trinidad where he fell in love with scripts and differnt types of writing as a child, according to an interview with Kuros Kuriosity.
Due to a rather "compulsive" personality he tells the interviewer, he would see something, attempt to recreate what he saw with a regular ballpoint pen, look back at what he originally saw and try to do an even better recreation.
The books and materials which would have been ideal for the proper study and practice of calligraphy were hard for him to come by in Trinidad. However, his curiosity and love for scripting drove him to become an expert in a very small and niche market.
Creating Opportunity and a Career for Himself
Very early on in Paul's life, his hobby morphed into a profession. With his skills quickly improving and gaining the attention of others, he was commisioned at the age of 15 by the government of Trinidad and Tobago to create very important goverment documents for display.
Today, Paul Antonio operates Paul Antonio Scribe, a London-based "studio of calligraphers, hand lettering artisans and graphic designers" who deliver work to clients using both traditional intruments and digitally rendering tools.
Paul's clients include the British Museum, Tom Ford and Burberry.... The quiet kid from Trinidad sitting in a corner with pen and paper has done well for himself.
Paul discusses his career with Kiros Kirosity
Lessons and Footnotes
Paul, in his Kuros Kuriosity interview, extols the values of practice as "how you get better" because "there is always something new to practice."
His success as a young black youth from a tiny third world nation was so unlikely. And yet, he insisted in pushing himself towards his own ideal- his own "fantastic," to borrow a term of Dr. Richard Iton.
His career is a great example of why one should pursue what they love and do so with passion, slowly gaining expertise with every bit of practice. In the face of the modern convieniece of the digital keyboard, Paul and creatives like him etch and sketch on, creating value and meaning for us all.
Do what you love and do it often, finding new and value creative ways of loving it. It's a win-win situation.
Medvis Jackson is a web designer at Hindsite, curator at Kulchah and avid cricket fan. You can follow him @medvisjackson for his random thoughts.