When fans go to Coastal Carolina's soccer stadium, they are able to watch one of the most talented teams in the country. A key part of that squad is junior Dionysius “DZ" Harmon.
But Harmon’s abilities are also on display on a canvas.
“We knew that he was a fantastic soccer player and human being,” said Coastal Carolina assistant coach Kyle Russell. “It wasn’t until well after he got here that we learned he was a fantastic artist."
Senior forward Tsiki Ntsabeleng, one of Harmon’s teammates, said that it wasn’t until he visited Harmon in his room that he learned about Harmon’s talents as an artist.
“I was amazed in the detail that he put into his work. It was very surprising,” Ntsabeleng said. “He did a piece on Nelson Mandela, the former president of my home country of South Africa, and I was just amazed. That’s really the only word I can find to describe his stuff. Amazing.”
Harmon came to the United States from Liberia with his family when he was 14 years old. And while art had always seemed to be a part of his life, it wasn’t until Harmon came to the United States that he was able to immerse himself in his work.
“As a kid, I always liked doing art,” Harmon said. “Back home we didn’t have paper and other artistic supplies, so I would just draw on the ground. When I got to the United States, I was able to watch some YouTube videos and I thought ‘Wow, this is something I could really get into.’”
From there, Harmon focused on honing his craft.
“Over the years, one of my favorite things about being an artist is seeing my images come to life,” he said. “If I’m drawing somebody, I start with the eye because I feel like the life of a person starts with the eye. What you see is what you are. I start with the eye for that reason.”
Some of Harmon’s images have been anniversary gifts, wedding presents or suggestions from friends and family.
“I drew LeBron James because my dad loves LeBron and kept telling me to draw him,” Harmon said.
But most of Harmon’s work comes from people or images that move and inspire him.
“I drew Clarence Seedorf, who was a midfielder for AC Milan, and I have to say that Seedorf is one of my favorite soccer players,” Harmon said. “He’s a guy I look up to. His physique, how hard he worked as a kid to get where he got to in his career made me admire him greatly.”
Along with sports, Harmon gets inspiration from his Christian faith. One of his drawings of a lion with Jesus Christ in the background was inspired by the 2011 song “God’s Not Dead” by Newsboys.
“I was at church and the lyrics ‘Our God’s not dead, he’s surely alive, he’s living on the inside, roaring like a lion’ really spoke to me,” Harmon said. “Upon hearing those lyrics, I thought to myself that maybe I should combine the two.”
While Harmon loves what he does as an artist, finding the time for art and soccer — not to mention classes and everything else — can be challenging. The amount of detail in each piece fascinates his teammates and coaches. They know how stretched his schedule is.
“How good DZ is on the field and in his art shows a lot about his dedication to his many crafts,” Ntsabeleng said. “He is playing two games a week. He once told me that he works on his art when he doesn’t really have much going on with classes and on his free days.”
Harmon is a regular on the pitch for Coastal. He has played in all 14 games for the Chanticleers this season and started in 11 of those contests. And while there are some tough moments when it comes to being an athlete such as a cold streak or losing a tough game, Harmon said he doesn’t use his frustration from the pitch and translate it to his art. Rather, things just pop into his head by doing everyday activities.
“I tend to be a better artist when I am calm,” he said. “For instance, a few days ago, I was taking a shower because I needed to wash up and out of nowhere this idea came to me of a little girl holding the world in her hand and she’s using soap to clean the earth. That’s some of the image that came to my mind and I thought to myself that I needed to draw a picture like this.”
Russell and the other coaches and players on Coastal’s team have encouraged Harmon to further increase his social media use so that his artwork can reach more people.
“We want our players to be successful, regardless they are doing things on the pitch or off the pitch,” Russell said. “We have given suggestion to DZ like creating a website to showcase work and that kind of thing.”
Harmon does have an art page on Instagram that people follow his work: @dzart80.
Ntsabeleng believes he will eventually see his teammate’s pieces in an art gallery.
“Without a doubt,” Ntsabeleng said. “He is going to go far, whether it is art, soccer or whatever he does with his life.”