Inspired by: Elizabeth Blackadder

How time flies! Our exhibition at the Gateway Galleries, A Scottish Palette, has now been open for more than two weeks, meaning there are only four weeks left for you to pop along and see it!

In the meantime, we’ve got some exciting blogs planned for you. Each Wednesday for the next four weeks we’ll be posting a blog focussing on an artist from the exhibition. Each blog will explore their life and work in more detail, and maybe we’ll even challenge ourselves to create some artwork in their style!

This week, we’re starting off with Dame Elizabeth Blackadder. An internationally renowned artist, Blackadder was the first woman to become a member of both the Royal Scottish Academy and the Royal Academy.

Two works by Elizabeth Blackadder feature in our exhibition
Two works by Elizabeth Blackadder feature in our exhibition

Born in Falkirk in 1931, Blackadder studied at Edinburgh College of Art and Edinburgh University in the 1940s and 50s. From the 1950s to the 1980s, she travelled widely to countries all over the world, including Italy, Greece, France, Spain, and Japan. This travelling greatly influenced Blackadder, with the artistic styles of the different countries often affecting her own art.

The composition of Blackadder’s work, and in particular her use of space, was especially influenced by Japanese art. This is perhaps most clearly seen in her still-life artworks, which often consist of objects shown on a plain background, as if viewed from above. The space between the objects is always carefully considered, so that it becomes as important at the objects themselves. This precise use of space within a painting can also be seen in her Diploma work, Self Portrait with Cat, which features in A Scottish Palette.

As well as her unique use of space, drawings of flowers and cats, such as this one from the exhibition, are perhaps what Blackadder is best known for
As well as her unique use of space, drawings of flowers and cats, such as this one from the exhibition, are perhaps what Blackadder is best known for.

As well as her very conscious use of space, Blackadder is also well known for her paintings of flowers and cats. (As she is a cat-owner and a keen gardener it is perhaps unsurprising that they appear so often in her work.) When including these subjects in her artworks, Blackadder is always careful to depict them with high levels of detail. She explains that this is because these subjects can be very easy to romanticise, so by drawing them so accurately she is trying to show them as they really are. The above etching of cats and lilies by Blackadder, which features in A Scottish Palette, reflects this particular aspect of her style.

Inspired by Blackadder’s paintings which feature in the exhibition (and with my own cat acting as model) I decided to have a shot at drawing one of her favourite subjects.

My first attempt at drawing Blackadder’s favourite subject didn’t get very far…

I swiftly discovered that it’s not as easy as it might seem, and for my first few drawings I only got a few lines on paper before my cat decided to move! Eventually though, after several further attempts, I managed to create a slightly more completed sketch.

I eventually managed to capture a more complete drawing!
But eventually I managed to capture a more complete drawing!

In the end, tackling Blackadder’s favourite subject proved much more difficult than I expected, but I did enjoy the challenge of drawing something which was totally beyond my control! It was also interesting to try and capture the character of the cat in each drawing, something which Blackadder always seems to achieve in her own work.

If you have also been inspired by the style of Elizabeth Blackadder we would love see your creations! You can send them over via our twitter or facebook, and remember to check back next week for the second of our artist-focussed blogs!

Deirdre Mitchell, Curatorial Trainee (Collections)


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