Jack wise was born in Centerville Iowa in 1938 (to Zarilda Jane (Morris) and Ralph Marlowe Wise. He attended the New Orleans School of Fine Art in 1949 and later received a BA in fine arts at the Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri (1953). Wise also achieved a Master of Science in Art from Florida State University in 1955.
Wise travelled extensively in the United States and then in the years 1958-1961 took residence in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico with the purpose of developing a craft industry in the town. It was there that he met British Columbia artist Toni Onley. Onley reported on the burgeoning art scene in Vancouver and immediately Wise immigrated to British Columbia in 1963. He spent his first few years in BC on an artistic hiatus having been dissatisfied with his work. After two years of homesteading in the interior, Wise recovered his artistic inspiration and started producing works with renewed passion.
In 1966 Wise received a Canada Council Senior Fellowship for travel and study. He visited Tibet, Japan, and Delhi where he studied Asian art techniques and calligraphy. His travels and studies abroad left a lasting impression. Wise pursued themes of Buddhist spirituality and artistic representation for most of his career.
Wise was a leader in Art Education in British Columbia. He helped found the Victoria College of Art and the Metchosin International Summer School for the Arts. Wise also served as the Artist in Residence at the University of Calgary. Wise spent several years between Victoria, and islands off the coast of Vancouver Islands. He spent the last years of his life with his partner Marilyn Hausman on Denman Island.