Project 3: Picking and Portraying. Research Point 2

Elizabeth Blackadder

This Scottish artist was born in 1931. I have seen a number of her artworks in galleries over the years, and initially felt that they were a bit messy and careless (with odd splodges of colour here and there), but have come to appreciate how well observed and lively they are. The colour and form in particular are beautiful.

Concentrating on her paintings of plant life: she often depicts them arranged in rows, like botanical specimens, or roughly arranged in vases or jugs and sharing a table top with a strange mixture of other objects. Each object having its own space and prominence in the composition. Following a discussion thread on the OCA Forum, I wonder if the artist was influenced by a childhood walking round museums?

In the above linked exhibition catalogue, I found a number of the artists works from over the years.

On Page 28, The Yellow Table, 1976 Oil on Canvas

This is a still life composition with various objects and a jug of blue flowers on a yellow table. It has a disjointed, ‘scrappy’ composition, with the flowers looking freshly picked and quickly arranged in the vase. The blue flowers contrast well with the yellow table and the red objects in the picture

Page 34 Orchids and Bananas, 1985 Watercolour

This painting looks like a botanical illustration showing different aspects of the flowers and leaves. Some are dissected like scientific specimens. The plants have realistic colours and a fairly flat composition allowing for close and clear inspection of the plants.

Page 64 Mixed Flowers, c.2012 Watercolour

The sinuous lines of the flowers’ stems are laid out in a pleasing line, with very little overlap. Again, the flowers are carefully observed with realistic depictions of colour and form.

Other plant paintings by the artist include seed pods, irises, roses, lilies, fallen/damaged autumn leaves, sprigs of blossom, squash, fennel, blown tulips.

What can I learn from this artist?

  • Think about the composition, the background and any additional objects in the picture.
  • Use seasonal materials that are available to you.
  • Don’t be afraid of imperfections in the plant material (this makes me think of my earlier research into wabi-sabi).


Zoffany is an upmarket retailer of luxury wallpapers, rugs, textiles etc. It was founded in 1983 and specialises in using historical designs from its archive collection.

Arleccino fabric

This fantasy foliage features all sorts of leaves and berries on a single plant, with the details picked out in embroidery. The vibrant colours ‘pop’ against the black background. It also comes in three other colour variations, which give a different mood. The pattern repeats every other ‘branch’, and is on a large scale.

This design is called Harvest, and dates to c.1930s and is probably Swedish in origin. The background is printed onto the linen fabric first, before the plants are embroidered over the top. It is an interesting way of arranging different shapes and sizes of plants into a repeating design, and gives continuity to otherwise disparate images.

This pattern is called Diamonds and Flowers. A simple flower set within a circle is combined with geometric shapes and lines to make an interesting combination of modern and country chic. Only two colours are used, or rather, one colour and the background. It is adapted from an original block printed wallpaper design and is now available as an upholstery fabric.

What can I learn from this company?

  • Using alternative colour palettes in a design can create a very different ‘look and feel’ to the same composition.
  • Designs can contain a mixture of realistic and imaginary elements.
  • Different shapes and sizes of image can become unified by using a similar background.
  • A simplified image can be combined with other patterns to form a ‘block’, giving an over-all design.


This company was founded in London, in 2005 by Erdem Moralioglu. His designs are for women’s clothing for luxury stores, such as Selfridges and Harvey Nichols.

Effie Dress

Hand embroidered organza with diagonally twining red stems and leaves and tiny yellow and white flowers and buds against a black background. This exquisite dress has a simple, uncluttered shape to show off the beautiful fabric to best effect.

The company’s pre-Spring 2017 lookbook features some dresses influenced by Japanese designs, and the 1930s era. They have a mixture of sheer and opaque fabrics, decorated in places with cascades of stylised flower heads. Some areas of fabric are left plain for contrast. Leather jackets and trench coats have flowers embroidered onto the bodies, with arms and shoulders of the garments left undecorated. Another, white dress has a mixture of bands of small flowers interspersed with larger flowers, and less densely packed small flowers.

Imari Skirt This garment is made from a Jacquard fabric featuring blue carnations set into a self coloured burgundy foliage pattern. The edges of the flowers have been given a dimensional effect.

What can I learn from this designer?

  • Experiment with dimensional aspects
  • Play with different backgrounds and possibly layering
  • Try different sizes and arrangements of plants in the same piece
  • Use stylised versions of flowers
  • Leave some parts of the composition blank, as a foil for the more densely decorated areas

Timorous Beasties

This company was established in 1990, in Glasgow, by Alistair Mcauley and Paul Simmons.

They design and sell award-winning wallpapers, textiles and homewares. Their style is based on historical textiles, but given a modern twist, for example, their urban city reboot of the Toiles de Jouy pattern: such as Glasgow Toiles.

Birch Wood Lace fabric

Birch Wood Lace Fabric

The simple repeated elements of the tree trunks have wispy branches to add interest to the pattern. The ‘grey’, less densely woven? trunks recede into the background. Another update of a traditional textile.

Topical Tropical fabric

Topical Tropical Fabric

An exuberant explosion of exotic plant life. Fine, pale grey background foliage acts as a foil for the bold leaves and orchids, produced with stylised, yet realistic rendering. It reminds me of a visit I made to the botanical gardens in Glasgow.

Summer Trellis fabric

Summer Trellis Fabric

This gorgeous fabric features roses in shades of pink and peach against an aqua background that sets them off perfectly. The busy bees make a charming, surprising addition to the design.

What can I learn from this company?

  • Keep the design interesting with surprising additions
  • Think about colour combinations and background colour
  • Add depth with pale patterns in the background
  • Repetitions can be large and bold or small and frequent



Elizabeth Blackadder: Decades 4th August – 3rd September 2016 Edinburgh, The Scottish Gallery (link to catalogue in text above)

Four Women Artists. Elizabeth Blackadder: Additional Works 4th – 25th November 2015 Edinburgh, The Scottish Gallery

Elizabeth Blackadder: The Nature of Things 2 August – 4 September 2013 Edinburgh, The Scottish Gallery (link to catalogue in text above)

Websites:- consulted 04/08/16 consulted 04/08/16 consulted 04/08/16 consulted 04/08/16

3 thoughts on “Project 3: Picking and Portraying. Research Point 2”

  1. Thank you, Inger. I may look at some of the other recommendations too, but I want to get the drawings ready for my deadline of 18 August! Tomorrow I have a Study Visit and six hours of driving, so time for bed, I think ;o)


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