What's in... William Simpson's MacBook Pro

What's in... William Simpson's MacBook Pro
HIS APPLE MACBOOK PRO: I bought this 21/2 years ago but it looks like it has been around for a while, as it has pencil dust and everything on it. I usually sketch on paper and scan the artwork into it for storage.

WHO: William Simpson, who is in his 50s, is a comic artist from Northern Ireland. As the lead storyboard artist for Game Of Thrones TV series, he created icons such as the White Walkers and Three-Eyed Raven.

Comic artist William Simpson has gone from drawing for his classmates to being the lead storyboard artist for HBO's Emmy award-winning television series Game Of Thrones.

An avid fan of Conan comic strips as a child in Northern Ireland, he loved all the "mediaeval stuff".

"It is the dream job," he said of his work in Game Of Thrones.

Achieving the dream took a while. Simpson, now in his 50s, started drawing when he was a child. "I can't remember when it was, but my mum told me that I was drawing from a very early age," he said.

His drawings were so good that his classmates would ask him to draw something for them.

"Those drawings were really elementary if you look at them now, but it was at that point that I realised I can do what many other kids cannot do," he said. That realisation came when he was about nine.

He went on to study fine arts, thinking it was the best way to learn about different ways of drawing. But he found art school too restrictive and dropped out after a year.

"I had my ways of how I wanted to do things and not hold on to one way," he said.

To make ends meet, he would do commissioned work such as landscapes by day. At night, he worked on comic strip ideas adapted from his favourite movies, such as Blade Runner.

He was 23 before he started to work professionally on comic strips.

A friend who worked at the then-Warrior comics anthology magazine, home to many established British comic writers and artists, such as Alan Moore of Marvelman fame and David Lloyd who drew V for Vendetta, roped in Simpson to draw Big Ben, a spin-off character from Marvelman. In awe of the talent working there then, he said: "I almost felt like I was a fraud."

But this was the spark that ignited his career. When Warrior folded, he went to work for British Marvel Comics, drawing Transformers, before moving on to work on 2000 AD, Judge Dredd, Rogue Trooper and many more comics.

Next, he worked for DC Comics. "The first six issues of Hellblazer (at DC Comics) I did became the basis for the movie Constantine (starring Keanu Reeves)," he said.

That opened doors and he started working on storyboards and concept art for movies such as Byzantium, City of Ember and Your Highness.

During the filming of Your Highness, a movie that featured James Franco and Natalie Portman, the producer, Mr Mark Huffam, asked him to do some artwork for the pilot of an undisclosed TV series.

"The whole production team (of the undisclosed show) was in Belfast but they couldn't tell me what it was," he said.

So he would spend his days off and weekends drawing castles, giant wolves, beheadings, weapons and armour for this side project. Those drawings were shipped to US.

"If I had known those drawings were going to HBO, I would have spent longer drawing them," he said with a laugh.

That side project turned out to be HBO's Game Of Thrones, a fantasy drama for TV based on George R.R. Martin's best-selling novel series, A Song Of Ice And Fire.

"At that stage, there were not a lot of conceptual artists. It was just me," he explained. So he got to design the weapons, helmets, Three-Eyed Raven and the monstrous White Walkers. At the same time, he was also doing the storyboards for the show's directors.

"I got to work with these great directors of my favourite TV shows, such as Band of Brothers and The Pacific. The experience was phenomenal," Simpson said.

You can catch more of the realisation of his storyboards when the fifth season of Game Of Thrones premieres on April 13 on HBO (StarHub TV Channel 601).

This article was first published on Apr 1, 2015.
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