San Francisco Workshop with Paul Antonio

I couldn’t believe I was going. When Paul announced that he’d be starting to teach classes a little over a year ago, I commented that I’d go overseas to learn from him. And then he announced the teaching tour and I wanted to be one of the first to sign up.

Why I wanted to Learn from Paul

I have commented many times to Paul about the way he talks about calligraphy. Reverently and respectfully. He has invested so much time into learning the history behind the strokes and he treats the scripts like thy’re alive and to be respected with integrity. He never talks about being a penman loftily. His demonstrations aren’t pretentious like some of the ones I’ve seen. Paul constantly references study and practice, which makes calligraphy so accessible.

I also like that he links the act of calligraphy with the body and mindfulness. The repetition of the strokes and the shapes is relaxing. Paul takes that a step further by asking the student to be present in the body and understand that the motion comes from more than just the hand or pen. Most things we do come from a deeper place and experience than everything we project to the outside world. Calligraphy is one way to find that depth.

So going to the workshop and meeting Paul were really no-brainers to me. It’s that time of year though when everything is tight — both financially and with time constraints. I can only work so hard for so long before I get a short fuse. I had four projects to finish before I left on top of working my day job pretty much every day between being awarded the scholarship and leaving for San Francisco. I was really tired every day after I came home from work.

Before Paul awarded the scholarship to me, I felt like no one really looked at my feed, even though I have plenty of interaction. Paul looked through my feed. It motivated me to curate and take my time with the letters and forms. The workshop has made me feel more dedicated to calligraphy. It felt like it was going to be a bigger, more fertile pot for me to grow into and I liked that.

Paul Antonio cutting a quill

What We Learned

The workshop was just what I thought it would be. I was nervous about a lot of different things, but Paul greeted me warmly and Bianca and Nina were there learning with me. Paul’s experience and knowledge provided a nice safety net in which to let go of existing knowledge and habits and allow new information in. We don’t realize how much of learning is also unlearning. Most of the work of the class was to assume a healthier seated position that provided accessibility to the upper body and allowed air into our lungs. We also learned about drills, practice, and care of the tools. In short, we learned how to teach ourselves. This is knowledge that I can carry across many different calligraphic hands, processes, and situations in my life.

San Francisco Main Library


“Renee, are you coming to the library tomorrow?”

Am I going to the library with a knowledgeable calligrapher who I admire to look at original work and facsimiles made for books. Am I going.

It was humbling and empowering at the same time.I mean, I’m always amazed when I stand right in front of artwork I admire. I enjoy occupying the same space around the work as the artist did. It makes the possibility of achievement feel more available to me.  It happened that a calligraphy guild was also at the library that afternoon and sat at the table behind us. They were looking over work from the 1500s I believe. The work we asked to see was from the 1800s. It was inspiring to view the fine detail and to hear about the nuances of the scripts from Paul and the members of the guild. 2 hours was definitely not enough time to get through the collections. Maybe 2 days, with the way I like to view work like that!

The Lecture, 2500 Years of Calligraphy

Paul introduced us to the dialogue between the scripts that spreads across ages and nations. It was a real treat to see the way the hands inform one another and to see the influence of social events on the writing of the period. Most of what I see regarding history is two dimensional. I don’t always take into consideration that during these time periods there were walls and smells and families, weather, sounds, and music. We don’t realize that a lot of things we do draw on history and experience. Calligraphy, learning movement and learning about materials, learning the lifestyles of the age brings these concepts to the front of my mind. It makes that version of humanity much closer to me.

I am grateful for the knowledge Paul shared with us and the love, support, and generosity of friends and family, both old and new. It truly gives me courage and strength.

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