Artist Joseph Taylor working with leaded glass. Credit: Orin Zyvan

Painter, digital illustrator, mosaicist and woodcut printmaker are some of the many art roles of Joseph Taylor. Art fills his life. He teaches painting, sells art materials and works seven days a week on his broad range of artistic endeavors. He adds, “I just like to make things, fix the house, make ceramics, stain glass, create prints.”

As with other artists who create a broad range of art media works, this column focuses on the artist’s process for one art form – in particular, on Taylor’s woodcut prints, which were featured in a recent show at the 1100 Florence Gallery in Evanston.

Joseph Taylor with his portraits. He is active across a broad range of artistic endeavors. Credit: Chris Bradley

On a pedestal in the basement of Taylor’s house is an electric Dickerson Combination Press, a large workhorse press. It was given to him as a gift, and is surrounded by a variety of wood carving gouges and X-Acto knives used to make marks in wood. There are also inks, solvents and rags for printing, plus his stockpile of wood left over from house fix-up projects. The gouges are carving chisels, each with a unique curved cutting edge. For example, a U-shaped edge carves a trough, a V shape is used to carve details and a flat edge will remove lots of material at once.

To get started with a new woodcut print, Taylor sketches a line drawing in Adobe Illustrator of the print he wants to create. Then he chooses a 9-by-15-inch or smaller piece of birch plywood from his stock. Next he transfers the lines of the reverse image to the wood using his press.

Taylor’s woodcut and printing tools. Credit: Joseph Taylor

He must now carve out and remove the nonprinting parts of the wood, while leaving the printing parts level with the surface. To prepare the wood for carving, Taylor tones or paints the wood surface with transparent pink. He uses pink so that as he carves and removes wood even the smallest cut is apparent. He carves – often including many painstakingly narrow cuts.

After all the excess wood is cut away, Taylor applies a sealer coat of shellac to the wood so the ink he adds to make sure the print does not soak into the wood.

“Next, I ink it up,” Taylor says, and proceeds to print on either dry or moist paper depending on the desired effect. The first press print runs are trials to spot needed “adjustments” where additional wood might need to be removed for a better resulting print.

With adjustments complete, the block of wood is ready and Taylor proceeds to make prints. It’s “ink, print, ink, print” over and over to create a small run of images that he hangs up to dry. Once dry, he signs and labels the set.

Taylor keeps the blocks. Sometimes he’ll do additional print runs, or he might experiment and alter a block to create a different image. He usually has “piles of art” around the house, he says, resulting from gathering images in preparation for a show or sales.

“Evanston is a wonderful community of artists and inspires me,” Taylor says. “And doing what I love is my adventure.”

To learn more about Taylor, visit or his Instagram @josephtaylorart.

Jean Cunningham

Jean Cunningham retired from the business world and is now enjoying the next phase, including writing about local artists to increase awareness of Evanston’s amazing art community.

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  1. Joe’s am amazing talent across many different media. We are fortunate to have a small woodcut print of his that we cherish.