My Story

Phillip Wilson - Pensational Visionary ArtThis is the story of the Pensational artist Phillip Wilson.  It is an artist’s story of ultimate change against all odds


Hi, I am Phillip Wilson and am an artist living in temporary housing after recently being released from prison. My life has had many ups and downs and I am now focusing on my art to heal from all the mistakes I made in my past. I was born on April 22,1966 in Newark, Ohio to Betsy Elaine Ross. My mom was a professional ladies’ wrestler and I had six other siblings that took up most of my mom’s attention. I grew up in a strict household and did not have many friends. This made for a lonely childhood. I have older siblings whose father’s name is Billy Wolfe. Billy was the founder of women’s wrestling during the 1940’s through 50’s. When I was four years old my mother remarried and we moved to Elgin, Illinois.

I moved out of the home I grew up in at the young age of fifteen to work at odd jobs, until I started my own remodeling company at the age of twenty-five. My company thrived and I married a woman. We had difficulty in conceiving a child at first but eventually we were given the news we were to be parents after a medical procedure was performed on my wife. I was focusing on my business and neglecting my family, which led to my divorce in 1999.

I was forced to leave everything behind and once again struck out on my own to work at odd jobs. I ended up in Portland. Oregon in 2002, but was homeless. With nowhere to go I chose to break into mostly vacant and abandoned homes to use the showers and sleep, occasionally stealing enough to buy food and what I thought were essentials, which led me to eventually being arrested several times. I went in and out of prison for 14 years. I ended up on drugs, as my drug habit took over and this had me panhandling for money, and eventually I started to suffer with ill mental health. Ironically, the voices I started to hear from the drugs I was doing were welcome company to me in my lonely life. I also lost both my parents to cancer while in prison, which added to my loneliness and despair.

In prison I found that my talent in art was not only a welcome break from prison life, but also it was an outlet for my emotional healing. When I am focusing on my art it takes me away from all the pain I feel from a difficult and lonely life. My art takes up many hours, which can be seen in the results of my work itself. My art can be purchased by the public as prints, and I personally can say you are getting a real valuable piece of art that will be a wise investment. I learned a lot while in the pen (pen-sational). I eventually used the time to open up the creative/imaginative side of me. With a self-taught style, I began creating art pieces using 15 cent prison commissary Bic pens (pens-ational again!). I was pleased by the intricate details that I could include, and also at how I’d processed my thoughts and emotions in my 6′ by 7′ cell during the 100 plus average hours it took to complete each piece.

I felt like I was meant to be in prison, perhaps even destined. During my homeless times, even then I felt I was in some spiritual and personal process, but I still made a lot of very poor decisions. I was caught in a revolving door; a process and cycle that I couldn’t free myself from. But now I can see a brighter future and hope for a better life. I want to be able to create my artwork and get it out to those interested, along with my story of ongoing transformation. I can see myself in a better living situation and I am very proud of myself. Through my art I have changed from a broken down man in prison, to a confident artist wishing to bring my talent out to people interested in me, my art, and the ultimate transformation that is

Phil Wilson



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