Firstly, could you introduce yourself?
My name is Paul Antonio Attong. I grew up in Trinidad and fell in love with calligraphy and things connected to writing when I was nine. My love for calligraphy grew out of my interest in Egyptian hieroglyphs and geography, where I was fascinated by the lettering on historical maps.
Writing to me is magical.
How would you explain what calligraphy is?
Calligraphy comes from the Greek words Kallos and Graphien, meaning beautiful and writing. It was, historically, used to describe traditional forms of calligraphy like Roman Caps, Uncials, The Gothic Scripts (of which there are many), Italic, Copperplate and Spencerian, to name but a few of the major writing systems. In the 1950’s calligraphers started moving away from the traditional forms to more expressive lettering written with a ruling pen, used in a non-traditional fashion.
For me, it is from here we started to see expressive calligraphy which changed our focus from traditional tools used in traditional ways, but it was really at the beginning of the 21st century did that an explosion in new tools and materials drove the development of modern calligraphy, modern brush lettering and other associated lettering fields like sign writing, lettering for tattoos, calligraffiti and callifuturism.
How did you get into calligraphy?
My brother and I use to trace typefaces as kids and he came home with an Old English Alphabet and I was hooked. A friend gave me a Speedball dip calligraphy set and that was it. I practised every chance I could get, for hours on end, with the little booklet which came with the set, I had nothing other than that. Of course, growing up in Trinidad, there really was no one teaching.
I read you could write with feathers so I taught myself to cut quills, and I tried making paper in my mother’s blender and got a beating from nearly ruining it, but what a learning experience!
At what point did calligraphy as a hobby, transform into a career for you?
My first job was at 17. I was asked to write out five huge scrolls with basically the same copy only the names and some basic information changed. I became acutely aware that I did not know what I was doing with the layout. I did it based on how it felt. I also realised, I did not know the letters as well as I thought I did because I could not get them to look the same on the different scrolls. It was a huge turning point in my mind. I knew I needed to know more. Access to it was a different matter. After that I did little place card jobs and a few indoor signs, but the focus was to become more accurate in letter reproduction.
Where can we see more of your work?
Most of the new things I do can be seen on Instagram handle is @pascribe, Facebook Paul Antonio Scribe and YouTube is also PAScribe. Much of it is exploratory work into the teaching of lettering and the dissemination of information with the aim to help others learn and grow on the calligraphic journeys.
Learn more about Paul Antonio and pick up his tips on starting calligraphy in issue 1 of Simply Lettering, on sale 18th July