Joan Balfour Payne Dicks was born on December 2, 1923 in Natchez, Mississippi. She and her family later moved to Minneapolis, Minnesota, where she grew up in a large residential hotel that her father managed. Her mother, Josephine Balfour Payne wrote stories to amuse Joan. Ms. Payne began drawing and painting at an early age and often illustrated her mother s stories. She attended the Northrop Collegiate School for Girls and studied art privately under Gustav Krollman at the Minneapolis Institute of Art.
In 1941, Ms. Payne and her family left Minnesota and returned to Mississippi. Her father purchased an old plantation house at Church Hill, a few miles north of Natchez. Her first published book, The Little Green Island (1942) was a collaboration with her mother. They collaborated on four other books as well. She moved again in 1952 when she married a cousin named John Barber Dicks, who was working on his doctorate at Vanderbilt University in Tennessee. After many successes with her mother, Ms. Payne wrote and illustrated her own children s book, The Piebald Princess (1954). She continued to illustrate books for her mother, herself, and other authors until 1969. She died four years later on January 6, 1973.