Nurettin Erkan was born in North Kurdistan. He completed his primary education in various cities in Kurdistan, and his secondary education at the teacher training school in Bitlis. In 1986, he moved to Istanbul and stayed there until coming to the United States, where he currently lives. 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 (aka "Istanbul Academy of Fine Arts"), graduating in 1993. Erkan decided to not participate in any future art competitions after graduation.

In 1992, when he was 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. Erkan tried to discover new painting techniques by focusing in these courses 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 in and outside Turkey.

Erkan was invited to London for his first international exhibition in 2003. He worked at the Space Studios in London and exhibited in both London and Istanbul during that year. He was working on the series "Bodies in Space" at the time and exhibited pieces among this series at Arcola Gallery and St. Martin in the Fields. Some of his paintings at these exhibitions appeared in London's art collections, and he was included in the London based art encyclopedia Masters of Today.

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 Iraqi civilians. 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 but did not travel to receive his award. Erkan has exhibited his paintings in Belgium, Czech Republic, Greece, England, France, Moldovia, and US. 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.