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Life and Work with Nikusha Beatty

Today we’d like to introduce you to Nikusha Beatty.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Nikusha. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
Ever since I was little, I have been making art. My parents own an art school, so I always had unlimited access to art supplies and I could draw and paint whatever I wanted. At the time, I didn’t know and definitely didn’t appreciate what my parents were doing, I wasn’t mature enough to understand that the studio was truly something special. It was when I was around 15 that I began developing my art more seriously through the College Portfolio Program that was offered at our studio, called Prima Materia Institute.

I was in the Portfolio Program for several years to develop my art for college. It was longer than most, but now, I’m happy that I was able to go so deep into art studies. It was in the Portfolio Program that I began to see my future as an artist. Since I was a baby, I wanted to be a teacher. I even had a whiteboard in my room to write teacher notes on and draw. So naturally, when Prima Materia offered a Teachers Training, I joined it. I never gave up my drawing and painting, but once I graduated from the Teachers Training Program, I became fascinated with teaching art for a living. I was just 19 when I began conducting classes professionally.

Now I’m 22, teaching drawing and painting techniques to adults of all levels. It’s been three years since I got certification as an art instructor and I’ve been teaching full time ever since. I even teach more often than my mom, the co-founder of the school! I have students I have worked with for two or three years now. I also teach private lessons to people with special needs and those who have busy work schedules and want one-on-one instruction.

I of course, am still learning and taking art classes, because the more I learn, the more I realize there is so much more to know! Teaching art is fulfilling and an interesting way to get better at art-making.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
It has not been completely smooth. Art school is our family business; anything that was related to running a small business, I learned to do it. Taking on responsibilities in a small business and teaching full time was almost overwhelming for me at 19.

Working everyday, learning marketing, answering the phone, providing customer service, cleaning the studio – I had no problem with any of it. The biggest challenge was my insecurity with being too young, a sort of “imposter syndrome,” wondering if my age makes me qualified to be a teacher for adults. Almost all of my students were older than me, sometimes by three-four times! Many of my students are engineers, business executives, lawyers, writers, scientists, architects. What made me realize that I’m on the right path was a few things: 1. I am so happy with where I am. When people ask me what I do, I am excited to say, “I teach art”. 2. When people thank me for what they learn from my classes, it makes my heart sing.

Even now, when I get in front of a new group, I can see surprised faces and I read in their eyes: “I’m 67, what can this youngster possibly teach me?” By the end of the class, the same people tell me they’re surprised by how much they learned, and it makes my day.

What I thought was my disadvantage (my age) has turned out to be my advantage: I have time to learn because I started so early. I have my life in front of me and it is exciting to be learning so much every day. The subject of art is immense because it includes not only the knowledge of the techniques and art history, but also psychology, philosophy, physics, and in a way, it’s like acting on stage. You have to have rhetorical skills and confidence and your stage presence in large classes. All of these things require practice, studies, and a lot of learning from mistakes.

For young women, or anyone young for that matter, if you want it bad enough, you can have it. It will take time, people may discriminate against you for your age, but don’t let any of that stop you. Besides, starting early means that you’d be a lot more experienced when you get older! It reminds me of what my mom always says: “to be an artist, you don’t need money or a dedicated studio – all you need is perseverance.”

We’d love to hear more about your work.
I specialize in teaching beginners of all ages how to draw and paint. In the Portfolio Program, I have ten students who have a dream of getting into the art college that requires a very high level of preparedness. They want a career as an illustrator, fashion designer, animator, architect, or studio artist. These are all very competitive professions, and my job is to help them rise above competition in college. Stronger artists get better jobs.

Learning about my students’ goals allows me to develop projects for them that are fulfilling and challenging: to help them grow, open their minds to creativity, and meet the demands of the chosen college. My goal is not just to help my students create interesting art but motivate them and guide them towards discovery of their unique direction and their own voice – and help them be comfortable being uncomfortable, just as I was taught when I was a student. Through this very personalized approach, and trying to add an educational component into every project, I help my students become able and confident artists – within that one year of their program.

I lead drawing classes, which are the foundation of artistic skill. My weekly class with absolute novice students is about introducing them to the steps of the drawing process. This class (called Foundation Drawing Workshop) is fun to teach, and for the participants, it is very rewarding as well – they are surprised that it is possible to learn that much in three hours. Many of those students join the 12-week Essential Drawing Course for Beginners – that I also teach. I love seeing their drawing skills getting stronger with each week, and when they graduate, they can draw pretty well.

My weekly Art Lab classes are also worth mentioning. In these 3-hour and 9-hour sessions, I introduce painting techniques of different masters, both old and contemporary. I begin with a slide presentation that either explains the technique, or describes a particular artist approach, a style in Art History, or a theory worth knowing. Sometimes I do live demonstrations. The Prima Materia program is called ‘Deep Learning Curriculum”, comprised of several hundred individual lesson plans, each being distinctly novel and unrepeated. For my presentations I study for days, I read and look at art. It brings me great satisfaction to present such a variety of topics. For me, this is my great continuous education in fine art.

I studied under direct mentorship of my mom and co-founder of Prima Materia, Olya Losina. She is the master artist, and in the art studio, she is the person who can answer any question about art. I am still her student at both painting and teaching: I always observe how she works with students, and I hope that someday I will be able to be that accomplished in my own style of teaching.

Unlike any other art school in San Diego, we help complete beginners become confident artists in as little as a year. Our school is known for its unique curriculum that Olya Losina has been developing for over 30 years, which allows every novice to turn their “I can’t” story into “I can”. She brought that bar very high, and such reputation is very demanding – I constantly study new material, and it is amazing how much is there to learn! What makes us different as a school is the science aspect that we introduce to the arts. Students begin to realize that art and science are inseparable, that there is no going deeper into art without talking about physics or psychology. This subject alone can take multiple pages!

What I’m personally most proud of with Prima Materia – people open up like flowers and become amazing artists. Nobody here paints like the teacher – the students’ uniqueness and individuality blossom. Not one is like another. After just a year of studies, students begin to exhibit and sell their pieces. We teach them, but their brilliance has already been within them; our method catalyzes their natural artistic potential.

Prima Materia exists to expand people’s art appreciation through fun and engaging projects by introducing students to ideas, concepts, artists, and techniques of all kinds. We encourage them to go deeper into art experience – the most rewarding job I could ever imagine for myself!

Often it feels as if the media, by and large, is only focused on the obstacles faced by women, but we feel it’s important to also look for the opportunities. In your view, are there opportunities that you see that women are particularly well positioned for?
When people talk about women’s challenges and opportunities, these conversations happen in writing or in speaking, and often people become numb to them because it’s already been said, and it can be difficult to talk about it in such a way that makes people want to listen. People are becoming desensitized. But women have a lot to say, and through art, we can speak in a way that people have not heard before.

Through art-making, women can communicate in a fresh way. When women speak through their art about issues that are important to them, those messages are heard. We can make emotional and powerful art with a level of authenticity people rarely see. This is where a female artist can take us deeper into life experiences and help the viewer embrace the emotional aspect of life.

In art history, most masters were men because women would get married, give birth, and their job would be to take care of the kids and house. This happened with my grandmother in the Soviet Union: the school she chose would not even accept female students, so she masked her gender by using her first initial while applying there, and was accepted through the quality of her work. On the first day of classes, her professor was surprised to see her among his students, and when he was told that the portfolio he’d liked was hers, he let her stay, and she became the first woman ever accepted in his class.

My grandmother went on to become a successful muralist. She met my grandfather and sacrificed her art career to be a homemaker, support his career and raise their children. In the fifties, that was expected of women. Today, that attitude still lingers. What is remarkable with art today, careers don’t have to be put on hold – art can be made anytime, anywhere. All women need to do is embrace their power, study to be excellent artists, and create authentic art – not pretty, not feminine, not commercial – but genuine.

With all of that said, I believe women are just as capable as men to become successful artists, and men can be just as sensitive and authentic. I feel that in art today, there is equality because art is gender-neutral. I see extraordinary female artists all around me, in our studio and outside of it. I am excited that many teenagers, especially girls, choose to be artists. My job as an art teacher is to support them in becoming confident, independent and strong artists. I have been trained to help my students recognize what power they have in their hands and empower them to tell their stories. That’s actually why I became an artist – because of the opportunity to be self-expressed, and that’s why I am an art teacher – to teach others how to do it.


  • Foundation Drawing Workshop – $97
  • Private Sessions – $70/hour

Contact Info:

  • Address: Prima Materia Institute
    3350 Sports Arena Blvd, Suite A
    San Diego, CA 92110
  • Website:
  • Phone: 619-630-9278
  • Email:
  • Instagram: @nikushabeatty

Image Credit:
Bill, Sebastian, Olya

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