Retro Sorrento

Illustrated and Handmade designs

Illustration Work

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

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! 

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. 

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! 

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. 

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"