October 27, 2017

© Erin Aniker _ Mosaic Science (2)

We talk to London-based illustrator and curator Erin Aniker about digital design, strong women and the power of protest through art…

Have you always been interested in art?

Yes. I’ve always been interested in the link between art and protest and artists from dual backgrounds.

I grew up surrounded and inspired by Turkish textiles, prints and protest banners from Imece Women marches from my Mum’s Turkish side as well as more traditional, British illustrated children’s books from my Dad’s British side. My Dad was a language teacher and speaks five languages (Spanish, German, French, Turkish, English) so I grew up surrounded by art, books, films and music from a mix of different countries and cultures.

As I’ve grown older all these influences I grew up with have started to feed into my work.


© Girls on Film _ Erin Aniker (2)

How did you get into illustration?

Mostly through book illustration and 90’s children’s books. I grew up avidly pouring over them and as I grew older, started to discover editorial illustrations. I would always keep an eye out in newspapers and magazines for the illustrations. I started collecting second hand illustration Journals and thought about doing an illustration degree but wasn’t sure. I knew I wanted to do something creative so I did an art foundation at The Cass at London Met in Aldgate and had the most fun during the illustration section of the course, so decided to do a degree.

I did an Illustration BA at NUA (Norwich University of the Arts) where I was exposed to a range of intersectional feminist artwork and literature, which I began to look into, exploring the representation of women of colour in the creative industries.

I continued exploring these themes after graduating and gradually developed my own portfolio and illustration work about a year after graduating.

How would you describe your style?

My illustrations are completed digitally and tend to portray a diverse range of women in colourful, minimalist environments.

I only really began creating vector-based illustrations and working completely digitally in the last 2 years or so. My work before this was all hand drawn using pencil and watercolours, but I wasn’t really happy with it or feeling like I was getting anywhere.

I was always curious about working digitally and started working on Adobe Illustrator CC towards the end of my degree, developing my ‘style’ from there after I graduated.

I had to push through this stigma and the feeling I had, that hand drawn illustration is somehow more ‘authentic’ or ‘real’. I’ve just now accepted that I enjoy working digitally and that that’s OK!


Bloom (1) Copyright © Erin Aniker


Bloom (2) Copyright © Erin Aniker

ARTIST OF THE WEEK: ERIN ANIKER Bloom (3) Copyright © Erin Aniker

What sort of themes do you like to explore in your work?

Solidarity with women of colour, intersectional feminism, strong women, sisterhood, support, community and collaboration.

You’ve previously helped curate and organise the We Are Here: British BME Women exhibition! What was it about and how did you get involved?

Yes! I actually came up with the idea for the We Are Here: British BME Women exhibition (#WeAreHereUK) after the EU Referendum. I noticed a definite increase in hateful rhetoric around immigration and a spike in this notion of ‘othering’ migrant communities.

The whole leave campaign was more or less built around this anti-immigration rhetoric and so when the results emerged, I wanted to organise and collaborate with other women of colour Artists and creatives to create this positive, public platform for British, BME Women. As a way of saying ‘we are here’ – we are British, we are BME and these two identities are not two mutually exclusive things.

I initially approached artist, Joy Miessi, with the idea for the exhibition. She was really supportive and between us, we handpicked a number of BME artists whose work we admire and invited them to take part in the exhibition. The exhibition team later grew and now consists of myself, workshop facilitator and illustrator, Jess Nash who helps to run our on-going workshops and events and our Arts communications assistant and curator, Ellen Morrison.

We’re actually planning another London exhibition in 2018 and we’re then planning on having a string of exhibitions, workshops and panel discussions in various places across the UK, working with a mix of British, BME Women artists. You can keep up to date on our website which we’ll be updating with event details closer to the time.


Halfway Home Copyright © Erin Aniker

Does the London art scene inspire you? If so, how?

London has its own ongoing issues around gentrification and the rising cost of living that seems to be making it near impossible for many, including artists and creatives to survive here.

However, the creative hub and mix of different cultures and backgrounds living here has been a constant source of inspiration for myself and many others. Moving out of London to study in Norwich made me really appreciate how important this is and shortly after graduating I felt like I had to move back, largely because of this.

There is also always something to see and do and I love the fast pace of life and constant stream of people, ideas, discussions, exhibitions and events.


Lonely in London © _ Erin Aniker

When creating a new piece, what inspires you?

It depends on the project I’m working on. Most of my commissioned work at present is editorial and so that means I’m usually working on a specific brief.

Luckily, most of my clients, and the editorial work I’ve been getting recently, have been exploring issues which are important to me, such as women’s access to Contraception, tackling mental health issues , women in the workplace, women in film and making sure I always try and get involved with supporting projects and articles by women of colour.

So, generally, it’s always helpful if I’m initially inspired by the writing and themes within the article or project I’m illustrating. Otherwise, I try and focus on finding a fun, visual way of communicating the piece and put my energy into that instead.

I also regularly update various folders of posters, illustrations, book covers, editorial work, furniture and ceramics that I can flick through if I’m stuck for inspiration for both my personal and commissioned work.


Shade (2) Copyright © Erin Aniker

Can you tell us about your creative process?

I usually try and start off with some initial ideas and drawings in my sketchbook. I then transfer them into Adobe Illustrator CC and work into them from there on my tablet, adding colour and detail digitally.

If I’m working with an Art Director I’ll send them a few first drafts and roughs of my ideas for the piece and there is usually some back and forth and discussion before we decide on the final concept. I then work into and add details into the final drafts.

What are your favourite materials to work with and why?

I love creating illustrations digitally. I love the endless possibilities and options that working digitally allows. I also like working and being able to make edits and changes to illustrations quite quickly, especially with editorial work.

Having said that, I still always have a couple of sketchbooks on the go too and usually work with POSCA pens in my sketchbooks.

I’ve also recently started experimenting with illustrated ceramics just to challenge myself by working with different forms, and also to give my eyes and brain a much-needed break from screens!


Sister, Act! Copyright © Erin Aniker

What is the best piece of advice you have been given, about art or otherwise?

These two pieces of advice have stuck with me.

One from a tutor at university who advised after graduation that; ‘The trick is to stay like a child’ or words to that effect. I always try to stay childlike in the sense of being curious, experimental and open to making mistakes and not being a perfectionist about my work. I also try and let myself play around with ideas and drawings and most importantly, have some fun with what I’m doing.

Secondly, ‘Done is better than perfect’. It might sound like a cliché and I’m sure everyone has read this over the years in various forms, in various articles and publications, but it’s always a useful reminder, especially when I’m on multiple deadlines – within reason of course. I try to always make sure I put my best work forward but sometimes, you just need to click ‘send’ through on that draft titled ‘finalfinalfinal3’.


© _ Erin Aniker

What do you hope people will take away from your work?

I hope it motivates people to stop being keyboard warriors, and to go and make or do something that they find important IRL, talk to that artist whose work you admire, go to a march or panel discussion. If you’re not seeing the kind of exhibitions, panel discussions, workshops and events out there that you’d like to go to, then create, organise and promote your own. Talk, make and collaborate with each other IRL.

Digital is great and has allowed for so much more opportunity in terms of online communities, providing easy-to-access platforms for artists to self-promote and organise etc. It’s great, but it also has its hangs ups, and it’s important to make sure that you remain active and vocal IRL as well as online. This is what I hope people take away from my work. I hope my work encourages and fosters some sense of a DIY creative community and collaboration for change, both online and IRL.

See more of Erin’s work here and follow on Instagram here.


We Are Here Copyright © Erin Aniker