MMO Art Designer Chris Bourassa

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This is a great interview with Chris Bourassa who handles most of the Iron Realms art work and has worked on projects for other large gaming companies. He talks about his background in the gaming world, his progression of work for Iron Realms, how he does his art, and some tips for getting started in the art business. 

If you want to see more of his work, check it out here.

Fortress in a snow storm

Here is the transcribed version of the interview for your reading pleasure.

Space Marine

Ben Gorlick: Alright, this is Ben Gorlick and I am here with Chris Bourassa.

Chris Bourassa: Hey what's up?

Ben Gorlick: I thought it would be fun to do another interview for Iron Realms and while not a lot people know you, they likely know your artwork. You are one of the artists who has been doing artwork for the Iron Realms games, is that correct?

Chris Bourassa: Yes absolutely. I've been doing art for Iron Realms for a couple year now.

Ben Gorlick: Can you give us some background and how you became one of the Iron Realms artists?

Chris Bourassa: To be honest.. I can't remember. Matt Mihaly was running it (Iron Realms) years ago, six or sever years ago or something, and he somehow found my stuff and sent me this massive e-mail to do 26 characters or something. I got them all done and every time they wanted to update their art they came back to me which has been awesome, because they're a lot of fun to draw.

Ben Gorlick: That is awesome. How did Matt Mihaly find you exactly?

Chris Bourassa: I was hosting some art on concept art at the time and had a website. I've always had a full time job in video games, so I haven't pushed my online profile, but I always had a bit of a presence. 

Ben Gorlick: What kind of video games have you worked on that were a full time job?

Chris Bourassa: I worked on my own IP for a couple of years, we were going to do a play station 2 game but then Sony cancelled that, and then I got a job doing Rifts for the n-gage, an exciting platform. I did Sonic for the psp, I did Monster Lab for the Wii, and then I was the character art director for Armada of the Damned which was a Pirates of the Caribbean type of game and then it got cancelled six months before release. That was like 3 1/2 years of work so that was kind of hard.

Pirate Image

Ben Gorlick: Wow. You put a lot of time into that Pirates of the Caribbean game?

Chris Bourassa: Yea, it was looking really sweet but they had a change in strategic direction.

Ben Gorlick: Once that happened, did you decide to go freelance?

Chris Bourassa: I've always maintained a certain amount of Freelance going, predominantly for Iron Realms, but I always wanted to see if I could make a living doing freelance stuff. I decided to see if I could making a living at doing just freelance about a year ago and just dived into that.

Ben Gorlick: What are some of the first characters you remember doing for Iron Realms?

Chris Bourassa: The first batch was for Lusternia. A lot of anthropomorphic stuff, beast men, etc. Looking back on all that stuff, it was kind of crazy to see, I'm kind of embarrassed looking back.

Ben Gorlick: Why are you embarrassed?

Chris Bourassa: A skill change, practices makes you better.. It's cool to go back and see my old stuff, and I've definitely gotten more familiar with Iron Realms and stayed up to date with the game changes from the website and every time I get a new character I get a text-brief about the characters.

Ben Gorlick: How did you come up with the base foundation of your first text-character graphical illustrations?

Chris Bourassa: That's what makes it great. The Iron Realms art always has a distinct edge or slant, and they have an interesting sensibility when it comes to fantasy content. There stuff is always so tweaked, it's not just an Orc or not just a Goblin. That's what makes it so interesting, creating something that speaks to the description and injects some of my own sensibilities into it. Trying to find that balance, and Iron Realms is always really good to work with and I like to think at the end of the day they are happy for my stuff.

Ben Gorlick: The players are really taking a liking to it and if people are not familiar with it you can go to the Iron Realms site at

Ben Gorlick: Tell me a little about the creative process you create these with. Is it drawn on paper or the computer?

Chris Bourassa: The original Lusternia art I did pencil sketches of first and then I'd scan it and color it in photoshop. But then, as I got more experienced and the hardware and software progressed. I still start in the same way, in black and white before I start getting mixed up in color. If you dive in too fast, you get lost in the foods, and sometimes you can compromise your design in favor of getting your work done. I try to be a little more deliberate.

Ben Gorlick: How exactly do you get your characters out there as a Freelance out there? How do you get paid to do art?

Chris Bourassa: If you're just getting started, I say go get a job. Don't rely on the Internet to support you. The Internet is cruel, it's not a place to just build a career. I think you need team experience and working with a group of people that challenge you. I couldn't imagine graduating art school and then sitting in my basement trying to make a living. You need to get out and get pushed, otherwise you're going to spend all day drawing anime' girls and dragons, but you're not going to get any better, except at drawing anime' girls and dragons. If you get out, you can make contacts and go from there. It's always good to keep a blog going, and have an internet presence, but you can't just rely on it.

Ben Gorlick: I know you have a blog and website. What is it?

Chris Bourassa

Ben Gorlick: You have a comic strip too correct? Died Again?

Chris Bourassa: It's a good chance people haven't heard of it. I brought up the idea for one of the Iron Realms sites to mildly entertain people, and I approached the idea deliberately to do as little work as possible. It's black and white, super flat and I just try to have fun with it and use it as a break. I was worried if I committed to some elaborate art style, it would just bog me down and then I'd start to resent it. I just treat it as a 2-hour departure from what I normally do. Working with the writer Matt has been really awesome too, he's a really funny guy.

Ben Gorlick: What's your favorite character you've done for an Iron Realms game?

MMO Bard

Chris Bourassa: Some of the recent stuff came out pretty good. I was really happy with the Satyr and the Grook, I felt like a hit a bit of a stride. The bard for Imperian that I finished off six months ago. I liked the rough for the Siren, a lot of people hate the Siren, but you know.. working from a very short brief, and the rough was pretty sweet, but as I kind of pushed it I think it got kind of off track.

Ben Gorlick: Maybe in the future would you be willing to show your creative process to the viewing audience, do a quick sketch, show some of the styles that you use?

Chris Bourassa: I did a tutorial once for Babe Lab, step-by-step thing, and since I have four more guys to do for Aetolia, and I'll just pick the one that turns out the best and I'll put it together in a bit of an article. 

Ben Gorlick: That would be great. Is there anything you'd like to share?

Chris Bourassa: I love it when people write comments on the art that Iron Realms posts on the site. It helps me understand the sensibilities of the Iron Realms fan base, it's cool to get a window of what's important to the community. I think the response has been really healthy for me as an artist so I can understand where to take these things in the future and what people really respond to.

Ben Gorlick: Chris, I appreciate your time, we look forward to more of your art on the Iron Realms sites. We'd love to talk with you more in the future.

Chris Bourassa: Thank you so much for having me on the show!


Not going to lie. I love everything that Chris Bourassa does, including the offending Siren.

His work is pretty damned awesome, I especially like his Idras artwork, that alone nearly made me want to return to Impy >.>


I can only imagine how he'd depict my character if he could draw it, I'm a fan of having people do that, and it amazes me the skill all these artists have that they can take someone's attempt at a good description (which is actually horribly written) and turn it into a work of art. Literally.

This work is just perfect.

i agree



I'd like his artwork a lot better if he didn't draw women in a way I find completely unappealing*. It's unfortunately rather hard to get past my distaste for it. Pictures that don't involve females in any way? Just fine. Women in the frame? Bleh.


*I don't mean it in a "she's not my type so meh" sort of way. I certainly don't think that every image of every female needs to cater to the need for "omghot". And therein lies the problem-- the way in which they are portrayed just seems so objectifying, and so needlessly "sexy", that it completely ruins all of the artwork for me.

I'd agree, except that I also acknowledge that this is 'fantasy'. And whilst I expect there to be a plethora of milk-maidens swanning around that aren't Claire Danes hot, the stories (and therefore the artwork) will focus on the main characters.

Keep fantasy in the fantasy world and reality in the the real world.

when was claire danes hot?

To make a perfect fantasy world one indeed also need uglyness or maybe better said 'different'.

As there are many different races they will have their other likes and visions of beauty.

And I sure disagree with another comment I saw te ugly ones are lesser roles.


In the world of Achaea I did encounter some great examples of this. Some female trolls that sure were 'different' and liked things weird or distasteful to others. And if you want it less cliché there also is the Horkval insectoide race, great and special roleplay possible there.


But good there are the sexy ones too, a mix of all is needed

Ugly people are background people and bad guys!


Interesting is all your have to say? PAH!

Do you need so many credits ? ;)

More seriously, I've had a look at the Died Again comics, it's great !

It would have been but I'll say this whole sentence too.

the art is great.


However, I want to find whoever described some of these classes and tell then to make sure that the classes they want drawn correspond to the game. I mean, we have cool classes, but some of the drawings feel out of place (xorani generic forestal, I'm looking at you)


but all of this is only a critique on the details given to the artist, which were robably from someone else, and not the artist's work (which I have no basis to say anything negative about)

That really not everyone knows how to use proper adjectives to describe thier character, or just tried to make it sound to fancy.  A lot of the time, an artist can only work with what they're given, which aren't always gems.




Excellent work!


If only we could get a drawing of each race in each class. That'd be awesome.

I'm sure he takes commisions.

funniest part was the "change in strategic direction"


that really sucks

Great artist, stellar skills. Really awesome that IRE found someone that can try to pull such inspiration from the game and create a very vivid visual world from it. I know Artisanals in Aetolia have some very awesome Artists, and it's cool to see IRE taking more initiative in promoting artwork.

Even if some of the items are a bit racey? Their still all great I think.

Yeah, they are, but they tend to be great!

That's the standard of the genre, I'm afraid.

is pretty damn awesome


...your avatar.  Bravo


Nice to see the man behind the art

Hehehe, nice webcomic.  And the character art is top-notch.  I've always been impressed with what comes out of the artisanal competitions around IRE, so to have the actual paying job, well... it is well-earned.

wonderfull Art Work!


Good work

I really like his style, keep it up!

Genius man

Circle of names and connections is complete. I now realized why your name was so familier in the died again comics.






All the art work is much better than i could do, can't even draw properly

This is definitely true for me, as well. Unfortunately. :(


Interesting to hear what goes on behind the scenes. I love his style, often dark with rich colours and loads of detail when you look more closely. I shall now go read Died Again

Art. Really awesome


So true!

Wonder if he ever tried out any of the ire games, guessing not but would be kind of funny if so.

It could give a nice perspective to the artwork. 

Chris's artwork is amazing! Love the interview!