Safwat_Saleem-2

Phoenix artists tap the internet to fund creative projects

“If my life depended on it, I would die.”

Safwat Saleem, 32, isn’t your average graphic designer – at least he doesn’t think so. He claims that if he had to rely on a career in art, the paint and brush kind, that he would die.

This isn’t because his is lacking in talent but because his talents are not super focused in one medium. “I’m not great at any one thing, but I am not bad at many things,” he said.

In January 2012 Saleem put his second project up for funding on Kickstarter, a crowdfunding website that been helping artists procure backing for their creative projects from everyday people since 2009. He raised $32,000 in just under one month. That was a whopping 1,066 percent more than his goal of raising $3,000.

The project, “Oh Expletive!” was featured in Kickstarter’s newsletter and thus gained the attention and support from 678 backers. Although very happy about the outcome Saleem calls it a fluke and doesn’t imagine he will be able to recreate those kind of numbers with his current project.

It has been the combination of many skills that has helped him fund his projects, Saleem said. One part humor, one part comedy, one part filmmaking and two parts graphic design seems to be the sweet spot in his recipe for success. Without being decent at several media the outcome may have been different, especially since an attention grabbing introduction video is all but required to see success on Kickstarter and similar sites like Indiegogo.

Saleem, who was born in Pakistan and became a U.S. resident in 2002, works at Arizona State University as a creative director for the College of Technology and Innovation. That is his day job anyhow, putting in 60 to 70 hours a week. Nights and weekends are a different story. Between weekend tongue and cheek plottings to take over the world, Saleem uses his spare time to work on personal projects.

His current endeavor involves him using Kickstarter for the third time for a project called “Greetings from Nowhere: (In)Appropriate Letterpressed Cards.” A project that currently has 122 backers and has exceeded a goal of $4,000 three weeks before schedule. Saleem’s third Kickstarter project will end on Nov. 19 and from current numbers it looks like he will continue to see funds being pledged.

Having reached his goal of  $4,000 all of the backers will be charged what their pledge amount. As standard with Kickstarter projects if he were to have failed to reach is goal none of the backers would have been charged. Any money collected over the goal mark is his to keep with the expectation that it goes to fund his project and not a vacation to Hawaii, or a trip to Pakistan to visit his parents.

If a project goal is met Kickstarter takes a 5 percent cut of whatever total funds were raised.

Other sites like Indiegogo are similar in nature but offer a choice between keeping the funds even if the project does not reach its goal. Users though who take this route should expect to pay 9 percent back to Indiegogo, 4 percent more than if the project had reached it’s goal.

“I’m not a popular artist. If you ask people in the art scene they probably won’t know me,” said Saleem while sipping his drink at Echo Coffee in Scottsdale. “With each (Kickstarter) project I am exposing my art to a new audience, or at least a few new people.”

Sebastien Millon, 30, an artist from Phoenix will soon be collaborating with Saleem. The project, which they plan to launch in February 2013, will be Millon’s first experience with Kickstarter and will raise funds to launch a book his illustrations.

“I think most people like supporting projects, especially projects they find interesting or like. By donating, even just a little, they are automatically connected with that project and becoming an integral part of that project and a part of the process of creation,” Millon said in an email interview. “That is a rewarding feeling. You don’t need to try and tap banks or investors for money anymore, it’s more democratic”

Millon said that a lot of his own successes have stemmed from using the internet as a marketing tool.

“I think the main key for me has been social media. I spend quite a bit of time on it, and I feel that if people like one of your drawings or pieces enough, they will share or “like” it.” Millon said. “It is a form of free advertising, so long as you can create content that people connect with and want to share with their friends.”

Millon said that for every two hours he spends creating art he spends one hour using social media to promote himself in various ways.

Isaac Caruso, 24, is an artist as well, with prominent mural paintings transforming the exterior of buildings in downtown Phoenix. A recent and colorful piece on the MonOrchid Gallery on Roosevelt Road has brought life to the formerly whitewashed warehouse.

While Caruso has not used Kickstarter to fund any of his own projects he has thrown his money into the pool to help support fellow area artists, he said in an email interview.  Caruso has donated to The CREATIV Movement’s creators from Scottsdale, who are currently using Indiegogo to try and raise $20,000. Although with six days left and more than $17,000 to go, they probably won’t be reaching their goal.

Crowdfunding isn’t just for your typical local artists. David Fincher, director of “Fight Club,” currently has a project open for funding on Kickstarter.

Fincher hopes to use donations from his fans to raise $400,000 so he can make an animated film called “The Goon.” With 12 days to go on his campaign he has nearly hit the half way marker of $200,000.