10. Franco Magnani
Born in 1934, Franco Magnani grew up in a small village in the Tuscany region of Italy called Pontito. Like many places in Europe at that time, it was destroyed by the Nazis in World War II, and it still hasn’t recovered. After working there as a woodworker, Magnani eventually moved to San Francisco in his thirties.
Soon after his relocation, he was stricken by a mysterious illness that gave him powerful, delirious hallucinations about his hometown. When he recovered, he found that he had developed an exceptional ability to draw anything from memory, especially scenes from his early life in Pontito.
He eventually got so good at it that he’s now known as the “memory artist,” and we’re not using the word “memory” as an exaggeration. Magnani produced his best paintings without ever going back to the village after he moved to San Francisco, and they still look quite realistic.
9. Derek Amato
Learning a musical instrument is no easy feat as anyone who has tried it just to look cool would tell you. Depending on the instrument, it may take months—even years—to achieve proficiency at it and even more time to master it. For Derek Amato from Denver, though, all it took was a bad fall.
It was around 12 years ago that he accidentally fell headfirst into the shallow end of a swimming pool, directly injuring his head. For most of us, that would mean a few days off from work at best and a debilitating lifelong medical condition at worst. Derek Amato, however, came out of it with a newfound ability to play the piano.
Apparently, the injury made him see black and white squares in his head, which he is somehow able to translate into piano notes. That’s the only type of notes he can understand as he is unable to read traditional notations like other musicians.
8. Ken Walters
Ken Walters was a successful, happily settled engineer in 1986 when his life took a turn for the worst. While he was working on a farm, a forklift truck driven by a 12-year-old accidentally pinned him to a wall. It caused massive spinal and internal damage and had him confined to a wheelchair for 19 years. However, this is not the injury we’re talking about.
As if things weren’t bad enough, he suffered a stroke in 2005 and was taken to the hospital. At first, he couldn’t even speak properly and had to communicate with the hospital staff through notes. While writing one of those notes, he realized that he could now doodle, which was particularly surprising to him as he had never been good at any type of art before the stroke.
The stroke fundamentally changed something in his brain, and he soon started making art for a living. In addition to Walters being contacted by companies like IBM, EA, and Java for his artwork, his pictures have been featured in magazines and art galleries around the world.