Visual Arts

He’s a prosecutor by day, a comic book-style pop artist by night

"I try to find an image that moves me."

Andy Sims, commonwealth's attorney for Jessamine and Garrard counties, paints in a pop art style.
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Andy Sims, commonwealth's attorney for Jessamine and Garrard counties, paints in a pop art style.

As the top prosecutor for Jessamine and Garrard counties, Andy Sims has found a way to deal with stress. He paints in a pop art style.

“It helps tremendously,” Sims said. “I don’t know what I would do if I didn’t have this kind of outlet.”

Sims, the commonwealth’s attorney for the 13th judicial circuit for a little more than a year, has paintings on display through Oct. 16 at the Jessamine County Public Library, 600 South Main Street in Nicholasville.

Several pieces mimic the comic-book style of Roy Lichtenstein, the American pop artist of the 1960s. Other paintings pay tribute to the British street artist known as Banksy.

“I like being able to elicit the most powerful emotions with the simplest images,” Sims said.

The images resonated with Patsy Gibson of Tazewell, Tenn., who visited the library recently.

“They’re self-explanatory and they’re great,” she said.

Other pieces depict superheroes including Wonder Woman, Batman and Superman. In a reference to his job as prosecutor, one painting titled “Defense Attorneys” depicts a fist striking a man (“Pow!”) with an accompanying speech bubble that says “Object to this!”

Defense Attorneys
Sims titled this painting “Defense Attorneys.” He said defense attorneys who have seen the painting didn’t take offense. Greg Kocher gkocher1@herald-leader.com

Sims said local defense attorneys are good-natured and haven’t been offended by the image. “They think it’s funny; nothing mean-spirited,” he said.

Sims, 41, took up painting as a hobby after he had a health scare in June 2012 as an assistant commonwealth’s attorney. He was presenting a case to a grand jury, a panel of 12 people who meet behind closed doors to determine whether there is evidence to indict someone for a criminal offense.

To the horror of the grand jurors and a witness, Sims collapsed to the floor without warning.

Fortunately he was revived, and he hasn’t had any similar episodes. A defibrillator was inserted under the skin of his left upper chest. The device is programmed to detect a problem with the heart and to deliver a jolt of electricity to shock it back into a normal beat.

Looking for a way to find release from the pressure of his job, Sims began to paint.

“I drew a lot growing up, and I took art classes in high school, and I think I took an art class in college, but I never painted until after my health scare,” he said. “I needed an outlet for the day-to-day stresses of my job.”

As a prosecutor, Sims must seek justice for victims of felony offenses. It’s a job that requires a toughness. Does exhibiting art show him in a more vulnerable light?

“I don’t think I could be an effective prosecutor unless I could convey what’s in my heart to the jury,” Sims said. “When I have a case that I present to a jury, it’s not just a list of facts that I spew out for the jury. I’ve got to try my best to feel the emotions that my victims are feeling. Unless I can elicit some sort of passion and feeling from the jury, they may not care about the case.

“So, in order to do that, I’ve got to really care, and I do. I really care about my victims and the crimes that are committed in Jessamine and Garrard counties.”

The act of painting is relatively simple. He draws an image on canvas, then he takes a paint pen and outlines the image. “After that, it’s just staying within the lines and painting,” he said.

Sims also paints on skateboard decks and on oars and paddles. He sands the lacquered coating off the skateboards, and then he puts a primer on the wood. Once it dries, the wood is like a canvas.

Before he began painting in bold colors, Sims did many black-and-white paintings of celebrities and notorious figures. A room in his Nicholasville home is covered with paintings of Johnny Cash, Jack Nicholson, Elvis Presley, gangsters Al Capone and John Dillinger, comic actor Bill Murray, and Marlon Brando as the “godfather” Vito Corleone.

Andy Sims at home
Sims, commonwealth’s attorney for Jessamine and Garrard counties, has filled one room of his Nicholasville home with his paintings of celebrities from movies, music and television. Greg Kocher gkocher1@herald-leader.com

“I don’t want to be pigeonholed as a stuffy prosecutor who sits behind a desk and reads law books all day,” Sims said. “I like having a different side to me that a lot of people don’t know.”

The artwork of Andy Sims will be on display for the Jessamine County Public Library’s “Comic Surge,” a celebration of comic books. The free event will be 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Oct. 14 at the library in Nicholasville. The event will include a costume contest, movie props, the Scooby-Doo “Mystery Machine” van, a Jeep from “Jurassic Park” and more. For information go to Jesspublib.org/event/jcpl-comic-surge/ or call 859-885-3523.

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