Elizabeth Blackadder was born in Falkirk in 1931. She studied at Edinburgh University and Edinburgh College of Art where her teachers included Beaton, Philipson, Henderson and Gillies, who was to have the greatest influence on her work.
She was awarded a Carnegie Travelling Scholarship which took her to Italy, Greece and Yugoslavia and her early works, principally landscapes, were influenced by her travels. In 1956 she married fellow-student John Houston (1930 - 2008) and began to lecture part-time at the Edinburgh College of art in 1962.
Blackadder works primarily in watercolour, painting landscapes, cats, flowers, still lifes and portraits. The composition of her still life is influenced by Japanese art on scrolls; the backgrounds are often left blank or flattened, thereby allowing the viewer to concentrate upon the quality and details of the three dimensional objects without distraction from the background.
Her work can be seen at the Tate Gallery and the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, and has appeared on a series of Royal Mail stamps. She was appointed an OBE in 1982, promoted to DBE in 2003.