Dame Elizabeth studied at Edinburgh University and then Edinburgh College of Art. She received a traveling scholarship that allowed her to travel through southern Europe and an additional one that funded a nine month stay in Italy. These trips inspired her early landscape work.
She is strongly influenced by the aesthetics of Japanese art, Duncan Macmillan stated “What Blackadder has learnt from Japan is a way to extent things both natural and man made that surround us. As she does so she remains deeply loyal to the special poetry of the tradition in which she belongs.”