Nurettin Erkan was born in Northern Kurdistan. He completed his primary education in various cities in Northern Kurdistan, and his secondary education at the teacher training school in Bitlis ("Baghesh"). In 1986, Nurettin Erkan went to Istanbul and lived there until moving to the United States recently. During his first year in Istanbul, he studied at the department of Aquacultural Engineering at Istanbul University, but quit his studies to pursue his education in painting at Mimar Sinan Fine Arts University, Istanbul (aka “State Academy of Fine Arts”), the first educational institution in architecture and fine arts in the Ottoman Empire and Turkey.

In 1992, when he was still a student, Erkan opened his first solo exhibition at the Istanbul Press Museum. In the same year, he also founded Akdeniz Fine Arts School, and began offering courses on painting with his artist colleagues. In these courses, Erkan discovered new painting techniques by focusing on human anatomy, drawing, oil painting methods, perspective, and space design. As many as one thousand five hundred students took these courses during this period, and after graduating from art schools, they continue contributing to the art scene working as professional artists and designers in and outside Turkey.

In 2005, Erkan was selected as a board member to the Turkey's committee of International Plastic Arts Organization operating under UNESCO. During the period of this position, he curated large scale exhibitions at the Tüyap Istanbul Art Fair, which is one of the biggest art fairs in the region and in Europe. In Tüyap, Erkan also exhibited his 6.5 x 82 ft. one-piece painting installation dedicated to the memory of the massacred Kurdish civilians in Iraq. In tandem with these exhibitions, Erkan organized conferences and art workshops, and wrote art critiques for exhibition catalogs.

In 2006, Erkan was invited to the 5th International Biennial of Drawing to exhibit his works in Pilsen, Czech Republic. In 2007, he was awarded the biennial grand prize and granted an honorary diploma at the International Tashkent Biennial in Uzbekistan. Erkan exhibited his paintings in Belgium, Czech Republic, Greece, England, France, Moldovia, and the U.S. His works appear in notable collections; his articles and interviews have been published in numerous newspapers and magazines. He currently lives and works in Madison, Wisconsin.