Erin Aniker’s radical, feminist work is informed by her upbringing and an early introduction to protest through her activist mother. Her work explores ideas around identity and community informed by her experiences of different communities, bolstered by her mixed parentage. Her work proudly speaks to a new generation who seek positive change for all.
I grew up in two very different cultures, Turkish and British. My Mum is from Turkey, my Dad is from Yorkshire, and they met in London which is where I grew up, and I was born, in East London. I had quite a creative, diverse childhood in an equally creative and diverse city; I think my work celebrates and explores this.
My Dad is also a language teacher and speaks five different languages: Spanish, German, French, Turkish and English, and I grew up surrounded by lots of music, films and books from around the world and in lots of different languages and cultures.
I fell for illustration through children’s books growing up and then spotting illustrations and comics in magazines and newspapers. When I discovered that being an illustrator was a job that you could actually do! Making a living through drawing seemed like a dream, I was drawn to it from a young age and spent my teenage years and early twenties figuring out how I could turn it into a reality.
Though I had a creative upbringing, I had no direct links or connections to the art world or creative industries, at all. So, I spent a lot of time trying to figure out how I could find a job and create a career as an illustrator.
On personal heritage
I’m very aware of having multiple identities and that these identities don’t have to be mutually exclusive. You can be more than one thing. It’s also made me even more curious about people, culture and identity and how they interact.
My Mum is very active in community work; she helps to organise lots of events with and for her local community and she still goes to lots of protest marches. I love that she’s never seen being a Mother and being involved in politics, community and activism as mutually exclusive things. She had this newspaper clipping with a photo of her and my twin brother and me when we were babies. She wanted to go to a protest march, so she took us in our twin buggy and tied the protest banners to the buggy. She has been a significant influence on my work.
I also love Islamic art, the textiles, ceramics and art feed into my work. I find the patterns, the geometry and precision incredibly inspiring, calming and beautiful. I’m also completely obsessed with cobalt blue, which is used, in a lot of Turkish ceramics. It’s been my favourite colour for as long as I can remember and I find myself having to stop myself from using it in everything I make and do.
I think my work is an on-going celebration and exploration of people, support, community and growth. I am proud to call myself a feminist and so when I draw people and communities; I’m naturally going to depict or at least always try to depict people and communities in a way that is always intersectional, feminist and focuses on support and people supporting each other.
On representing women
I love drawing women, non-binary people and men who aren’t visibly strong or powerful. I aim to create a sense of ‘togetherness’ and evoke a focus on community and support in a lot of my work. I don’t have a particular person in mind when I’m working as I draw inspiration from so many different people.
I’m also really inspired by vulnerability and the ability to express emotion freely. In my opinion, there’s a misplaced criticism of being ‘sentimental’ in art as if it somehow cheapens an image or artwork which I hate because I think it stems from a place where showing emotion and sentiment is seen as something negative.
I’m happy drawing and exploring people and communities in lots of different and nuanced ways. There is strength in vulnerability and vulnerability in strength.
On creative process
All my ideas start with a pencil and paper, usually in one of my sketchbooks. I then create the drawing, using my sketch as a reference, from scratch on my Wacom digital tablet. I use Adobe Illustrator to create and paint the drawing digitally.
On the challenges of freelance life
The admin side, signing contracts, paperwork, emails, chasing invoices can be pretty time-consuming! I’m always chasing the balance between work and life, not working every weekend!