A pioneer in the video games industry, Mike previously had a long career as legendary developer BioWare's first artist, and for 12 years illustrated for some of the top RPG video games of all time. Mike's experience at BioWare creating box art, magazine covers, concept art and marketing illustrations allowed him to seamlessly transition in 2009 to pursue his true passion of fantasy illustration and oil painting.
As a freelance artist, Mike has illustrated RPG and card art for the gaming industry's top franchises, including Magic the Gathering, Hearthstone, Star Wars, Pathfinder and Dungeons and Dragons. As one of a rare few gaming artists who paints in traditional media, Mike combines commercial art with his love for the craft of painting. Mike's work has appeared in the Spectrum annual, as well as featured in magazines such as ImagineFX and Fantasy Art (China).
Recently, Mike's success in painting traditionally has led to exhibiting in 2013 and 2014 at the Allentown Art Museum in the Illuxcon salon. Illuxcon is an annual juried celebration of the best in imaginative realist art. Additionally, in 2014, Mike was a finalist for the prestigious International ARC Salon Competition in the imaginative realism category. In 2018, Mike released a large, 2-disc DVD on his painting techniques, available through his site, select stores and on Amazon Prime video.
I grew up in Vancouver and Edmonton, Canada. My childhood interests included comic books, fantasy and art; subjects that would eventually influence my adult career path.
I attended the Alberta College of Art and Design in the mid-nineties, where I pursued a degree in Visual Communications as the best route I could see to obtaining some practical, focused instruction. There was an even split of illustration and graphic design assignments, giving students a broad, multi-faceted education. Upon graduating from College, I had produced a portfolio of assorted art and design that reflected the changing times in commercial art in the nineties. This was sufficient for me to land the role as an artist for a startup video game company making their first game title.
This situation was ideal for my broad-based skill set, as I tackled everything that was needed and produced a variety of art assets. This was in the days of DOS operating systems, primitive 3-D technology and “figuring things out for yourself”. Our first game, Shattered Steel was critically acclaimed, and I was on my way to a long and gratifying career with BioWare Corp.
During my 12 years with BioWare, I began focusing more on the illustrative side of video game art, eventually minimalizing the animation and 3-d modeling skills in order to focus myself into a marketing illustrator. I brought my graphic design education, technical experience and passion for painting together, to create much of the marketing art for this growing and successful company. I’m privileged to have worked on some of the game industry’s most storied titles, including the Baldur’s Gate and Neverwinter Nights series as well as Mass Effect, Dragon Age and the Star Wars game, KOTOR.
In late 2008 I took the opportunity to set out as an independent artist, free to split my time between the two passions of illustration and painting, and to take my artwork to the next level.
My recent career direction revolves around attempting to move towards bigger projects and new challenges, usually using oil paint to craft objects that have a long life outside of the computer. I am enjoying continuing to work on exciting franchises and representing myself as an independent artist with appearances at comic and art conventions.
Links to media:
- "One Fantastic Week" Interview (YouTube Video)
- Digital Artcast #23 - Mike Sass Interview
- One Fantastic Week interview
- Edmonton Expo interview
- PACT Illuxcon panel 2012