DIY : How Paul’s Passion For Calligraphy Became His Career and How Your Passion Can Become Yours Too

Have you taken the leap of leaving your 9 to 5 job and pursuing your passion? If no, why not?

Life is short, and so we should do what makes us happy, what fulfils us. Yet, we find ourselves trapped in a cage and one that we almost stay in there willingly. There are many reasons for this, of course, security, people telling you to stop dreaming or that you are crazy thinking you can reach the stars. People do make it, however, otherwise, we wouldn’t have astronauts, football players, actors on Broadway and more. You can grab a piece of that pie. You can even make the whole thing!

Is it scary to change? It can be. Hard work? Yes, but everything worth doing in life requires some hard work. Will it be rewarding? Massively!

Paul Antonio was always encouraged to follow his passions and so refused to commit to the usual 9 to 5 job and pursued what made him happy. José is a Master Calligrapher.

Read on to discover how José got to where he is today and how you too can have a career doing your passion.


Can you tell me a little bit about you and your background?

I grew up in Trinidad in the West Indies. I have a brother and two sisters. My mother raised us on her own. My father left us when we were kids. Mummy was amazing. She always encouraged us and kept reminding us the only way out is through education. She was always there at everything we did, and I did a lot. I sang in the choir, I sang competitively, did gymnastics, dance, she always supported me in whatever I did, and that constant encouragement gave me such drive to excel in whatever I put my mind or my hands to.

What is your passion?

I fell in love with calligraphy when I was a child. I was about nine. My first forays into hand lettering evolved out of my brother and I trying to keep out of trouble. We would trace typeface and shade them in. My brother, Edmund, came home one day having traced an “Old English’ font. I could see if you had a ‘big pen’ you could write it. A few months later a friend gave me a ‘big pen’, a broad-edged nib and off I went.

I always liked writing, and the hunt for calligraphy in the encyclopaedias in the library led me down many a rabbit hole. I soon discovered Egyptian Hieroglyphs, and non-Latin scripts and things opened up from there. I was also lucky to be able to go the Trinidad archives and see old handwriting and the writing on the botanical and wildlife illustration.

I also fell in love with geography and seeing the letting on old maps fuelled my passion.

What does passion mean to you?

Passion means happiness. It also means constant thinking and pushing the boundaries. On another level it also means suffering. Suffering because when you are passionate about something you push yourself. Others see the work and say ‘wow, that is great!’ but you look at it and only see the mistakes. Slowly, you get better and accept what you have done, but you are always striving for more. It is a struggle between being happy with the work because you have achieved something beautiful, then you quickly realise, now that you are better, you can do better. Back and forth. It is a good struggle, but it is also a frustrating one. The joy is the light. Every now and again you touch on something, and the universe opens up before you and this wonderful light of knowledge and knowing illuminates your mind. The price is the more you know, the less you know.

What are obstacles faced when on a journey to discovering and working a passion? How do you overcome them?

Taking your passion and turning it into a job is sometimes not a good thing. You have to balance what it is worth against what someone will pay for it. The worst part of this is when you are starting, and you need the work, but people don’t know you, so you walk a thin line of pleasing the client while not pleasing yourself or the other way around. In the beginning, it is hard to stop yourself from investing too much time in a project but basing the plan around its compensation. You always put in more because, in the end, you have to be happy.

Asking people to pay was another severe problem but something you have to overcome because you need to live.

Knowing your tools and materials comes next, but you can’t know them if you don’t have them, and they might be too expensive, so I pushed myself to see writing differently. To be able to do it at such a high level that I could ask companies for tools and they would send them to me to test. This requires skill, knowledge, a system and most of all honesty.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to pursue their passion instead of the usual 9–5 job but are nervous?

Think! Think about what you want to do. Make a plan. I was never taught to plan what I was going to do. I was skilled, so I assumed I would get work. I had to figure out how to deal with taxes for self-employed. This was a nightmare. I had to work on things I was instinctively not good at and learn to be mediocre at it. You cannot be good at everything so learning what you are good at and not good at is essential. Find someone who is good at the things you are bad at and pay them to do it, it will save you a lot of time.
Learn to let go. Giving up a 9–5 is also about trusting the work will come, believing you can do it. However, learning not to panic and not worry needlessly about what money is coming in has to be balanced out, or you will get ill nearing the end of every month, then when the work does come in, you are too sick to do it.

Learn your skill, become a master of your passion. Don’t be mediocre at something; it is pointless.

Study the market. Look at the competition.

Meditate! You cannot know how important it is to do this. You will need to be about to find some calm in your mind, especially when you are stressed by not enough work or too much work.

Paul showing you can meditate anywhere

What is your favourite thing about calligraphy and why?

There is so much I can say here, and every month this changes for me. I have been lucky to have had a fantastic practice with lots of clients, and different clients too — lots of different projects and experiences which have put me in touch with such bizarre and unique experiences. I have also been lucky to work with and meet other calligraphers all over the world. Moreover, now I am embarking on a different phase of my calligraphic life, new products, more study, more delving.

So I guess for me it is about change. Calligraphy is about change. The ability to see so much in something which is seemingly so static. How can 26 letters be so different? How can the writing of 26 letters generate a meditative field to create calm and out of the calm grows a storm!


Paul teaches us that it is possible to do your passion for a career but that you must be prepared. Make a solid plan, mentally prepare yourself and then go for it. He was encouraged as a child and that has gave him so much confidence in doing what he loves. Surround yourself by people who encourage you and give you the confidence to live your dreams.

What will you do to take a step closer to turning your passion into a career? When are you going to take that leap away from 9 to 5 and into a passion filled life?

At first it may feel like you’re falling off a cliff, not knowing what will happen next. But soon, you will fly, with the wind brushing your face and fulfilment pumping in your heart.

Life is short, your passion is strong, aim for the moon and play among the stars.

If you want help developing your passions or finding new ones, then head over to PassionDig where we believe in running the marathon with you, every step of the way.

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