Big Brain Update: Phoenix Graphic Designer and Artist Safwat Saleem

safwat-saleem-Ryan-Lash.jpg
Ryan Lash
Big Brain Award winner Safwat Saleem has a few collaborative projects in the works.
Leading up to this year's Big Brain Awards, we're checking in with past winners. Up today: Safwat Saleem.

For Safwat Saleem, sleep is overrated.

The artist, graphic designer, and filmmaker just-plain doesn't have time for eight hours a night. That's because the 2011 Big Brain Award winner has been hard at work on plenty of projects -- both collaborative and his own.

See also: Announcing the 2014 Big Brain Finalists

We caught up with the creative via e-mail to find out what he's been up late working on and when he'll be able to catch a little extra shut-eye.

What have you been up to since winning a Big Brain Award?
Since winning the award in 2011 (thank you again for the lovely award BTW), I've moved from one project to another. I've also worked on a few crowdfunded projects that went quite well.

There was a project called "Oh Shit!" about a series of illustrations depicting scenarios of imminent failure (or tremendous bravery depending on the way you look at it). Then I did a series of letterpress printed greeting cards called "Greetings from Nowhere" because I was kind of tired of the subpar cards I was forced to buy at the (bigger) stores. Last year I also did a Valentine's Day-themed show with fellow Phoenix artist Sebastien Millon. It consisted of all new work called "Coupled" and that series got quite a bit of love on various blogs.

One of the more fun projects I worked on this past year was one with Changing Hands Bookstore. It was a crowdfunding campaign to help build a new location of the much-loved indie bookstore in Phoenix. We were able to raise over $90,000 and people got cool classic-literature based swag in return for their contributions.

What's your next big project?
I'm working on a few projects that I'm excited about. Several are collaborations with others and those are always so rewarding because I get a chance to learn from the collaborator(s) and then apply it back to my own work.

The project I'm most excited about is also the most ambitious. It has to do with artwork that reacts to the presence of the viewer. I'm interested in demonstrating behaviors that people may exhibit toward certain groups when they believe others aren't watching. So the idea is to create artwork that changes state depending on the proximity of the viewer from the artwork. It's all in very early stages right now but I'm excited to see where it can go.

Where do you see Phoenix a year from now?
More of the ongoing awesomeness, I hope. Phoenix has changed so much and so quickly in the few years that I've been here. It feels great to be in the middle of all these positive changes.

Where do you see yourself a year from now?
A year from now I see myself sleeping more and working a bit less. I've actually been dreaming about such a time for many years now but it never quite happens. Maybe 2015 will be the magic year where I can finally make up for years of sleep deprivation? Tune in in next year to find out.

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