By Lev Farris Goldenberg,
Davis High alumna Catherine Watters is a self-taught botanical artist who teaches and has exhibits all over the world. After her family moved to Davis from France in 1966, Watters enrolled at Emerson Junior High and then DHS, graduating in 1970.
Watters said coming to Davis was a big change, especially coming from an all-girls school, but she adapted very quickly.
At DHS, she made friends and participated in a number of clubs, including French Club and Art Club–her mother, Janine Stevens, was her French teacher.
After graduating high school, Watters went to UC Davis, where her parents wanted her to study French; Watters says she didn’t have much of a choice in the matter.
“It’s a good thing I got accepted,” she joked.
Watters met her husband, who is a retired banker, when she was a senior at UCD and he was a freshman. The two didn’t get married until eight years later when they met again.
Besides French, Watters also studied art at UCD. “I always loved art,” she explained.
She also received her teaching credential at UCD, and served as a student-teacher at Emerson and a high school in Fairfield. Eventually, Watters realized teaching was not what she wanted to do at the time.
Watters became interested in botanical art and was fascinated by the Age of Exploration, when the European royalty sent explorers, botanists and artists to collect and record the new plants they found in the Americas.
The 20th century saw botanical art set aside due to the invention of photography; Watters was part of the art form’s revival in the 1980s.
In 1999, she started teaching again and created her own art program at Filoli, a large estate in the Silicon Valley where people can take classes in botanical art.
The program has ballooned from her original five students to six classes and 60 students total.
“I love teaching the way I teach now,” Watters said.
Watters has illustrated six books, and her art is displayed all over the world. She travels a lot, to teach and to attend her exhibits in Seattle, Boston, New York, Miami, London and Paris.
Watters is still in touch with many of her high school friends, such as Patty Bennett.
“I love Catherine. We have been friends for [more than] 50 years,” Bennett said.
Watters was also recently inducted to the DHS Hall of Fame, voted in by members of her class of ’70.
“We are a very, very close knit class. It was a very nice honor,” Watters said.