LIVE: Oliver Lewis – Passion and a Robot


Oliver Lewis began his talk by showing a photo of a piece of wood burned art created by a robot as a demonstration of how familiar we are with the right brain, left brain concept. We all know it exists, but how does it work?

From the start, Oliver had no experience as an artist. He also never thought he would create a robot. He went from being left brain to somewhere in the middle.

When he was growing up, he didn’t know what he wanted to be. He didn’t know what his passion was. He loved math and science and pursued that as his education. Then, before graduating college, he considered going to medical school.  His anxiety increased as he approached graduation. It was torturous.

He asked himself, “Is this what you want to do? Do you want to become a doctor?” And that was the moment he knew he had a difficult choice to make. That choice, if he was going to be happy, was to drop of college, quit his job, and clean his slate.

He jumped into his car and drove across the country and started a journal. As time went on, his writing turned into drawings. He had no idea that he could draw but he found himself to be very happy doing it. When his travels ended in South Carolina, he laid out a drawing that he had in his head and it took him nine months to complete. It was a very intricate design drawn in ballpoint pen. The drawing is 400 miles of pen. He shopped around his drawing and eventually the McColl Center for Art + Innovation was interested in showing it at one of their exhibits. This showing lead to an in-house residency program. He was having a great time and started selling his art.

But there was a problem. These pen drawings took a long time to complete and he was not able to make enough art to make a living. He pondered on how he could fix this problem. His solution? Make a robot that would do all the work for him.

And that he did. Michael, Oliver’s first success, was created from random parts that can be found around the house, wood, and electronics. Michael is an industrial art making machine.

Soon, others will be able to access Michael’s software to create art as well as partner with other robots.

Creating Michael has led to many other opportunities, including a partnership where Oliver gets to dream and create art and robots every day. He has found his passion. Have you figured out yours? And if so, are you pursuing it?


TEDx Photo Intro - Oliver


About the Speaker…

I pretty much did what most people typically wouldn’t do. As a engineering and premed student at Penn State, and someone who was always good at math and science, I found myself unsatisfied pursuing those as a career path. After 2 years, and much thought, I realized I didn’t have an answer to a simple question we ask kids all the time, and that’s, what do you want to be when you grow up? My decision then, was to quit school and my job. I road-tripped-it in my car for a few months. I made my way down to friends house in South Carolina and started making art for reasons beyond me. 8 months later this pursuit landed me a part in an exhibition at the McColl Center for Visual Art. My works reception invited me in being a part of their Artist-In-Residency program. While there, the hard work made the scientist I once was come back and think, if you build a robot you won’t have to work as hard. Then for a couple years, I built robots to assist me in my art. Now these machines have grown in intelligence and scale allowing the industrialization of my art.



Written by Kseniya Martin.