The Creative Works of

N. A. Melamed

Nicholai (they/them) is a multimedia writer-artist making comics, games, poetry and illustrations.

About Me

Nicholai's work is an ongoing exploration of resilience at the crossroads.It is informed by the liminality of existence on the margins of gender, sexuality, countries and cultures. A place defined by lack of belonging, that nonetheless preserves a gravitation all its own.Many of their projects center trans protagonists on a path of reconciliation with the spaces they once called home. They also examine the interwoven topics of mental illness, sex-positive approaches to queer intimacy, and issues of class-based poverty viewed through an intersectional lens.

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About commissioning me for work

I have an ongoing commitment to negotiating affordable rates in a transparent way, particularly for work relating to services, programs and representation for marginalized communities. In general, I prefer quoting a flat fee (rather than hourly rates). I will request any information I need in response to project inquiries to make an accurate quote upfront. Client references and CV for work on educational/advocacy projects are available upon request.I can be reached by email at,
or the contact form linked below:

Work I Am Presently Accepting

Project TypeExamplesQuote Calculation
Personal CommissionsPortraits, character art, and other single art pieces not intended for commercial use.See commission sheet.
Narrative IllustrationSets of illustrations for books, comic pages, articles, games and other storytelling media.Flat fee for agreed-upon set and one round of revisions
Promotional ArtAny art intended for use in promotional materials, including work for small businesses, grassroots advocacy and programs/events run by non-profit organizations.Flat fee based on work time and intended use (commercial vs. non-profit, licensing, etc.)


Nicholai A. Melamed (they/them) is an immigrant artist of mixed Ukrainian-Jewish/Georgian-Jewish descent.Their work is an ongoing exploration of resilience at a crossroads. Somewhere defined by lack of belonging, that nonetheless preserves a gravitation all its own.Many of their projects center transgender protagonists on a path of reconciliation with the spaces they once called home. They also speak to the interwoven topics of disability justice, sex-positive approaches to queer intimacy, and issues of class-based poverty viewed through an intersectional lens.

Contact them for work at

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Selected Publications

  • Gender Confirmation Surgery: A Guide for Trans and Non-Binary People by Edward Whelan, published by Jessica Kingsley Publishers / medical illustrator / 2023

  • Experience Points by N.A. Melamed, published by Microcosm / writer & artist / 2022

  • You Are My Home by N.A. Melamed for Home Sweet Home, published by Corn Maze Press / writer & artist / 2020

  • Bruxism by N.A. Melamed for Invisible Illness: Depression, published by Invisible Illness Anthologies / writer & artist / 2020

  • Torontovka by N.A. Melamed for Shout Out, published by TO Comix Press / writer & artist / 2019

Selected Technical Skills*

  • Digital Art Software, including Clip Studio Paint, Affinity Suite (Publisher, Designer) and Adobe Creative Cloud (Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, After Effects, Premier)

  • eLearning authoring software (Adobe Captivate, Lectora) and Ren'py visual novel engine.

  • CSS/HTML, Javascript and Python.

  • Rapid Drawing Experience as a Live Portrait Sketch Artist

  • Traditional Ink and Oil Painting

  • Copywriting, Content Editing and Sensitivity Reading

*Full CV available upon request.

Crosshatched Inkwork

Grayscale Illustration

Journal Entries and Tutorials

This page exists to highlight journals and tutorials I've made about my work over the years.For writing related to game development, you can find my dev logs here.For more general entries about writing and worldbuilding, you can check out my kofi blog here.

Process for Drawing from a Model

In the summer of 2019, I organized and ran a series of costumed life drawing workshops geared towards illustrators, animators and comic artists.The following is a collection of selected promo art for individual sessions and the workshop series as a whole:

Transcribed 2019 Drawing Tutorial

As many of you may already know, I organize costumed figure drawing sessions in my current town of Newmarket, Ontario. One of my side projects over the past few months has been creating portraits of our models to promote each session. For this session, I’d like to share my drawing process on our most recent promo portrait—the one of Euphoria Blackwood.Let’s begin with the under-drawing:

At this stage, I’ve received several selfies from the model in partial costume. I will not be sharing them for privacy reasons, but suffice to say- they have provided me with the suggestion of a pose, the make of the sword, and the model’s proportions and facial features as reference material. I am about to combine these elements with a bit of artistic license to create something that looks very different.Some reasons why I will not (and do not advise) tracing directly over photographs when drawing characters, but rather doing an under-drawing, and working off of that instead:1- A camera lens will always distort proportions. A selfie taken by hand will always have especially distorted proportions.2- Tracing from photos indiscriminately, even when done with a good eye for anatomy, will always make your figures look stiffer. Rounder, more dynamic lines (of the kind you find in quick gesture drawings) make characters look more alive, even if they are not 100% anatomically correct. In fact, breaking from anatomic correctness is sometimes necessary to make an action pose look more “real” to prospective viewers!Now on to my thought process for the under-drawing itself. Here are some things I am choosing to place as reference points for the drawing that I am about to do over top of it:1-Proportional reference
I want to know the size of the head in relation to the torso. The torso in relation to the hips. The relative size of the shoulders and arms. How the head is turned (a subtly menacing down-turn in this case), and where the features rest on the face in relation to one another.
For me, this means where everything is going to be placed in this drawing to make it look aesthetically pleasing to the viewer, and draw attention to the important bits (face and hands, in this case). Are the elements in balance? On a whim, I add the suggestion of a little dragon border here to balance out the blockiness of the text.
Now I am ready to begin making this tangle of lines into something resembling a human.

Oof. Looks like a lot happened there, right? Don’t panic. I am about to explain this part too, piece by piece.To start with, I have left the under-drawing visible here in a shade of red. I want you to be able to see how that first series of lines inspired the more certain, detail-oriented lines over top of them.I am about to draw a very different costume from the one the model has sent to me, based on a later conversation between us. What you aren’t seeing in the way I draw the clothing is that prior to adding folds, zippers, and other minor details, I make a point of drawing out the shape of the arms and torso more precisely, and figuring out which surfaces are facing what. Folds come into existence where two parts of the body naturally overlap. I am thinking of how the underlying bones have to be positioned to make that pose, and once I know that, the rest is like a montage of muscle and skin gradually assembling itself inside my head, until I reach the leather jacket on top. You can’t see this happening on the page because practice with structural drawings of the human body has trained me to see and apply it without going through every step of drawing bone, muscle and so on. My knowledge is very, very far from perfect (this is why I still use plenty of references in character drawings from imagination- I need to regularly remind myself of how the human body moves). But it is just enough to know what arms and shoulders must do in order to hold a sword. Same goes for the hands. I am thinking of what precisely the knuckles and finger joints need to do to actually grasp that hilt. Even if that’s not obvious yet, It’s something I will need to know once I start shading.Full disclosure about the face and hair- I open the file containing the model’s initial selfie again, and keep it open alongside my drawing as I’m working, glancing over occasionally to make sure there’s a resemblance. Sure, that’s not exactly her initial expression. And her hair isn’t exactly flowing gloriously in the imaginary wind of what I presume to be a bedroom. But what’s the point of being an artist if you can’t confabulate a bit to make things look more cool? I draw with the intention of creating something that makes the model think “Damn, that makes me look like a badass.” With hair, I especially like to add little flyaways to make it messier, and hence more “real” without actually being very real at all.Once it comes to the little demon, I realize I have in mind the draconic corner flourishes of medieval texts. I look up a few of these on google images and Pinterest, trying to assemble a general idea of their appearance in my head without actually going through the motions of drawing a series of concepts in my sketchbook. Yes, this is laziness, but let’s be honest- we all have limited time. And I have just enough time to analyze the elements that make them what they are. This goes on for about fifteen minutes, until I feel ready to attempt a drawing that borrows from these stylistic elements, without copying any one style or image. The results of my google search remain open in the corner of my desktop as I draw. I occasionally glance through them when I’m uncertain about something, like the shape of a wing.Now I am ready to shade.

There’s quite a lot that’s gone into this next part. More, admittedly, than I can explain in detail given the limitations of this post. But I will do my best to cover the broad strokes.I’ve probably spent more time training myself to shade based on pure intuition than any other element of this process. This means I don’t bother to look up a lighting reference. I do, however, look up a few images of leather jackets to remember what the texture looks like, since I know it responds in an interesting way when reflecting light.Mentally, I position the light source somewhere in her top right (the viewer’s left). This is quite different from the initial selfie, but I want the model’s face to be more visible, and for the way the light falls on her jacket to appear more dramatic and intentional. I have in mind something midway between well-fitted clothing and armour.Now it’s important to note here that this drawing is entirely black and white and the shading is done in an ink-based crosshatching style. I’m making a point of saying this because it presents a special set of challenges different from a full-colour or painted piece. To start with, I need to be very careful about value. The depth of the black and the size of the pen stroke will determine whether this all-black jacket looks like a coherent piece of clothing, or an inky blob.I think about which parts will need to have the deepest black, and fill them in first. This gives me a point of reference for how light and dark everything else will need to be. I then make a point of thinking about major highlights and areas of reflected light. The limitations of the medium prevent me from outlining them. Instead- I have to make a mental note of their position and draw around them. Anxiety-inducing? Sure. But I like to think the final result will be worth the trouble. It’s a style of art I really love.Another important aspect of crosshatching is drawing lines that follow the direction a surface is facing. For example, there is a side of the arm facing inwards towards the body, and a side facing the viewer. I need my linework to reflect that difference. However, I also know that humans arms are not rectangular blocks, so this needs to be represented in a series of concentric motions of the pen. For the darker areas, I then add the next layer of pen strokes. These ones face stubbornly in the opposite direction. They trick the eye into thinking “this area is in deeper shadow”.Some of the lines appear more “random” in their positioning than others. This is to account for the inherent messiness of real-life textures. There is no good way of figuring out how to position these “random” lines in a drawing, except through experimentation (and potentially, years of practice). Some artists will describe these parts of a drawing as “happy accidents”. The secret is that they are never truly random or accidents. They are elements of the drawing guided by intuition, rather than conscious thought. Good Intuition about drawing takes time to develop over long periods of experience and failed attempts, much like intuition about people’s intentions. We may not realize it’s happening, but every human interaction over the course of our lifetimes contributes to forming that intuition about people we encounter for the first time. Drawing is the same.And that concludes the process!

Full-Colour Illustration

Graphic Design

Examples of layouts and designs created primarily for local small businesses, non-profit organizations and advocacy groups. All images were custom-made as scalable vector art.


The Inverted Spire

A dystopian, dark fantasy, choices-matter negotiation game.Further details can be found on the landing page at this link.I am the project lead on the three-person team producing new chapters for this game.My work includes all of the worldbuilding, concept art, narrative design, writing, GUI, in-game art, animation and sound design on the present build.Due to the small size of our team, I have also stepped in to collaborate with my co-developer, Feardeer, to do some of the programming in ren'py (a Python-based visual novel engine). The music is produced by composer Mickey Hoz.

Selected In-game Screenshots

I created photorealistic black-and-white painted artwork (painted in Photoshop & CSP) with subtle animations (using moving 2D layers and ATL transforms). All GUI assets are likewise painted in Photoshop and animated with ATL.Here is a dev log on the step-by-step process of painting character facial expressions.

Selected Concept Art

The Inverted Spire takes place in an original world rich with lore. I draw and write about this world simultaneously, with an eye for necessary details to bring the branching narrative to life with accompanying visuals. Concept art is drawn in a sketchbook, and later polished digitally.Here is a dev log illustrating the way worldbuilding, writing and concept art work together behind the scenes to deliver the impression of a living world.Other dev logs discuss my worldbuilding and narrative design influences from working in backstage theatre, favourite speculative fantasy fiction, and a legacy of experimental games that focus on character relationships.

Bizarre Beast Boutique

A hybrid visual novel/management game about working as an assistant at an otherworldly petshop that harbours a dark secret.Landing page with additional details available here.I originally began work on this game with my co-developer Feardeer for the Amare Game Jam. We worked on the game design together. I was also separately responsible for the writing, background/environment art, GUI and graphic design.Certain elements, such as monster designs and CG art, are an ongoing collaborative effort where Feardeer and I divide our efforts (e.g. one person does the linework and the other does colour)

Selected GUI and Graphic Design

I created painted modular UI elements and promotional/landing page art in Photoshop & CSP based on collaborative art direction.I also developed a working, animated GUI template for all in-game menus in Ren'py.

Painted Environments from Sketch to Final

— Example I: The Storefront —

— Example II: The Backroom —

Example Collaborative Monster Designs

Some examples of the collaborative process between myself and Feardeer. In this instance, I designed several petshop creatures, which Feardeer lined and painted to produce the final in-game monster art.

Books & Comics

I am both the writer and the illustrator on all the projects listed below.

Experience Points

An adult romance novel with 60+ original illustrations.It was published with Microcosm on March 2022 as both a series of zines and a collected edition with additional content.From the blurb:"Alex Mazor is a transmasculine horror artist struggling to make a living in Toronto. When he invites one of his patrons home to model for his next project, his motives aren't purely artistic. But Matt Connors, local fantasy geek and perpetual DM-without-a-party, is an unlikely model and an even stranger bedfellow. Follow along as their relationship unfolds, from a steamy modeling session to some exhibitionism at an art exhibit, and a road trip that pushes the pair to bring their trust to a new level. In the midst of exploring one another’s kinks and insecurities, will they be brave enough to find intimacy as well? This series of unapologetically filthy, nerdy, artistic encounters chronicles two lives at a crossroads of healing and self-discovery."

Autuobiographical Mini-comics

An ongoing series of journal comics created to be shared on social media. Selected examples below:

On Social Distancing

On Trauma Recovery

The Fable of Farlaf the Boastful

A comic that acts as a queer, anti-imperialist reimagining of an excerpt from the epic poem Ruslan and Ludmila by Alexander Pushkin. Progress on this project received a grant from the York Region Arts Council in 2021. More about the intentions and process work behind the comic can be found here.

You are my home

A short autobiographical comic for the Home Sweet Home anthology with Corn Maze Press. It is, in concept, a love letter.

Kingdom of Sunlight

An ongoing longform comic project. Kingdom of Sunlight is a character-driven fantasy of manners that takes place in a fictional underground colony. Examples of the full-colour original style used in the the webcomic, and the new, ink-based style later adapted for print can be seen below.

Selection of Pages from the Original Webcomic

Selection of Pages from the Print Variant


A queer urban horror story created for the Shout Out Anthology, published by TO Comix Press.From the inside cover: “Sasha is a young, closeted trans boy, living in an aging apartment building in the Torontovka neighbourhood of northern Toronto. The elevator's out, and Sasha wants to visit his friend on another floor: but that means confronting the entity in the stairwell.”

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