Born in Greenock, Watt studied at Glasgow School of Art, and in 1987, while still a student, won the National Portrait Gallery London prestigious annual award. 


Across the last three decades, Watt has exhibited nationally and internationally and has had major solo exhibitions at the National Gallery, London (where she was appointed Associate Artist in 2006); the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh; the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh; Dulwich Picture Gallery, London; Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Glasgow; Abbot Hall Art Gallery and Museum, Kendal; and The Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh.


Watt's most recent exhibition A Portrait Without Likeness was held at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh, in 2021-22, touring to Inverness Art Gallery and Museum in 2022. She was awarded an OBE in 2008 and became a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 2017.