Retro Sorrento

Illustrated and Handmade designs

Basking in Bourbon for Saranac Brewery

"Art", Illustration WorkMaria ValleseComment

Better late then never to post some information and behind the scenes images from my illustration's for Saranac Brewery's Inner Circle Series. Basking in Bourbon is an Imperial Stout aged in Kentucky Bourbon barrels, with notes of bourbon, dark chocolate, molasses, charred oak, vanilla, and caramel. It's a delicious and decadent beer. 

For the illustration to accompany this beer, my client asked me to come up with some ideas that portrayed the richness of the beer, as well as the fact that it's aged in bourbon barrels. The final idea came down to a king of hearts face card with the king coming out of the bourbon barrels, overflowing with beer. 

Below is my process from sketch to final packing: 


Image ©F.X. Matt Brewery 2017

City of Utica Community Showcase Banners

Maria ValleseComment

Over the winter I spent some time working on a Community Showcase Banner campaign for the city of Utica. I created three designs representing the different areas of the city where the banners would be located. Now that the weather has cleared, nearly a hundred of these new banners are set to be installed throughout the city of Utica

The designs for the 96 banners were unveiled Wednesday by Utica Mayor Robert Palmieri, John Vella of Utica Sign and Graphics, and myself. 


Beginning next week, the banners will be installed on utility and light poles along Genesee Street, the Parkway, Burrstone Road and other main thoroughfares throughout the city. I'm so excited to see these up! 

Press Links: 
Lite 987

Utica Coloring Book with Made In Utica

Illustration Work, Building Illustration, EventsMaria ValleseComment

I love working with my friends over at Made In Utica, and I'm especially excited about this project I worked on with them for the 2016 Holiday Season: The Utica Coloring Book! 

Over the past few months I have been creating black and white ink illustrations of some of my favorite places in our city for you to color in this 16-page booklet. This is a limited printing, with a limited quantity, so get yours online at ASAP! 

Here's just some of what you'll find inside: 

More info From Made in Utica

"Celebrating all the ways Utica is colorful! The perfect Made In Utica gift or collector’s item to keep!

More than just a coloring book, this is a collection of art featuring illustrations by Retro Sorrento. Artist Maria Vallese has beautifully and intricately detailed some of her favorite #madeinutica places. Color it in, frame it, keep it – this is a book to be treasured and enjoyed. Also makes a perfect holiday gift for Utica friends and family near and far. Available in a limited quantity for a limited time only.

The Details

  • 16 pages of unique designs
  • Includes artist’s notes and descriptions
  • Only 250 available
  • 8.5″ x 11″ in size
  • Orders will be shipped out no later than December 12th
  • You may also choose to pick up your order on December 10th from 10am-2pm at Made In Utica, #323 in Mayro Building on Bank Place in Utica

What are you waiting for? Don’t miss your chance to have the Utica Coloring Book for yourself, your kids or your loved ones. ON SALE NOW."

I've been all over town helping promote this, including a stop at the Uticast this past week. I talked with Sam about my art career thus far, my the Coloring Book, my favorite books, the Beatles, and more! Listen to the episode here: 

Utica Key - Custom Tattoo

Illustration WorkMaria ValleseComment

A few months ago my friend Adam asked me to create a tattoo design for him based off of a photograph he took. Adam lives in Downtown Utica and wanted to add a little bit of his love for our city to his tattoo collection. Adam and I have known eachother for a very long time, so I was honored to not only have several pieces of artwork hanging in his home, but be able to create a permanent piece for him. 

The final image was tattooed on Adam's arm by Joe Zielinski at Inkorporated Tattoo, located on Genesee Street in Downtown Utica. 

Adam's Beautiful photograph of the Utica Key that resides in Franklin Square. 

Adam's Beautiful photograph of the Utica Key that resides in Franklin Square. 

The final image on Adam's arm was created by  Inkorporated Tattoo.  

The final image on Adam's arm was created by Inkorporated Tattoo. 

Gig Posters

Illustration WorkMaria ValleseComment

Over the past few months I've had a few commissions for gig posters - something I find super fun and have always wanted to do! 

My friends over at commissioned me for a poster for their upcoming Soul Train event with The Adirondack Scenic Railroad. I wanted to intertwine the look from the Soul Train music variety show from the 70's/80's era with an iconic image from Utica. Because the train ride is starting out at Union Station the obvious pick was the outside facade of the building (although I also threw around some ideas with a skyline and a train landscape). I'm a big fan of Filmore Posters from artists like Brian Graham and Bonnie MacLean - so you'll definitely see their influence here in color and style.

The Soul Train poster will be given away with event ticket purchases which can be made at the Adirondack Scenic Railroad's website, at the train station, or at

I've also been creating posters for DJ Ease One's gigs at Lukin's Brick Oven Pizza on Varick Street in Utica. DJ Ease One plays a mix of hip hop and R&B with some classics in the mix. Go see him you'll have a blast! 

Art Show with Rosa Oliveri at The DEV

EventsMaria ValleseComment

This past March, Utica-based artist Rosa Oliveri and collaborated for a show at the DEV. Rosa and I grew up together, painted together and supported each other's creative endeavors - so having a show together was perfect! Steve Nyland coordinated and helped us install this show - with his eye we were able to mix my illustration work with Rosa's surreal paintings. 

Cat Barfield and American Soul

I'd like to give a shoutout and thank you to Steve Nyland for all his help planning and organizing, the DEV for being an awesome venue, Cat Barfield and American Soul for the fabulous tunes at our opening, and to EVERYONE who came by to support us that night. I am so honored to see so many people swing by and give us some love. 

Signature 81 Storefront

Illustration Work, Custom PaintingsMaria ValleseComment

My friends over at Signature 81 recently expanded their space in Clinton, NY. Signature 81 carries vintage and handmade homegoods from local and regional vendors, artists and crafters. Creating the new space was a group effort, and the owner, Crystal, asked me to create and paint a moroccan themed design around her front door. 

After Crystal had decided on the color for her storefront, I went to work creating a repeating pattern that matched her signature style and integrated parts of her logo. 

We decided to paint the main design in white, to match her accents on the rest of the building, and add touches of antique gold and teal to match her sign and the rest of her branding. 

Late Autumn Class Schedule

Maria ValleseComment

Looking for something to do now that the weather is cooling down and the kids are off to school? How about getting in touch with your creative side? Classes at Signature 81 are the perfect way to find a new hobby or talent. I offer several affordable classes in everything from drawing and painting to crocheting. Below you'll find a list of classes and workshops I'll be teaching this fall and into December. You can also find this list on the Calendar page of this website. 

Note: My drawing classes will start up again after the Christmas holidays. 

You can sign up for any one of these classes at Signature 81's website, visiting their chic new shop at 13 College Street in Clinton, or by giving them a call at 315-269-7799. Don't see something you like here? There's a whole list of classes offered by the talented teaching staff of Signature 81 that you can find on their website calendar! 

Introduction to Colored Pencil

Dates & Time: 

  • Tuesday October 6th, 13th and 20th, 6-9PM

3 week Class

Intro to Colored Pencil explores the different techniques that can be used to create beautiful artwork with colored pencils. Colored pencils are portable, lightweight, inexpensive and can create a piece that looks like a painting. In this workshop you will explore mixing and layering colors, using different types of paper, and learn how to take care of your finished colored pencil piece. We will be using artist-grade colored pencils and each student will have the opportunity to go home with a finished piece of art. 

$125.00, all materials included. 

Max: 6 students


Pastel Painting

Dates & Time: 

  • Sundays October 4th, 11th and 18th 10AM-1PM

3 Week Class

Pastel Painting explores different techniques and styles used to create vivid and colorful artwork with pastels. In this class, students will explore color mixing and layering techniques with both oil pastel and chalk pastel, along with different papers and surfaces. Preservation of finished artwork will also be discussed. We will be using artist-grade pastels and each student has the opportunity to go home with a finished piece of art at the end of the 3 week class. 

$150.00, all materials included. 

Max: 6 students


Basically Hooked

1 to 3 Sessions

Basically Hooked is a series of one session classes that explore different crochet techniques, styles, patterns and projects. Each class is categorized by skill level (beginner, intermediate and advanced). Classes will cover pattern reading, stitches, care of finished products, etc. Students will have the opportunity to go home with a finished project after each class. 

Classes may be purchased at a fixed single price of $35 for each class or 3 for $90. All materials included. 

Beginnner = ✽

Intermediate = ✽✽

Advanced = ✽✽✽

Dates and Times: 

  • Wednesday, September 16th 6:30-8:30: Mug Cozy with Pocket ✽✽
  • Wednesday, September 23rd 6:30-8:30: Thread Crochet ✽✽✽
  • Wednesday, September 30th 6:30-8:30: Bow Hair Clip ✽
  • Wednesday, October 7th 6:30-8:30: Wine Flip Flop ✽✽
  • Wednesday, October 14th 6:30-8:30: Sunflowers ✽✽✽
  • Wednesday, October 21st 6:30-8:30: Easy Coffee Cozie ✽
  • Wednesday, October 28th 6:30-8:30: Chunky Quickie Hats ✽✽
  • Wednesday, November 4th 6:30-8:30: Picture Frames ✽✽✽
  • Wednesday, November 11th 6:30-8:30: Granny Square Coaster ✽
  • Wednesday, November 18th 6:30-8:30: Maple Leaf Garland ✽✽
  • Wednesday, November 25th - No class
  • Wednesday, December 2nd 6:30-8:30: Amigurumi Christmas Tree ✽✽✽
  • Wednesday, December 9th 6:30-8:30: Ice Skate ornaments ✽
  • Wednesday, December 16th, 6:30-8:30: Country Chic Star Ornament ✽✽

Max: 8 students

Bagg's Square Facing South

Building Illustration, Illustration WorkMaria ValleseComment

Over the past several years, Downtown Utica has seen a resurgence of business activity - new restaurants, coffee shops, boutiques, offices, bakeries, etc. A favorite spot of mine is Bagg's Square. This area surrounds Utica's Union Station (home to many Indie Garage Sales!), extending under the Genesee Street overpass. The Tailor and the Cook has an interesting read on this area's history and revitalization on their website

This past spring, I created a mixed media painting of Bagg's Square, facing south and including Utica Coffee Roasters and The Tailor and the Cook. 

I created this piece using a mixed media technique that I've been playing around with on and off for the past 8 years or so. A combination of oil pastels, oil paints and colored pencil on a textured surface gives me just the color saturation and appearance I've been looking for. 

I start with my sketch, which I create on paper at the site (I also take several photo references for color which I use later on) and working from that guide I create a drawing with india ink on my final board. 

Then comes the fun part - layering pastels, paints, and colored pencil little by little to create the right texture and colors to reflect Bagg's Square! 

The finished product dries for a few days and then is sprayed with a fixative to preserve its colors. I then scan the image at a high resolution and have it printed on archival paper - and that's when it comes to you! 

Hinckley Reservoir Adirondack Chair

Custom PaintingsMaria ValleseComment

This past August I was asked to create a retirement gift for an employee at the Mohawk Valley Water Authority. The woman who contacted me, Donna, had a few ideas for the gift and we eventually decided upon an Adirondack chair with a landscape scene of Hinckley Reservoir, facing the dam. 

Hinckley Reservoir Adirondack chair, facing the dam. 

Detail of hand lettering on the front of the Hinckley Reservoir Adirondack Chair. 

On the back of the chair we included all of the MVWA's logos, past and present. 

Back of Hinckley Reservoir Adirondack chair, with MVWA's past and present logos. 

The chair was created using oils and some acrylics. It just so happens that a good friend of mine has a camp directly across from the dam, looking right at this scene. I was able to work from my own sketches and photos, and a few photos contributed by my friend - something I don't get to do often when it comes to custom work. 

Detail of landscape painting of Hinckley Reservoir. 

Clinton, NY Building Illustration

Building Illustration, Illustration WorkMaria ValleseComment

Here's some pieces I recently finished up, reworked from sketches I created a few months ago. These are some of the more recognizable historical buildings in the village of Clinton, NY - where my studio is located. The Allen Building is where my studio has been located since 2011. 

The Allen Building, Clinton NY. Digital mixed media with watercolor and ink. 

Alteri's Restaurant, Clinton NY. Digital mixed media with watercolor and ink. 

Hogan's Corner, Clinton, NY. The current home to Cafe J. Digital mixed media with watercolor and ink.

Prints of these pieces are currently available at Signature 81's new location, 17 College Street, Clinton NY. 

Little Falls Canal Celebration Logo

Logo Designssorrento4211 Comment

Just finished this illustrated logo up a few weeks ago for the 2014 Little Falls Canal Celebration, and finally have permission to share! The citywide festival will take place August 4-10th. The black and white logo is for the promotional material, and I will be creating some color prints to sell for the Chicks Along the Canal on August 9th and 10th on Canal Place. 

Keep an eye out, I'll be posting some color options soon! 

Logo for 2014 Little Falls Canal Celebration, this August. 

Also, on a side note, Retro Sorrento is now on Twitter! Follow me on a more regular basis: @retrosorrento

Huge updates!

Building Illustration, Crochet Jewelry, Illustration Worksorrento421Comment

I've been working on so many things, and definitely neglecting to update here! I've got lots of new earrings in the works, along with some new pieces I'll be working on for the summer shows.

Here's some new earrings that are currently available on my Etsy page:

Peace sign earrings $26

Crochet Earrings with brass sun charm and czech glass beading $24

Crochet Chandelier earrings with howlite beads, $24

Evil Eye Chandelier earrings $24

Crochet hoops $18

Crochet Hoops $18

The Spring Indie Garage Sale also passed us by without an update, here's my booth from the show. So glad we were able to be back at Utica's Union Station: 

I also finished up a flier & map for a local organization that I'm involved with.


is a coalition of artists aiming to highlight the arts culture of downtown Utica and giving artists space and the opportunity to exhibit their work in empty and underused storefronts in the downtown area. 

Here's a close up of some of the buildings, Utica has some beautiful architecture and it was very interesting to see how these old buildings have evolved through the years. 

Columbia Street, home to Upstate Flux

The Mayro Building, Genesee Street. 

Macartovin Building, Devereux and Genesee Streets. 

Black River Systems, part of the busy corner, Genesee and Lafayette Streets. 

The Former Bev's Building, Genesee Street. 

Union Station, Main Street. 

Strut, Bleeker Street. 

I was also able to work with my friend Kim at Creative Designs and Christine's Cookie Shoppe in New Hartford on another logo for Christine's new dog treats! Kim did the fantastic design on this, and I did the dog cartoon/caricature. 

Dog Caricature for Christine's Cookie Shoppe's new Dog Treats! 

Lastly, here's a digital piece I finished up for a show last month at the Mill Art Center & Gallery in Honeyoye Falls, NY. 

"Coffee at the Windowsill"

A Few of my Favorite Things

"Art", "CNY", "iGS", "shop small", "small business Saturday"sorrento4211 Comment

The weekend had finally arrived! So excited for this weekend's Indie Garage Sale! We will be at MVCC in Utica this year from 12-5 on both Saturday and Sunday. It's free to get in, however early bird tickets are available for those who would like a crowd free shopping experience. With your $10 ticket you will receive a limited edition IGS tote bag and entry into a $50 indie bucks raffle - not to mention first dibs on all the awesome stuff.

I am in love with the poster this year! My ornaments were chosen to be featured on the posters and billboards throughout the area: 

Here are some ornaments I'll be selling along with my artwork and jewelry: 

In celebration of Black Friday and Small Business Saturday I am also asking you to consider doing your holiday shopping with a local business. Keep your money local and support those who do what they do with passion. Here is a little list of my


local "brick-and-mortar" businesses from the CNY area to do your holiday shopping at:

Art/handmade items/gifts: 

Signature 81, Kellogg Road in Washington Mills

Artisans' Corner, corner of College and Williams streets in Clinton

The Mustard Seed & Stone Mill Antiques, Canal Place, Little Falls

Tarat Studio, 84 Utica Street, Clinton 

Fall Hill Bead & Gem, West Main Street Little Falls

Broad Street Gallery, Broad Street in Hamilton, NY

The Enchanted Bazaar, 212 North Franklin St, Syracuse 


Lindsay Layne Boutique, Genesee Street, New Hartford 

EcoChic Boutique, 4314 East Genesee Street, Syracuse 

Sports Memorabilia & collectables: 

Hall of Frame Sports, Oriskany blvd. Yorkville

Wine and Spirits: 

Seneca Wine and Liquor, Seneca Turnpike New Hartford 

Hop and Goblet, 2007 Genesee Street Utica


Christine's Cookie Shope & Sugar Babes Cupcakes, Genesee Street New Hartford (behind Randall's Pharmacy) 

The Tramontane Cafe, Lincoln Ave in Utica 

Utica Coffee Roasting Company 92 Genesee Street, Utica 


Off-Center Records, 116 Bleeker Street, Utica

Hope to see you Saturday or Sunday <3

Rochester, NY Trip

"Illustration", "crafts", "handmade", "mayday underground", "retro sorrento", "retro", "rochester ny", "rochester"sorrento421Comment
It's been quite a while since my last post! I've just returned from a trip to Rochester, NY for the Mayday Underground Craft Show and a mini vacation with my college friends! 

In preparation for the show I created a painting of the Rochester skyline and 490 bridge. Prints are now available on Etsy.

This painting was done in a technique I have not used in a while: oil pastel, oil paint and colored pencil. I think I'll be experimenting with this a little more, since I'd forgotten how much I enjoy it. 

Heres some photos from the weekend: 

"Art Rocks" 2013


This year I had the opportunity to take part in the Village of Clinton's Art Rocks Auction. Several Adirondack rocking chairs by local artists will be on display throughout the area this summer and later auctioned off. Here is my submission: