GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Every day for the last 11 years, Joseph Whitaker would get a tiny slip of paper, telling him what his schedule was for that day in prison. When he got free time, he would turn that slip over and draw.

“Those small pieces of paper and those pens were my tools to break out of prison,” Whitaker said. 

The Chicago native was arrested and pled guilty to armed robbery when he was 19 years old. 

“I was a danger to society, and I was a danger to myself,” Whitaker said. 

Then one day he picked up a pen and discovered his passion for abstract art. 

“It was like jumping into a pool, doing something that you’ve never done before, and just embracing that opportunity to express myself,” Whitaker said. 

So he kept drawing for days, months and years until he had served his full sentence. He was released from prison in January, bringing along hundreds of abstract drawings that he had created. 

“Getting out of prison was just exciting. It was emotional,” Whitaker said. “The air really does taste different in the free world. And I don’t know what it is about those barbed wires and fences, but when you get out of prison, there’s a feeling of stepping out into a world and leaving behind another world.”

Whitaker is showing his art on Saturday from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at AllArtWorks Viewing Studio in Grand Rapids.