A graduate of Rhode Island School of Design, Simpson began her career as a photographer in Boston and New York. Her paintings are based on carefully composed photographs, in which slices of buildings or streets and glimpses of landscape are interpreted as graphic images. From 1974 to 1993 Simpson created fifty-eight covers for The New Yorker, earning her widespread recognition for her iconic images. Simpson's paintings, imbued with quietude, wistfulness, and elegance, reveal little but say much. A resident of Providence, Simpson maintains a studio in Pawtucket and in 2009 was presented with an Honorary Doctorate Degree from Bryant University.