When Art Is Your Destiny

It is often said the art often imitates life, but for Destiny Sanchez her life is art. Sanchez is a multi-medium artist. In her youth it began with drawings and eventually let to painting. Her works have been featured in numerous shows around Chattanooga and region. She is also a singer/songwriter, having released her first album, Spiritual Journey in early 2018. In August she plans to release her second, Lavender later in August. Not only is she heavily involved with the art, it’s actually literally in her blood. Sanchez comes from long line of artists including her grandmother, her mother, Lysabella Barrett, a published author and her father, Eric Scealf, leader of the seminal iconic punk rock/alternative outfit The Unsatisfied. Her husband is musical producer/engineer and lyricist at GPA Studio, Derrtie Sanchez, so you might think it’s actually art imitating life for the young artist instead of art imitating life for the young artist.

You come from a family with multiple generations of artists. Do you feel pursuing the arts was indeed your destiny or an obligation?

No, I always felt that was a part of my life. It was in my DNA and what I was supposed to be doing from a really young age. I knew I was going to be an artist, but I didn’t know what kind, I just didn’t know what kind. I loved to draw, I knew I loved to paint, I knew I was going to put myself out in the public light at some point, but I didn’t know when.

Your father is a regionally popular singer and performer and other members of your family were into art. Did you get interested in music at an early age? I know it’s been only the past couple of years you started performing and have released one album with another on the way, while you’ve been a visual artist for well over a decade now.

Yeah. I used to actually go with my father and help him set up equipment with the guys in a band. I used to sell his CDs and merch at 10 years old. I used to be that kid who would sit in the back of a club with a Coke and a piece of paper drawing in the back waiting for the show to be over. I’ve met so many incredible punk rock musicians and bans over the years because of my father. It’s been a huge influence on my life – heavy metal punk rock and as I got older just deeply set in blues and soul music and classic R&B from my childhood. That’s how you get involved. I’ve loved music my entire life because I’ve been surrounded by it. Going to sleep I would go to bed with the walls rattling because bands were playing in my basement. I’ve been surrounded by it my entire life.

How did you get started painting? Did that come at an early age?

I didn’t start painting until I was 17 years old. I didn’t know I could paint. I was just a sketch artist and I majored in Visual Art. I went to Chattanooga School For Creative Arts (CCA) majoring in Visual Art and minored in Choir. I minored in piano as well. The first time I picked up a paintbrush was when I was 17 and I fell in love with color. Everything I paint is very bold.

Was it intimidating starting to paint when you were previously had only done sketch art?

No, I felt really comfortable with a paintbrush. Once I got all the colors out I could see what tones I need. There were so many colors in the palate I could mess with and get crazy with it. As soon as I picked up that paintbrush, it was on from there. From that point on everything has been paint and it’s been painted with bold, bright colors around myself – even furniture.

When musicians talk they often talk of how they’ve evolved as an artist/performer since they first took the stage. As a visual artist how do you feel you feel you’ve evolved?

In the beginning I tried to keep it as minimalist as possible because I wasn’t very experienced, but my inspiration comes from a lot of cosmic, spacey kind of themes and I love doing portraits. I like doing musicians portraits, actually with bold colors. I really feel more comfortable now than in the beginning.

Music has always played an important part in your life but it was only a couple of years ago you decided to take up the medium. What brought that about?

My husband is an awesome producer and he does so much music in his own studio space. I felt compelled to start working in the space with him. I had done an original piece. I played the guitar and I sang for him – I had done a sing for him. He heard it and said he fell in love with it and he wanted me to get in the studio and actually record it. After that we started working on a lot of music together. It rolled out into me making an album. Without his push I don’t think I would be doing as much as I am. It’s really helped me as well to push myself out there. It’s really changed me in a lot of ways.

How is your subject matter? I know you like to do portraits and stuff like that. How do you compare your painting style to your music style?

In a way they’re one in the same because I put spiritual elements in both. It’s a very spiritual thing for me. I’m a witchy kind of personality that is heard and seen in my work. I have some sensual elements in it as well and you’re going to hear and see on both ends of the spectrum.

Do songwriting and painting both give you the same inspiration? How do you decide how you want to begin your paintings or get the inspiration for a song in your head to create?

A lot of my work will be in my dreams and I will be compelled to paint them on canvas later or sketch them out or even write poetry. And them my music source of inspiration comes from my personal relationships and my inner struggles of trying to find where I need to be in life and some of these events that happened in my life that made it harder on me, but made me a stronger person. So, I get a lot of inspiration from that tough struggle. It’s made me a tough woman on the outside. I feel that comes out on both ends as well. It all intermingles into one thing. It just has to come out in different mediums. I express myself better through my mediums than actually speaking my words.

You write and sing songs, you got to be pretty good at speaking.

I’m horrible at speaking. I don’t like to talk. I don’t really like to be seen on film at all. I don’t like too much attention. It’s crazy because I’m in this world of doing music and being an artist and putting myself out there. It’s really crazy. I’m really just a calm earth child and I don’t like too much attention. It sounds kind of crazy but it brings the attention to me.

The spotlight is literally on you. As a performing artist, do you create a different persona for yourself – is your stage persona different from your real life persona?

The only difference is that I show more of an attitude on stage, but that’s also who I am as well. I’m more in your face on stage than I am at home. Do I think it’s a persona? No, I see it as my name is Destiny Surreal – this is who I am. I just need to show everyone who I am – that’s it.

©Dave Weinthal

You recently had a showing of your paintings in Chattanooga and you’ve been doing shows the better part of ten years. What is it like for you at these show? Do you feel you’re being judged or see it as a celebration? What goes through your head during all of this?

I feel gratitude. I feel grateful for these chances in my life to be able to present myself. I feel extremely blessed that people would want to come out and see me. It’s a real blessing to have that in my life. I feel excited and enjoy that people want to see my work. And if they feel a connection to it, that’s ultimately what I want – some connection to other people through my art and work.

Putting together an art show can be similar to a concert performance. In the music world you pick and choose which songs you want to perform and as a visual artist you’re choosing what you want people to see of your creations. Do you think they parallel?

Yes – all day, every day they parallel. They’re one in the same. Again, I think I’m blessed to be able to have the talent to be able to do something like this. It feels very at times overwhelming, but I love it. I love being able to express it.

Do any of your shows have themes to them when you put together a visual display?

They don’t really have a theme – at least not yet, but you’ll definitely feel the sense of power. When you see me play it’s the same sense of power and I hope that other people will feel powerful in the audience when they see me play. But there’s no specific theme to anything. If there was it would be very witchness with candles everywhere and Tiger Lilies and things like that probably.

Besides being a visual artist, you’re a recording artist, do you feel they compliment each other or does one take away from the other?

I don’t think they take away from one another, but I feel that my music since I am able to politically put it out there is just more in your face and more to the point, as in my paintings it’s more up to your interpretation. Any music is up for interpretation as well. I just feel like my music is straighter to the point than what my art is. Ultimately it’s up to you. They still do coincide with each other.

Do you feel greater freedom with your painting than your songs because paintings are up for interpretation by whoever is seeing it, whereas with a song people will give you instant reaction or something to it? I was wondering your thoughts on that.

I feel free on both aspects of it. I like being able to use color on paper and just being able to express those colors and tones on canvas, but it’s so free to be able to sing and speak when I was growing up I didn’t feel as if I had the power doing that with whoever. When I do that now when I’m standing on the stage I can just put it all out in that way and just belt my voice out. It’s very freeing to me.

Do you like the instant gratification that performing live can give an artist?

No, not really. I struggle with it. Before I get out there to sing in front of anybody, there’s a part of me that second-guesses myself. But as soon as I get up there all of a sudden I realize I own something for a moment. I don’t really know how to describe that, though. I feel like on my father’s aspect of things in his work he’s always had instant gratification and he enjoys it. And with me it’s kind of a push and a pull from myself to do it, but once I get out there it’s a good feeling at the end of it. Those first moments I don’t feel a gratification of I need to be doing this, but I’m struggling with myself to do it. (laughs) I can’t really describe as to why.

You have an album that came out recently called Spiritual Journey. How would you describe the style of music on the album?

It’s alternative soul with mixtures of some retro elements in there and some hip-hop beats as well but with somebody singing on top of them. It’s a mixture. Every song you’re going to hear is going to be different from the other one, but I want it that way because I’m a singer, I’m a musician and I don’t want to be in one category. I like doing it all.

Besides what inspires a lot of your songwriting was there a certain kind of music you listened to, to put you in the proper mind when writing these songs?

There are a few musicians I feel I pulled from. Lenny Kravitz is a huge one. Prince. I love Sade and INXS. I feel like those are the four elements I feel right now most involved and blended with now. There are so many musicians and bands that I love that I grew up with, was obsessed with, so you’ll probably hear more of that in other albums to come – elements of Joan Jett and maybe Alice In Chains – you never know.

On the album there seem to be a lot of different song titles that display different emotions. Was that the intent? Was it easier for you to make your spiritual journey?

I didn’t intend on having it that way. I didn’t even realize that I was making my song titles based upon feelings and emotions, but I didn’t know that until the entire album came together and I actually looked at it. And that’s what compelled me to make the album’s title Spiritual Journey, but the song title, “Spiritual Journey” itself is actually dealing with spiritual energies that I don’t live in my childhood home is what that song is about, but altogether based upon emotions. I should have seen this before that is what I was creating, but I honestly I didn’t put those two and two together until it was finished.

Was this album a little bit of therapy for you, you think? Did it let you say things you might not have said or kept bottled for years?

Yes, it was ultimately therapeutic for me. There are a lot of things I’m not the kind of person to express out loud. I’ve never really been that way. Even on paper I don’t think I fully did that, so when I put the album together I guess my main intent was just to say who I am and be okay with it. I have no doubt in my mind who I am and empower myself as a woman and go into the next step of life feeling that empowerment.

Most artists by nature are introverted and are quiet themselves but put on a great show. Were you worried with Spiritual Journey, the songs you perform live you might be giving out too much information about your personality, your personal life or do you see it as kind of a therapy?

I feel it’s just enough to put out there all the things that I feel. Some of those songs are very fun, not just emotional. Some of them are fun. Some of them are romantic. I am a romantic type of individual, so I put that out there are well. I think it’s just important to be honest. I think it’s important to be honest with ourselves and I think it’s important as an artist, if you’re going to put yourself out there you go full throttle. You need to do it for you

– Dave Weinthal