When a 30-foot-tall camera boom fell onto his head during a concert in 2011, Patrick Fagerberg’s life was changed forever. He suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI) that left him struggling to form sentences and could no longer be a lawyer. But Fagerberg also discovered that the head trauma, which occurred on the left side of his brain, had somewhat miraculously transformed him into a talented artist.

Fagerberg described himself as a “hotshot attorney,” a defense lawyer in Texas who had never lost a trial. But after the accident, he found himself experiencing memory loss and language processing issues. Suddenly thrown into a new life in which he could no longer practice his life’s calling of law, he stumbled into a new career after trying art therapy. Fagerberg realized he had a talent for painting that he had never before discovered.

“A little trigger went off and I became hooked,” he told KHOU News in a video interview. “It became a compulsion. I see everything sort of in composition, so everywhere I look it’s a painting.” People now call him a savant — someone who had previously never had any training in a certain skill but picked it up effortlessly, often due to a neurological disorder, a mental illness, or traumatic brain injury.

Patrick Fagerberg
Fagerberg describes his art as being hopeful and light, and that it pulled him through his darkest times. Facebook
Patrick Fagerberg
Fagerberg says he sees everything in terms of paintings and compositions. Facebook

Head Trauma And Sudden Genius

Fagerberg isn’t the first person to suddenly discover a surge of creativity or genius after experiencing a traumatic brain injury. Though it’s rare, others have gone down similar paths after serious head injuries. One man, Derek Amato, became an incredible piano player shortly after suffering severe head trauma in a swimming pool. This syndrome is often referred to as “acquired savant syndrome,” and doctors still don’t entirely understand how it happens.

However, despite becoming savants with remarkable mathematical, artistic, or musical powers that defy most human ability, many of these people suffer other detrimental effects of traumatic brain injuries in conjunction, such as developmental disorders, communication problems, and even certain intellectual disabilities.

Before he became a full-fledged artist, Fagerberg first coped with his post-injury problems with drug and alcohol addiction. After overcoming addiction, he poured his entire self into his art. Now, four years later, he has opened his first exhibit at Gremillion in Houston, Texas.

PF-Teaser from patrick fagerberg on Vimeo.