Master of Woodcuts

A world-renowned artist recently moved to Peoria, where he’s been welcomed with open arms.

by Jonathan Wright
Alex Carmona
Alex Carmona is a master relief printmaker specializing in woodcuts, reduction woodcuts and wood carvings/engravings.

“Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity,” so the saying goes. For Alex Carmona, good fortune has followed years of hard work and hustle. As a young artist from Colorado, he would drive around the country with his work strapped to the top of his Volkswagen, setting up at art shows and other events. “I would do this year-round,” he explains. “I was traveling all the time.” 

All that work has recently paid off with a three-year engagement for one of the nation’s largest trade shows, multiple commissions from the world’s largest guitar manufacturer, and a royal invitation to display his work in Saudi Arabia. The acclaimed printmaker, who specializes in detailed woodcuts, carvings and engravings, now has artwork on nearly every continent. He’s also a newly-minted Peorian, having moved here with his wife and three children six months ago. “We fell in love with the area,” Carmona notes. “We wanted to live somewhere where there was a vibrant arts community. And man, I was really surprised to find how prevalent that is here.” 

Today he works as a full-time artist, but that wasn’t always his trajectory. “I never really saw art as a viable way to make a living—I was never taught that as a kid.” But after dropping his business major, he gravitated toward art and eventually became enamored with printmaking. 

Alex Carmona’s collaboration with Fender created the world’s first hand-carved “Woodcut Telecaster.”
Alex Carmona’s collaboration with Fender created the world’s first hand-carved “Woodcut Telecaster.”

Drawing on his lifelong passion for cars, much of Carmona’s work is automotive-based. This drew the attention of the Specialty Equipment Marketing Association, and soon he was hired as lead artist for the SEMA Show—an enormous Las Vegas tradeshow with some 160,000 annual attendees. His artwork blankets the convention hall, adorns magazine covers and apps, and follows the SEMA brand wherever it goes.

After admiring his work for SEMA, the Fender Musical Instrument Corporation sought him out to create the world’s first hand-carved “Woodcut Telecaster.” The guitar sold for tens of thousands of dollars—and led to a stream of additional orders. Then Carmona was invited to the 2019 Global Auto Salon, where his artwork was among the first ever to be publicly displayed in Saudi Arabia. “We were some of the first tourists allowed in the country,” he adds. “The government put a ton of money into it and invited every big name in the automotive world. It was really cool to be part of that show.”

Now Carmona is back in Peoria, where he’s been welcomed with open arms. He recently spoke at ArtsPartners’ Business of Art conference, and soon he’ll be teaching printmaking classes at the Peoria Art Guild. On March 7 from 5 to 8pm, he’ll display his work at the Murray Baker Mansion, 1222 W. Moss, alongside performances from jazz singer Judy Page and guitarist Preston Jackson.

Moving forward, Carmona is focused on expanding beyond his automotive work. “I have a lot of other interests and things I want to do,” he explains. With his career taking off worldwide, he’s firmly planted in his new hometown. “People are very friendly here. And we really love Peoria even more because of that.” Check him out at oldschoolalex.com or on Instagram @TheRealOldSchoolAlexPM

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