Dianne Adams’ lifelong love of horses has taken many forms, the latest an artistic and literary one.
As a child Adams’ passion for horses was fed with riding lessons. Her love of art and horses came together when she made her own paper dolls – human bodies with horse heads, hands and tails, dressed in the latest fashions from France, Italy and other countries. "I still have those paper dolls," she says.
Horses became an even greater part of Adams’ life when, as a young adult, she started teaching riding lessons. "I was working at a convenience store during the week and teaching on weekends and in the evenings. The manager of the store threatened to fire me if I wouldn’t work Saturdays, but that was my main day for teaching."
Adams refused to work weekends and lost her job, but she was able to draw unemployment. "It was a blessing in disguise," she says. "I took the plunge and rented a farm in Ringgold and started boarding horses and teaching there."
Adams’ students mastered the art of riding and participated in horse shows, and her collection of horses, ponies and other animals grew. In 1993, her husband, since deceased, bought her a 13-acre farm in Chickamauga. At its height, the farm was home to 50 horses, chickens, ducks, sheep and various other creatures. Adams continued to teach and also did birthday parties, summer horse camps for children and took her ponies to places like the Hamilton County Fair for pony rides. One year, she did pony rides at a cruise-in on Lafayette Road in Fort Oglethorpe.
A large garden rounded out Adams’ farm, and she sold produce, eggs and meat at local markets, including the Chattanooga Market and Battlefield Market in Rock Spring. "I still sell at the markets," she says. She also sells her equine art, which she’s had printed on mugs and stationery.
But Adams had a longing to expand her artistic horizons. "My mother was an artist and art teacher in Atlanta. I grew up with art." In fact, Adams’ mother, Kathryn Burke, was named Georgia Visual Arts Woman of the Year in 1996. Adams had been offered an art scholarship to the University of Georgia but declined it in order to pursue her horse passion.
Adams started her path to greater artistic fulfillment by spending time at the John C. Campbell Folk School in North Carolina in 2014, where she took classes in watercolor and writing.
"One night," says Adams, "I woke up in the dorm and had a story going through my head. It just wouldn’t leave, so I got up and went into the restroom where there was some light and wrote it down." It was the beginning of what would become Adams’ new book, "What the Herd Heard."
The story is simple – a peaceful amble with some horses on a typical day of their lives, the wild animals they encounter, the sounds they hear, and finally the call to dinner.
"The story took 15 minutes to write," says Adams. "The illustrations took two years to finish."
Back home, Adams rented a studio at Chattanooga WorkSpace. "I really needed someplace without distractions, someplace that was just for doing art."
Over the course of two years, Adams developed ink and watercolor illustrations to go with her story. The horses in her book are based on horses she’s had over the years.
"The cover illustration," says Adams, "was inspired by a day at my Ringgold farm. I went looking for the horses and found them in a yellow meadow. When they saw me they came trotting up and stopped and watched me from a stand of birch trees, like, ‘Are you here for us? Is it time for dinner?’ That scene stuck in my mind all these years."
It was especially important to Adams to do a children’s book. "I found out through my granddaughter Vanessa, who is four, that children still love to be read to. I wanted to do this for her."
Creating a book for young children, says Adams, involved special considerations. "One page features coyotes, but I didn’t want to make them look too fierce." On another page, Adams gave two horses more of a cartoon-look, something she’d never done before.
In a world of computerization and digital books, Adams’ book is refreshingly neither. Employees at the Village Print Shop in Fort Oglethorpe, where Adams has done business for years, helped her piece her paintings and drawings together and place the text in the book. Then they printed and bound it for her.
Signed copies of "What the Herd Heard" are available at Napier’s Feed Store in Ringgold, Battlefield Market on Saturdays in Rock Spring, Chattanooga Market most Sundays, and at Adams’ studio by appointment.
Dianne Adams can be contacted at 404-310-0039 or email@example.com.