Elizabeth Blackadder was born on 24 September 1931 in Falkirk, Scotland. After completing her secondary education at Falkirk High School (1943-9) she studied for her M.A. Honours Fine Art Degree at Edinburgh College of Art and University of Edinburgh (1949-54). Her lifelong passion to travel was kindled when she was awarded the Carnegie Travelling Scholarship from the Royal Scottish Academy in 1954 and visited Yugoslavia, Greece and Italy. In 1956 she married fellow painter John Houston and began teaching part-time at Edinburgh College of Art.
Her influences range from those encountered on her travels throughout Europe, America and Japan, her knowledge of the French artists, Bonnard, Vuillard and Matisse, the Scottish landscape surrounding her home, cats, garden and collection of bric-á-brac.